empathy

Fact Or Fiction: Los Angeles Is Just New York Lying Down

"Los Angeles is just New York lying down." —Quentin Crisp

Trudging through the over 100 degree weather in a horrible New York heat wave, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise’s summer exhibition Made In Space appears as a welcome Californian reprieve from the sizzling city streets. Curated by Laura Owens and Peter Harkawik, two Los Angeles-based artists and curators, Made In Space, which is coupled with an Uptown exhibition at Venus Over Manhattan, presents an expertly chosen overview of art made in Los Angeles.

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Selecting artists from several generations, the art in Made In Space ranges from iconic conceptual artist Allen Ruppersburg to young emerging artists such as the Russian-born Marina Pinsky. With this wide swath of artists, as well as the varied mediums and artistic styles, Made In Space both entices viewers to attempt to discover a Los Angeles artistic sensibility, as well as rejects any singular assumptions about an unified Los Angeles art form.

A Constellation Of Plastic

Certainly, the curators’ press release does not aid viewers who want to define a Los Angeles artistic worldview. Rather than detailing their curatorial goals or positing ideas about Los Angeles art, Owens and Harkawik give thirteen short descriptions loosely connected to L.A. From a story about “a pile of feces directly in the middle of a pair of women’s size 10 red pumps” to the curators driving past a flip-flop in the road, the press release, in its own oblique manner, reflects the curators’ quirky, light-hearted and humorous vision.

"The Los Angeles Art Collectors-Mr. + Mrs. Rodin-Riddler" by Derek Boshier. Image courtesy of the gallery.

Instead of obviously depicting glamorous Hollywood or the city’s landscape of freeways and smog, the artists in Made In Space take a different, less literal approach. For example, Joshua Callaghan’s “Focus,” an enormous ceiling-draped canvas featuring a charcoal-rendered underbelly of a car, refers to Los Angeles’s long history and obsession with cars.  The Los Angeles art scene even makes a veiled appearance in Derek Boshier’s mocking fluorescent painting “The Los Angeles Art Collectors-Mr. + Mrs. Rodin-Riddler,” which presents art collectors as a combination of Rodin’s “The Thinker” and the Batman villain, The Riddler.  

Sculptural Fun In The Sun

Even though Made In Space features an inordinate amount of paintings, some of the cutest, most captivating and even summery works in Made In Space are undoubtedly the sculptures. Like the varied span of work filling the entire exhibition, the sculptures range from the geometric and abstract like Liz Larner’s distorted rectangular “6” to the more realist such as Patrick Jackson’s set of ceramic mugs. However, many of the sculptures share a cheerful, devil-may-care and thoroughly Californian sensibility.

“Lazy Sunbather” by Patrick Jackson. Image courtesy of the gallery.

Undoubtedly, the best example of this extremely relaxed, fun and beachy sculptural representation is Patrick Jackson’s adorable “Lazy Sunbather,” a tiny black ceramic sculpture. Reclining back on the floor of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, Jackson’s little sunbather looks like they’re having a relaxing snooze, making the viewer yearn to join them.

Californication

Even though much of the art in Made In Space seems to project a more free-spirited vibe, that certainly does not mean that the works do not have a solid conceptual heft. Perhaps the most moving and thoughtful piece in the exhibition is Marcia Hafif’s wall installation “From the day a woman…” 

“From the day a woman…”  by Marcia Hafif. Image courtesy of the gallery.

A monumental written text on a vibrant yellow background, Hafif documents the invisibility of older women’s sexuality, which disappears from public consciousness after she turns a certain age. Ending with an admittedly necessary yet slightly unsettling discussion of an older woman masturbating, Hafif’s text draws viewers into the text, reading her plea for older women. Particularly regarding Hollywood and the rest of Los Angeles’s obsession with youth, age and beauty, Hafif’s piece seems at once a local critique of the City of Angels, as well as a larger feminist critique of society’s view of women as a whole.

Article by Emily Colucci