LA Art Show 2018: Digital and Dreamlike Works
through January 14th
LA Convention Center, Los Angeles
By Genie Davis
Attending the LA Art Show on opening night is like attending every gallery opening in Los Angeles, in one night, in one place. But the galleries are not all Los Angeles-based, some are regional, some national, some international. And then there are the impressive installations, the food and cocktails, the meeting and greeting of artists known and previously unknown. Along with the art, opening night festivities also included a gala benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, hosted by Jon Hamm.
Occupying the South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center through the 14th, this is a grand buffet of art, pick and choose, browse and stare. It is also a sales event aimed at collectors and, as such, some works are more commercial than others, some booths focus on the tried and true, some on the experimental. Some of the most exciting works were digital in nature, but strong sculptural pieces and rich photographic and painted art are also present in spades.
“What’s always been unique about the LA Art Show is just how expansive and broad the programming is,” show producer Kim Martindale says. “Many fairs focus on one thing…what’s always stood out for me about our show is that it really reflects Los Angeles and its incredible diversity. That’s why we introduced DIVERSEartLA.” Covering some 60,000-square feet of space, this section of the show features performance art, installations, exhibits, and programs curated by major museums and art organizations, she explains.
“For the first time ever, we’ll be working with the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center and UCLA Art|Sci Center on programming… Launch LA and the California African American Museum have teamed up to create a survey of ten local artists of color called ‘Eyes Forward.’” Martindale also points out the one-year-old ROOTS section focusing on historical works, and Littletopia, a part of the LA Art Show for the 5th year, promoting fresh new voices in contemporary art and curated this year by Red Truck Gallery.
Here are some highlights from the show’s opening night:
The Simyo Gallery offers a mesmerizing and wildly entertaining work by South Korean artist Lee Nam Lee. Using a traditional Asian five-fold screen created in digital form, iconic images of art and history are combined with interactive cartoon characters and objects. Lushly detailed and intensely involving, the work is innovative yet employs classic art in a beautiful and even spiritual way. “Movement plays an important part in my work…(but) I try to use movement in a non-invasive way,” Lee says. In short, Lee’s work reimagines traditional paintings through dimensional digital technologies.
Also in the digital realm, Girasoles: Claudio Castillo, presented by Blink Group, is a truly beautiful series of images that plays 24 single minute animation at the top of each hour, while tracking moon and tide in real time. The images appear in an entirely random fashion so that no one composition will be repeated exactly for, possibly, thousands of years. Mind blowing and enigmatic, this is an experience to be savored.
A true crowd pleaser, bG Gallery displayed The Infinity Boxes by Matt Elson. Elson’s series of mirrored boxes allow small groups of people to connect and view each other, and a garden of contained images – flowers, lights – within each elaborate set of infinity mirrors. Magical and fascinating, this is an exercise in perception, visual geometry, and social interaction, a kaleidoscope writ large.
MUSA Museum Guadalajara presented a multi-screen visual and audio exploration of the murals of Jose Clemente Orozco. A first-time appearance of these works in the U.S., the beautiful, transcendent work of Orozco is revealed through 3D video mapping and a haunting musical soundtrack. Displayed in a curtained, self-contained space, the installation presents a riveting, consuming experience that reveals the murals to an international audience. The accompanying music, a section from Prelude to Christopher Columbus by Julian Carillo, utilizes the composers use of a perfect octave.
Presented by Art All Ways and curated by Hoojung Lee, Pandemonia’s Flash Bulb is a candy-colored work of performance art performed by the anonymous London artist. Working within a bright set of conventional objects such as an iron, a vacuum cleaner, a red shoe, and giant ruby lips, the artist, attired as a woman and encased in a latex costume similar in surface to that of a blow-up doll, poses and performs with these objects and, on opening night, participated with viewers in Polaroid selfies. Part illusion, part stage performance, the lively colors and pop aesthetic is both pure fun and a commentary on all things feminine and feminist. The artist, who is male, says he designs and makes the props and costumes at his London studio. His choice of performing as a woman is dictated by the fact that to him: “The female is the universal emblem of consumerism.” Calling himself a post-pop artist, he created his guise “out of myths and symbols.”
Espectacular, an installation presented by LACMA and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, is a haunting, large scale image of Bogota, Columbia’s neoclassical train station exterior. Twenty-feet tall and running onto the floor, the art work represents both modern ruin and great architectural beauty.
At first glance evoking alien life forms, Brainstorming: Empathy by Victoria Vesna and Mark Cohen is both a performance piece and a neuroscientific exercise. The participatory exercise has to be seen to be fully understood, but it involves the wearing of octopus-shaped headgear and the association between intelligence and emotions – heady stuff for an art show. The exhibition is presented by Building Bridges Art Exchange and UCLA, and exemplifies UCLA Art/Sci Center’s philosophy of “artists in labs, scientists in studios.” Vesna says “I’ve always been fascinated with the octopus…it is a symbolic way to represent another type of consciousness.” Octopi express themselves in their ability to change shape and color.
The inclusive aisle of Littletopia exhibiting galleries is also not to be missed, with a ghostly, pastel boat at one end, and dragon gates indicating the entrance to this section of the LA Art Show on the other. The boat is Space Boat by Bunnie Reiss, paying homage to Oakland’s fire-destroyed Ghost Ship art community and the victims of that fire. Twenty-two feet long, it is softly colorful, with glitter encrusted branches at its base. The elegiac vibe of the boat is quite wonderful, and stands out as a separate, special place in the bustle of the art show crowd.
Also separate and special: Antuan Rodriguez’ Left or Right, an installation of hanging red punching bags, on which are images of various world leaders and tyrants. Participants can punch the bags to release their own anger and resentment, and to detoxify from our current political environment.
Individual galleries also served up some stunning contemporary art fare: at Fabrik Projects, take in the gold and bronze sculptures of Stuart Kusher; at bG gallery the wide range of exciting, emerging LA-based artists included a richly dimensional silver work by Campbell Laird, evocative florals from Susan Lizotte, a small but dazzling lenticular piece by Heather Lowe, abstract work from Robyn Alatorre, and a smart diorama from Dwora Fried, as well as works by Johnny Naked, John Hundt, and quintessential LA scenes from Gay Summer Rick.
This is Rick’s 5th year exhibiting at the LA Art Show. “It’s been a great way to meet new art fans and share the story about my work. In a chaotic world, my iconic urban and coastal paintings deliver calm and quiet,” she relates, adding “I just celebrated 7 years with bG Gallery and am very happy to have my work included…They have a large, cool, foggy architectural painting of mine which up close draws your attention to the 6th Street Bridge deep in the painting.” Rick is also at The Gallery Steiner from Vienna, Austria, which has shown her work previously in New York.
“We bring different, new art collections with us for each art fair,” notes Gallery Steiner’s deputy, Dominic Steiner. “We do curate carefully in advance and try to adapt our exhibits accordingly to each market’s needs, as we try to show with our recent modern selection here in Los Angeles.” For his gallery, the show is a “great spot for exchange of contacts and creative ideas with new local, as well as international, artists. The art fair trips are always the most interesting parts of our job for us as gallerists.”
The Los Angeles Art Association’s Ping Pong includes artworks from Miami, Basel, and Los Angeles. As a representative of Los Angeles, artist Samuelle Richardson says, “I feel honored and responsible for representing L.A. in the best possible way. I’m grateful to Peter Mays for inviting me and the rare type of validation that it conveys. As a first-timer, it’s a rush.” Richardson’s magical fabric sculptures are a stand-out.
At Launch Gallery and CAAM’s Eyes Forward, wonderful work by April Bey, Tim Washington, Miles Regis, and June Edmonds were among an altogether fresh exhibition of works. Bey says this is also her first time at LA Art Show, and participating means “inclusion and access. This year’s show is the most diverse speaking on age, gender, class and race. Being a participant for the first time meant I wasn’t a powerless bystander watching the art world carry on as usual, rejecting and ignoring those of us who perhaps didn’t come from privilege.” Bey also cited the work of Mar Hollingsworth and the California African American Museum, as well as Launch’s James Panozzo for curating and executing the exhibition.
Ren Gallery’s booth was lighthearted, vibrant, and fun – multi-colored storm trooper sculpture, anyone? Todd Carpenter’s noir black and white paintings of Los Angeles were drawing crowds at KP Projects’ booth. Gallerist Jessica O’Dowd pointed out the collection of black and white photographs by Vivien Maier, who was practically unknown during her lifetime, but took nearly 200,000 photographs while she worked as a nanny. KP Projects exhibits works from a Chicago collector who owns the largest collection of her photos, and the unique look at Maier’s work is reason alone to stop by the booth. “We chose artists who spoke clearly to us in the past year, both with stellar technique and evocative subjects, who also had a dialogue with each other, despite vast distance in time and local,” O’Dowd says.
Los Angeles-based Hung Viet Nguyen’s two paintings from his Sacred Landscape series, and large scale abstracts by Emily Elisa Halpern, both shine at Sergott Gallery. While very different in execution, both artists are vibrantly original. In his 3rd exhibition at the fair, Nguyen says “I’m glad to be able to share my art with many people, not only in LA but also from around the globe.”
Exciting Native American weavings by Maya Hachas, and an inclusive collection of works by Margaret Keane from the Keane Eyes Gallery are also among the must-sees. Keane received the Littletopia Lifetime Achievement Award. And, don’t miss the poignant tribute to one of the true pioneers of the Los Angeles art scene, the late Greg Escalante, also in the Littletopia area of the exhibition hall.
For sheer volume – along with exciting international exhibitions and a great look at the panoply of Los Angeles-based artists – the LA Art Show is simply a must see. There’s going to be at least one, if not dozens, of beautiful reasons why.