Making Cool Connections with Art
July 7-12, 2022
Written by Genie Davis
B-LA Connect, the international artist-run gallery exchange between Berlin and Los Angeles premiered for this year’s iteration in Los Angeles July 7 through 12. Color, motion, gallery shows, performances, a museum show – the event was a true cornucopia of art, connecting two different, cutting-edge locations. In short, it was an experience, one which we are lucky to enjoy.
Thanks are due first thing to Daniel Wiesenfeld of gallery HilbertRaum, handling concept, direction, and coordination in Berlin, and his LA direction and coordination counterparts, Carl Baratta of Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Gallery ALSO and Max Presneill of Durden and Ray and the Torrance Art Museum. Community coordination was handled by Shima Tajbakhsh as well as the B-LA connect team in Southern California: Diego Juarez, Lizzie Moo, Sean Noyce, Clover Nusz, Katya Usvitsky, and Judy Zhu.
The grass-roots approach of B-LA Connect provided a uniquely interactive experience with the art, both in terms of immersive installations, video, and AI, as well as through film, performance and music events, some held with the LA skyline as background on the roof of the Bendix Building during the week-long series of opening events.
Celebrating diversity and inclusiveness, 23 different Berlin art spaces inhabited the exchange, in 22 LA Art Spaces. While this viewer was unable to see every exhibition, here’s a look at the rich tapestry of art I was able to take in.
Saturday, July 9th, the Bendix Building more or less exploded art in open studios and gallery spaces. At Track 16, the standout was a hauntingly otherworldly mixture of video and clay (the latter component provided by sculptural artist Camilla Taylor here in LA), part of Tiny Domingos Breathturn. Across the hall at Mutable Studios, tender intelligences, a community-driven AI presentation along with Zentrum Für Netzkunst, offered varied works, but one, obscurely placed behind a curtain, held an intricate sculpture of duct work holding mirrors, minute images, and lights within its openings, with a little LED-eyed robot perched on top of the truly delightful and surprising work.
On the 8th floor, Durden and Ray hosted Widerhall/Reverberations, an exchange between the always potent collective and Berlin’s Axel Obiger Gallery. Esoteric sounding in concept, but nonetheless compelling in execution, these art works reveled in dualities between the organic and inorganic, the connections and ripples that pass through time and place, memory, and time. On the Axel Obiger side, Alke Brinkmann und Wolfgang Matzat, Harriet Groß, Thilo Droste, Juliane Duda, Gabriele Künne, Matthias Moravek, Enrico Niemann, Maja Rohwetter presented a wide range of mediums and images; the site-specific piece by Brinkmann and Matzat was particularly fascinating, natural materials merging with a universal embrace. Other large-scale images floated on fabric hung from the wall; a variety of primarily non-figurative paintings, sculptures, and Arezoo Barthania’s delicately floating floor to ceiling paper works were among the many and varied offerings. Along with Barthania, other Durden and Ray artists included Carlos Beltran Arechiga, Gul Cagin, Jenny Hager, Curtis Stage, Alexandra Wiesenfeld, and Valerie Wilcox.
Last Ditch offered a terrific immersion from two artists in Stages and Scenes from Andy Holtin and Sascha Appelhoff. Through small telescopes, tiny projected images of figures presented themselves, positioned so that they danced on rooftops and streets, all along the real landscapes outside the gallery’s windows.
The 6th floor featured a silver-centric sculptural pairing at Pipeline, where Berlin based Tatiana Echeverri Fernandez and LA artist/gallerist Nellie King Solomon seamlessly dovetailed their distinctive works. Fernandez used the street as her resource, shaping sinuous constructs from a ribbon of silver salvaged stripes, the mid-lines from Bernauer Straße in Berlin. Soloman’s large-scale paintings on Mylar bring a global, or perhaps galactic, topography of their own; together both elements and artists shine.
The pop-up gallery show Now, co-curated by Hagop Najarian and Surge Witrồn, hosted a wide range of terrific art including the intricate, delicate, deceased birds elegantly painted by Andrea Bersaglieri; Renee Azenaro’s equally, beautifully precise crocheted metal hanging sculptures; John M. Sollom’s intricate painted and found-art wall sculpture; Molly Schulman’s figurative floor sculpture; and works from Najarian and Witrồn. Also included were pieces from John De Castro, Kim Garcia, Sharon Levy, Jynx Prado, Christina Shurts, and Josh Vasquez. The inventive group show shared a vast space with an opening reception buffet of delightful, individually served treats from fruits to veggies and guacamole.
Najarian also held a vibrant open studio space on another floor. Packed with color, figurative and abstract work merge in a riveting mélange of shapes.
On floor five, at Monte Vista projects, MVP and Berlin-based SCOTTY, offered a group show of collage, painting, text, photo, and video works, showcasing images from individual artists Charlotte Bastian, Sigrun Drapatz, Kiki Gebauer, Simone Haeckel, Julia Krewani, Karen Linnenkohl, Christine Niehoff, Bettina Weiß and Juliane Zelwies. Weiß’s multi-colored paintings stood out for their bright and motion-filled patterns.
Adjoining gallery Tiger Strikes Asteroid, along with Berlin’s HilbertRaum, offered an all-too-prescient – yet witty – group show on the state of the world. CRACK UP, featured personal, poignant, and of course, surreal, work by Carl Baratta, Niina Lehtonen Braun, Eli Cornejo, Mathias Deutsch, JOKAklubi (a performance group with Niina Lehtonen Braun, Mirka Raita, Tellervo Kalleinen), Liz Nurenberg, Jackie Rines, Eva Schwab, Katya Usvitsky, Daniel Wiesenfeld, and Clemens Wilhelm.
At 515 Gallery, in collaboration with Lage Egal, a video installation gave viewers an immersive look at failed concepts in futuristic innovations through performances in All the Power That Remains, part of a series by Ben Greber and Bram Kuypers.
Outside the Bendix, other venues served up equally tantalizing pairings: a riff on a setting from a novel, Zum Idealen Himmel at ALSO, paired with the National Museum; and the small-scale, large-spirited creations at Irenic Projects/DXIX with Scharaun, a series of primarily sculptural works titled Micrologies.
A week following these openings, the Torrance Art Museum hosted an opening reception for A Berlin Show, from Copyright, presented by CACtTUS, and Studio Baustelle presented by Acceptable Risk LA in the museum’s Gallery 2. Paintings and installations formed an immersive space from artists Marija Brasnic, Sean Cully, Patrick Huber, Annsofie Jonsson, Ute Lindner, Jorge Mujica, Felicia Scheuerecker, Stephanie Sherwood, and Janin Walter. The central work combined fabric panels with imprinted cyanotype images and a cushioned and painted art river on the floor. The latter was walkable, and pillows were spread around the work for viewers to take a moment, relax, and contemplate it. An upended, graffiti-filled bench rested at one end of the piece.
Another fine pairing, that of Berliner Carsten Becker with William Besselink is a study in color and contrasts at Noysky Projects. The Hollywood gallery’s Continental Colors, focuses on the meaning behind various palettes: the German color collection known as RAL and the American hue Olive Drab, as well as imaginary colors lifted from California’s Golden State literature. This coolly geometric exhibition smoothly segues the way both color and design form meaning.
As vast as the two locations it conjoins, as different and innovative as anything you will see in LA all year, B-LA Connect is a tour de force of art and geography – and most importantly, of the destinations that shape in our hearts, eyes, mind, and spirit. The world as we know it may not last, but art has resilience. Connect again soon, B-LA.
Note: many, but not all, of the B-LA exhibitions are still available for viewing through the end of the month (Now has closed at the Bendix) at Noysky Projects, Irenic, Torrance Art Museum, and in the Bendix Building. Call or email galleries for viewing hours.