@JackSkelley read and get back to me #KeepArtElite RT @LAWeekly Hammer Museum's experiment in art-world democracy http://t.co/cA88Bbdm
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Mokgosi is not well known in the art world, and only finished grad school in 2011. He doesn't think the realism in his paintings gives him an advantage in the voting. "That would be unfair," he says.
"A place like L.A. where there are art institutions, there are so many people who are educated," he adds. "People are clever."
On Thursday nights throughout the summer, similar to previous years, the Hammer offered free admission and set up a bar in the courtyard. Young Angelenos danced to a DJ and flirted in a photo booth. They registered to vote by scanning their driver's license at an electronic kiosk, to make sure they only voted once.
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On one of these nights, upstairs in a gallery, finalist Simone Forti was acting out one of her News Animation Improvisations, a type of performance combining dance and spoken-word commentary on current events. Forti, born in 1935, thought up the concept when her dad died in the early 1980s. He had always read the newspaper — that's how he knew to move their Jewish family out of Italy before World War II.
To prepare, she reads the news and writes a few pages a day longhand, trying to find connections. During a performance, she's instinctual, letting the words shape the movements, or vice versa.
"Supposedly China has a hard time with basketball, because it's so improvisational," she says during the performance, before bouncing around like an NBA player on defense. It's like a performance-art version of The Daily Show.
Many in the audience seemed familiar with Forti's work, such as David Bronstein, from West Hollywood, who took a workshop with her in the '80s. "To take that on in movement is hilarious to me," he said. "People with doctorates are trying to figure that shit out. It takes balls."
Still, Forti was a long shot for the prize. You had to be at the right place and time to attend her performances. Her installation was over at Barnsdall, and her work was conveyed through sketches, scribbled writing and a long, often grainy video. "I think I'm off the hook," she acknowledged.
The only finalist to significantly campaign was Slanguage, an art collective run by married couple Mario Ybarra Jr. and Karla Diaz. Since 2002, the pair has run a combination artist studio and community hub in Wilmington, a port city near Long Beach, offering classes and creating interactive exhibits while also traveling to residencies at the Whitney Biennial and the Tate Modern.
For "Made in L.A.," Slanguage created a visual celebration of its history: old photos, street art–style paintings, hand-painted shoes the group sells. In a side room, visitors can just sit and draw.
At a slam poetry event they organized, the performers shouted to the crowd, "Don't forget to vote." Posts on the group's Facebook page said things like "Swizzle Sticks Votes Slanguage!!" with a photo of swizzle sticks giving a thumbs-up. In a YouTube video, Ybarra proclaimed, "A hundred thousand dollars can be stretched a long way down in the ghetto, and we need you to vote."
He tells the Weekly, "I never see art as like a 'Kumbaya' moment. I've always seen it as a competitive sport."
Still, Vegas' odds might have favored Glynn. That Thursday night, at Glynn's installation, people are moving around the lead BlackBerrys and iPods. One kid starts kicking the wooden tunnel. "I want to go inside," she protests, as her dad whisks her off. Lots of kids want to go into the tunnel, a security guard reports. Some Thursdays, drunk people stumble in. One day a man walks in and breaks one of the planks.
The exhibit's interactivity and topicality make it especially accessible. Moving around objects makes it memorable, and Egypt is a hot topic after the Arab Spring.
And Glynn thinks hard about how people interact with her work. She was going to leave the wood unfinished but then realized that painting the drawers red, blue, yellow and green would help indicate that they are drawers that can be opened, inviting people to look inside.
Her installation has similarities to that of another finalist, Erika Vogt, around the corner. Vogt's includes a series of scary-looking tools on the ground, but you can't pick them up (kids sometimes kick them over). There's a video of a hand turning the tools, superimposed on road-trip footage. Rows of images of everyday objects, such as one of a dollar bill that says, "This may be your last," made using pencils, crayon and a "spirit duplicator" (a mimeograph-type machine), are next to a charcoal drawing of a dancing tooth.
The unifying ideas are more elusive than in Glynn's work. Vogt was inspired by "turning," she says, along with "margins and notes and what's kind of fixed and what's not fixed." But these themes were just jumping-off points. "This is very oblique to what's in the room."
Wandering around Vogt's installation is Brent Gilmore, who works in international freight-forwarding in Houston and appears to be in his 30s. "I like how the objects on the ground are also in the video," he says. "Otherwise I probably wouldn't last long."