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Heller’s Bergamot gallery is currently showing the Royal Family, an RAL offshoot consisting of Marcel and Hollie Dzama; their parents, Maurice and Jeannette; Farber (who is Marcel and Hollie’s uncle, but close to them in age); and Marcel’s wife, Shelley. "Thing about living in the big cities these days," says Heller, "is that it can be incredibly stifling for young artists, which is why the whole premise of RAL is so great and worked so well in Winnipeg. They all started out together in this small town and they all had bands and were all making all kinds of art. And because they were in a town like Winnipeg, they were actually in a position that they could do all of it on their own terms without being saddled by the repercussions and expectations that often accompany such pursuits in cities like New York or Los Angeles."
Pylypchuk and Williams, both of whom left Winnipeg and the RAL early on, have a joint show of mixed-media pieces at China Art Objects. "There were some natural groupings when we started. Not based on politics, but just natural partnerships," says Pylypchuk, who came to Los Angeles in the late ’90s and subsequently got his MFA at UCLA. "Michael and Drue, Neil and Marcel, and Adrian and me. When Adrian left, I felt like I lost my partner. I was also looking into going to grad school and was not really doing anything when I went to Lodge meetings. The company was good, but I just sort of sat there. I was not making much art then. That time between the collaborations and grad school was pretty important because I started to value what I did individually, based in part from confidence I got from the group."
Dominating the main gallery at China Arts is an assembly of Pylypchuk’s wonderful cat-soldier sculptures in various states of agony. Says Pylypchuk, "I try not to think about what I do while I am doing it because it gets in the way of the process. I guess I just liked the idea of little cat soldiers crying and puking — sort of feels appropriate right now." Another collection of soldiers, non-feline but seeming just as lost, courtesy of Williams, who now resides in Montreal, watches over Pylypchuk’s debacle.
Naturally, growth and success have thinned the ranks of Winnipeg-based Royal Art Lodge members to just a handful, but Farber says that fact has only deepened his commitment: "It takes even more of my time than before," he says.
Adds Marcel Dzama, "I am not worried that a little distance will stop us from drawing together."
The Royal Art Lodge | At MOCA – PACIFIC DESIGN CENTER, 8687 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles | Through February 14 | (310) 289-5223
The Royal Family | At RICHARD HELLER GALLERY, 2525 Michigan Ave., Building B-5, Santa Monica | Through December 18 | (310) 453-9191
You Won’t Live Past 30 | Jonathan Pylypchuk and Adrian Williams At CHINA ART OBJECTS, 933 Chung King Road, Los Angeles | Through January 8 | (213) 613-0384