LA Art Show – Can You Take it All in?

LA Art Show

Beginning with a gala opening tonight, and running through the weekend, one of the biggest art shows around revs up at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. There’s so much to see, from performances and panels to stellar exhibitions, that it’s going to be difficult to decide exactly what to see – but here are a few suggestions to make it the most art-tastic weekend ever – and naturally, we’ll have plenty more coverage from the event floor.

CBS Art Show Cruder

The Way of Modern Man is an evocative, participatory look at cell phone use by artist Jana Cruder. Observing crowds in Hong Kong staring at their cell phones, hunched over and Neanderthal like, Cruder created an art experiment:  30 minute live performance sessions and a photography exhibition, which begins in an isolation booth. Stripped down participants spend 30 minutes in a private session with the artist, bringing their mobile devices into an enclosed space and allowed to communicate only through text. Images of these encounters are shown as a series of panels, backlit, manifesting the surreal glow of a smartphone.

CBS art show Coan

 

 

Assemblage artist Catherine Coan combines sculpture and assemblage with taxidermy, placing taxidermied critters in surreal settings. Is it possible? Is it what life in another world reveals to these creatures? No Natural History museum display has ever looked like this!

CBS Art Show Tanaka

 

One of Japan’s leading calligraphy artists, Issai Tanaka of Gallery Kitai, performs Beyond Kaisho, Sumi-ism. Daily throughout the show, he’ll writes in the large printed calligraphy style known as KAISHO, creating ten foot words one word at a time. His participation is one aspect of a large curated selection of Japanese galleries.

CBS Art Show Littletopia

What if Disneyland was post-apocalyptic? Or if cookies and cakes were non-edible art? Let your imagination wander through Littletopia, a collection of related but diverse art featuring work from the Daniel Rolnik Gallery, Coagula Curatorial, Red Truck Gallery, and Gregorio Escalante Gallery, among many others. Enter through Banksy collaborator Jeff Gillette’s  Desert Debris Dismaland Castle, and leave your preconceptions behind.

CBS Art Show Virtues and Vice

 

 

 

 

Street Art is burgeoning art scene niche in LA culture, and the Virtues and Vice exhibition looks at the path of seven boundary pushing LA artists whose urban landscapes, abstracts, and patterns create a whole new world right out in the street.

This is the smallest taste of a very broad canvas – pun intended – so get on down to the LA Art Show.

And remember – art will be everywhere this weekend! Art exhibits such as Fabrik Expo and the LA Contemporary Art Show are joined by stART Up art fair, and on Saturday night only, Night on Broadway in the Spring Arcade Building in DTLA.

 

PhotoLA – A Snapshot of Time

Photo LA Welling

What the eye sees, what the camera sees, what the eye of the beholder of what the camera sees: that’s PhotoLA.

The art renaissance that is taking place in Los Angeles is coming to a momentous peak this January, with PhotoLA the first in a string of large scale events including the LA Art Show, Fabrik Expo, and Art Los Angeles Contemporary, which are all opening this week.

PhotoLA was held last weekend at The Reef,  the cavernous 2nd floor space at LA Mart in DTLA. The opening night gala, benefiting Best Buddies, was crowded for the event’s tribute to Los Angeles artist James Welling.

The city’s longest-running art fair, PhotoLA ran the gamut of cutting edge pieces, historical photos, stunning landscapes, political art, abstract photos, and pop art. Eclectic panels populated the weekend, too, including provocative subjects such as “The Instagram Effect: How Instagram is Changing the Way We See Photography”; “Robert Mapplethorpe: Beyond Good and Evil”; and “Artists Take Issue: Perspectives and Practices in Activist Photography.”

What was our take? A wide range of exceptional pieces, with a number of standout independent photographers and curated group exhibitions.

Photo LA Welling

The honoree of the opening gala, James Welling. This post-modern photographic artist has a storied career experimenting with a variety of photographic mediums from digital prints to Polaroids.

Photo LA Weller

Some visual highlights: below, the haunting and riveting work of Kathy Curtis Cahill, whose art is dedicated to revealing “how fragile young children are, and how everything matters in the home environment.”

Photo LA 3

Fascinating historical photos – and the  music of David Bowie.

Photo LA Bowie

Photo Pop Art – the striking and amusing work of Marianne Hess.

Photo LA Haas

National Geographic landscape stunners – sometimes a straight forward shot of natural beauty evokes feelings beyond what is seen.

Photo LA landscape

Below: a delightfully different approach to scene: the fine work of Osceola Refetoff, also a panel speaker on activist photography moderated by Shana Nys Dambrot. Refetoff’s work, among other cutting edge pieces, was curated by VICA, the non-profit Venice Institute of Contemporary Art.

photo LA Osceola

Below: the opening night crowd viewing PhotoLA  – reflected in a San Francisco skyline.

photo LA san fran

Artist Jeffry Sklan’s enormous – and enormously beautiful flowers, below. Impressive detail and color.

Photo LA Sklan

Artist Sklan  below – photo by Nina Bonyak

photo LA sklan 2

To sum up: Photo LA presented an international eye on the world, vibrating through the lens of many Los Angeles area curators and artists. What you see is literally what you “get” out of interpreting an artist’s own unique vision of the world.

  • Genie Davis

Shag, Baby: Jungle Drums Collection at Corey Helford Gallery

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Shag at Jungle Drums – photo: Jack Burke 

There he is, Shag, a.k.a. Josh Agle, at the opening of his vibrant Jungle Drums collection in the main gallery of the Corey Helford Gallery last Saturday night. Inspired by vintage 1950s era pin-up decals, and adding the spin that women are always in control, diving into the exciting primitive world he evokes is an incredibly fun plunge to take.

But let’s start with a look at the gallery space itself: a cavernous warehouse just across the river from the Arts District, with 12,000 square feet of space. Bright and spacious, there was plenty of room to feel the immersive quality of Shag’s world, as well as view additional collections in Gallery 2 and 3.

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The packed house was “wild” for Shag’s large scale work.

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“Ever since humans tried to civilize themselves, they’re tried to connect with the past as well. The past being the jungle, the beginning. But they do this in an artificial fashion, they pump up the artificial level. I work with these themes, the jungle origin, consumerism, consumption,” the artist relates.

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“But unlike the original jungle environment, I balance male and female interaction.  And everything in this stylized version of our primitive past is artificial. I use nothing natural,” Shag says.

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“Every material used in these pieces is artificial, there are no natural fibers. On the masks, the hair is extruded plastic rubber polymer.”

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In this exhibition, Shag attests,  women are the Amazonian types in charge. They have tamed their jungle environments, their pets, their men. And the artist’s portrayals are, as he puts it, a good excuse “to paint women in sexy tiger fur outfits.”

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These works are all about 60s moderne style, the vivid saturated colors belie a super cool approach. The viewer is reminded of something a revisionist neo-feminist version of Sean Connery’s James Bond might have in his boudoir; something hanging at a hip art museum that the grown-up Flintstone kids might visit.

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Shag’s wonderfully detailed large scale paintings, his towering masks, are pure, unadultrated, imaginative fun. It wasn’t a surprise to find out that Shag was chosen to be the official artist for Disneyland’s 50th back in 2005.

His evocative world now on display at Corey Helford’s new space may not be a fit with Walt’s Magic Kingdom, but he has created a magical kingdom all the same. And for viewers opening night, the exhibition was one of the happiest art scenes on earth.

Meanwhile, in Gallery 2, below, another fine, small exhibition unfolds: Asymmetrical Diptych Party. Here, 20 artists displayed two piece works in a wide range of style, on a wider range of subjects.

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Current exhibitions at Corey Helford Gallery run through February 13 at:

571 S. Anderson Street, Los Angeles.

  • Genie Davis; All Photos: Jack Burke

Lamb: Like Lolita Without the Sex

RGB tiff image by MetisIP
RGB tiff image by MetisIP

Moving, strange, mythic, and beautiful, Lamb takes the novel of the same name by Bonnie Nadzam and crafts superior cinema that will have viewers talking for a long time.

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Viewed at a screening held at the Cinefamily in LA – with a robust q and a led by Mark and Jay Duplass, close friends with star and director Ross Partridge – Lamb evoked a hushed, palpable tension in the audience. Would the unthinkable happen? Would the balance tip?

Partridge plays 47-year-old David Lamb, dealing with the recent loss of his father, about to be divorced, holding his office-romance lover at bay. That’s the back story, but the tale being told is that of his unlikely relationship with 11-year-old Tommie (the brilliant Oona Lawrence.) Their friendship is based on mutual loneliness, on Tommie’s desire to be noticed – her mother and mom’s boyfriend are dismissive – and on David’s desire to…be a father figure? Brother? Reconnect with his own painfully lost childhood? Something darker?

Soon David invites her to join him on a trip out west to his family’s cabin, just for a few days. Tommie agrees, and a nerve-wracking but surfacely beautiful – and chaste – idyll occurs, interrupted when David’s girlfriend arrives for a surprise visit.

LAMB_Still4_Oona Laurence_Photo Cred Mel Eslyn

Both Lawrence and Partridge are riveting, and pity, loathe, fear, or be charmed by David, the film takes you on a ride right along with the characters, in a relationship which walks a very fine line indeed between platonic, profound love and emotional abuse.

The beautifully shot and acted film was filmed in just 18 days. Partridge discussed the making of the film and the role of Lamb. “When you put an 11-year-old and a 47-year-old man together on screen, you have to find deep psychological contexts. You play it as honest as possible with this crazy conflicted person that David is, but you don’t instantly judge the character. I was compelled to do the story,” he explains.

With a shoot that fast paced, Partridge had to just “trust the process. There was no time for playback.”

So was David’s relationship to Tommie ultimately good for the girl? “When rehearsing with Oona, I had to believe it was as an actor. The story is truly about two people who didn’t get the love they needed as children. For David, this is his last attempt to do something that in his mind, in his broken world, was seen as salvation.”

Lamb is available on VOD – watch it, and get ready to think about it, discuss it, and recommend it.

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  • Genie Davis; Photos courtesy of Brigade Marketing