Los Angeles’ art scene has once again emerged from the shadows after a decade or more of slipping under the art world radar. Affordable work spaces, abundant opportunities, and a new breed of galleries showing the work of emerging artists have once again placed LA firmly on the map as a destination for artists. Snapshot: New Art from Los Angeles capitalizes on this gold rush. The result is a schizophrenic sampling of work that, according to the exhibition organizers, “captures one moment of a continually evolving scene.”
Besides taking advantage of the recent boisterous rise of the LA art scene, Snapshot exploits the art school phenomenon in Los Angeles and beyond. LA has more art schools than almost any other city in the world and the sheer number of educated artists living there forms a critical mass. Of the twenty-five artists in Snapshot, all but four graduated from Southland art schools and those four artists all went to art school some place else.
Despite the fact that the organizers make no claim on presenting a comprehensive view of LA’s latest and greatest, the task of capturing the vitality of a vast region’s visual arts scene is problematic and the resulting show suffers from the broad premise. Regardless of the wide range of work in the show, several innovative trends emerge from the mix. Hybrid sculptural objects and pseudo-amateur paintings showcase a sly brand of artistic production that is as much a consequence of art school direction as it is urban attitude.
Working at the intersection of art, design and conceptual sculpture, Robert Stone, under the guise of his company Pretty Vacant LLC, creates prototypes and architectural models.Luxury Motel consists of a business plan, a model, and drawings that present an elaborate scheme to build a forty-room luxury motel and bar in Palm Springs, California. The gold-painted modernist model features a large pool of water completely surrounded by mirrored doors. Stone and associates are pursuing the actual construction of the motel, giving his work a wider appeal than if it was simply intended to exist in a gallery. Stone has also created a prototype called Strap-on Subwoofer for MBZ SLK230. The subwoofer is meant to be strapped on to the exterior of a Mercedes-Benz SLK230. The huge speaker with perforated metal cover is well suited for LA where drawing attention to oneself and enhancing exterior appearances is a local pastime.
Another artist whose work incorporates multiple disciplines is Eric Wesley. His intricate sculptures and drawings propose transforming the Occidental Petroleum Cultural Center Building that houses the Hammer galleries into a giant oil filter that leads to an underground service station. His scheme proposes that oil be filtered through the building’s existing plumbing into the underground parking lot. The by-product of the subterranean service station will then be used to create abstract paintings for display in the Hammer’s galleries. Wesley’s project comments on the Hammer’s auspicious location within the Occidental Petroleum building, where selling oil literally fuels the presentation of art.
Unlike some of the three-dimensional works, many of the paintings in Snapshot make use of an under-produced yet ultra-cool ‘clumsy’ look. Thomas Eggerer’s painting Trio depicts a large bus flanked by trio of men in red unitards who seem to have been plucked from the set of the television show Solid Gold. The surface appears half-finished as some areas are left completely untouched and others are carefully rendered with light and shadow. A flat stripe of mustard yellow painted across the top of the work doubles as sky and one the trio’s faces is left as raw white canvas. Multiple, conflicting surfaces position Eggerer’s work somewhere between caricature and reality and give his paintings a detached sensibility.
Jonathan Pylypchuk’s clever use of unassuming materials obscures the unforgiving humor at play in his work. Wood, glitter, and scraps of fabric lend a humble voice to drawings, paintings, and sculptures that deal with confusion and depression. Likewise, Mari Eastman’s airbrushed glittery painting installation tackles stereotypes of feminine representation with cunning wit.
Directly poking fun at the status of the artist are Bea Schlingelhoff’s site-specific drawings of the resumes of all twenty-five artists in the exhibition. Drawn on adhesive paper that is stuck to the wall, Handwritten Resumes of Participating Artists will be effectively destroyed when removed. Schilinghoff reduces the artist’s accomplishments, careers, and of course education into ephemeral objects that are drawn with an unconventional hand and colorful palette.
Like Schlingelhoff’s resumes, Snapshot: New Work from LA presents a fleeting view of LA’s up-and-coming artists. It records a cultural moment when it appears that, with a few exceptions, hype eclipses reality.
Snapshot: New Work from LA closed September 2. The exhibition was at the UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.hammer.ucla.edu