As the second annual Los Angeles Art Weekend descended on the city over this past weekend, artist and writer Danny Jaugueri considered the role of such events in L.A’s art scene.
Billed as an opportunity to “highlight the city’s vast array of creative talent and foremost cultural offerings,” the Los Angeles Art Weekend guided enthusiasts through the vast network of art hubs and eclectic institutions that make L.A.’s art scene vibrant and curious. Friday night’s Culver City art walk coalesced in a festive trek along a short strip of La Cienega Blvd, ground zero for LA’s most heavy hitting commercial galleries. Organized to coincide with For Your Art’s the publication of its map of the Los Angeles art scene — a project that many others have attempted to tackle unsuccessfully — the program featured two artist-led talks, gallery openings, and an after party DJ’d by Dave Muller at Royal/T, a Japanese-inspired tea house, restaurant, and exhibition space.
An unusually breezy drive (by Los Angeles standards, at least) placed me in Culver City just in time to catch a glimpse of Dave Muller’s show at Blum & Poe before his gallery talk. Inside the gallery, Muller installed his now-signature watercolors, this time configured on the walls like sets of dominoes; each monumental rectangular work was evenly divided into two fields with a conglomeration of symbols and imagery sharing the same plane. As the crowd flowed in, Muller began a casual walk-through of the exhibition, explaining his desire to relate music to the rest of his life. The gallery’s cavernous space quickly overflowed with eager attendees as Muller stopped at each drawing to reveal the origin of its imagery.
“These are rocks from Vermont” Muller said, pointing to a mound of grey rocks in an abstract line drawing that resembled a Mondrian painting viewed through a fun house mirror. “This is a leaf that looks like a mask.” “These cows are also from Vermont.” Pointing to each element in the drawings, he considered the work “a collection of things that make sense somehow.”
I, for one, began to lose steam. Maybe it was the teeming crowd or the heat of the now-stuffed gallery. Or perhaps it was Muller’s casual and overly simplistic explanations. Regardless of the cause, I had nearly reached my limit when out of nowhere he dropped a nugget of insight: By structuring his exhibition like a game of dominoes — a game that relies on connections between two separate pieces to create meaning – Muller has forced the viewer to consider the relationship between two distinct elements. Speaking metaphorically, he likened his process to a radio station wherein songs segue into one another, thus forced to share sonic space. It is from this dilemma that Muller has extracted a visual structure.
Satisfied, I left the Muller talk and made a quick stop at Kim Light gallery to see Kim McCarty’s new works and grab a quick bite from one of the two food trucks parked in front of the space. (Los Angeles seems to be experiencing a food truck renaissance at the moment — the famed Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck was allegedly on the scene but alas, was nowhere to be found.) Next door at LAX Art, the provocative not-for-profit space run by Lauri Firstenberg, “Passages” by Los Angeles based artist Walead Beshty is a glitzy, cerebral, and visually stunning exhibition. Dominating the floor, Beshty has installed sheets of allegedly shatterproof mirror, completely covering and thereby delineating the boundaries and limits of the space. Like Rudolf Stingel’s lush carpets, Beshty’s mirrored floor indexes the movements of the viewer while cracking and splintering under the weight of display. A series of beautiful photographs lines the walls, made by passing film through x-ray machines of various airports; in order to view them, once must transgress the broken mirror. During the second artist talk of the night, Beshty along with LAX Art curator Aram Moshayedi and architect Peter Zellner, described the piece as a tracking of the “social traffic” of the gallery space. The similarity to Stingel was prominent, although the gesture considerably more ostentatious in Beshty’s piece.
Finally, the function of the weekend became clear to me: In a city like Los Angeles, with it’s disparate art hubs, institutions, and communities, an initiative like this one served to unify a network of cultural attractions. The key to the success of the event –and a resounding success it was, with hundreds of people flooding the galleries — lay in the ancillary lectures, parties, and viewings. To follow the map’s designated schedule is to engage in a ride that ostensibly touches on every aspect of the L. A. art world, which one can barely do in a month, let alone a single day, perfect day though it was.
A quick drink at the neighboring Mandrake (the local bar owned by artists Justin Beal, Drew Heitzler, and Flora Wiegmann) and I was off to the after party. Inside Royal/T, Muller worked the turntables while art walk attendees mingled with the restaurant’s customers. A group exhibition of work by Richard Prince, Lisa Yuskavage, and many other heavy-hitters leant an air of seriousness to an otherwise outrageous atmosphere. (To wit, Royal/T’s female servers dress in French maid outfits.) The setting was delightful — over-the-top spectacle, good music, and great art. It was a quintessentially “L.A.” night, indeed.