8 L.A. Artists and Art-World Figures to Watch in 2016

Rachel Mason lip-synching the GOP debate while dressed as Future ClownEXPAND
Rachel Mason lip-synching the GOP debate while dressed as Future Clown
Screenshot via Mason's YouTube channel

This year the nonprofit and alt-space scene expanded almost as dramatically as the gallery scene. And as 2016 begins, interesting artists and curators are working at all levels: on the fringes, at major museums, at blue chip galleries and at new nonprofits. Here's a list of eight art-world figures worth watching as we move into the new year.

Outterbridge's new spotlight
John Outterbridge has been an L.A. artist for a long time. He moved here in 1963, after stints as an Army corporal and a Chicago bus driver. In the mid-1960s, on NBC, he confronted L.A. Times art critic William Wilson for not going to see shows at the minority-focused Brockman Gallery in Leimert Park. “My interest is not necessarily guided in that way,” Wilson replied. Outterbridge’s art — assemblages that are nearly always anthropomorphic, sometimes earthy and sometimes militaristic — hasn’t been featured in a significant L.A. solo show since the 1990s. Ideally, his current solo show at Art+Practice in Leimert signals a shift, and the 83-year-old artist’s work will be more on the art-viewer radar in 2016. Outterbridge's show at Art+Practice continues through Feb. 27; 4339 Leimert Blvd., Leimert Park. (323) 337-6887, artandpractice.org. 

Martine Syms' entrepreneurship
Martine Syms doesn’t call herself an artist. She’s a “conceptual entrepreneur,” which makes her sound aligned with the startup-obsessed vein of creative culture. She’s not. She’s more a deep-digging philosopher who frequently performs her ideas, because thoughts manifest as body movements. The first performance she’ll do in L.A. in 2016 is at the Broad Museum. Called Misdirected Kiss, it’s a stylized lecture informed by a trend from the silent-film era: White men would inadvertently kiss black maids, mistaking the maid for a white lover. Syms did some web design for fashion brand Nasty Gal and also runs a press, Dominica, where she publishes her writings and the writings of others. She has an unpretentious but intentional kind of fierceness. "I take on whatever role I need to get my idea out into the world," she said at the Walker Art Center in 2014. "I work from the margins. I privilege my ignorance. I think in public." Maybe her approach to entrepreneurship will catch on. Syms performs at the Broad on Thu., Jan. 21, 8 p.m.; $15. 221 S. Grand Ave., downtown. (213) 232-6200, thebroad.org or martinesyms.com

Martine Syms speaking at the Walker Art Center in 2014EXPAND
Martine Syms speaking at the Walker Art Center in 2014

The WCCW explores "persuasion without coercion," among other things
This will be the Women’s Center for Creative Work’s (WCCW) first full year in its space near the L.A. River. The group, an inviting nonprofit managed by Sarah Williams and Kate Johnson, hosts women-initiated programs almost weekly. It will start off 2016 with a series of programs focused on "Soft Power." “What are the forces which can enact attraction or persuasion without coercion?” they asked in their call for proposals. WCCW members can work at the headquarters at 2425 Glover Place, Frogtown. womenscenterforcreativework.com

Rachel Mason and her multiple guises

Following the final Republican presidential debate of 2015, artist Rachel Mason dressed as a clown (she calls this character, which has mimed political speech before, Future Clown) and lip-synched all of it for a video later posted on YouTube. “The government has become incompetent, unresponsive,” Carly Fiorina said as Future Clown mouthed along with concerned eyes. Mason, who’s newly L.A.-based (and someone this writer considers a new friend), is good at such timely interventions. There will undoubtedly be more. rachelannmason.com

Paul Schimmel's ambition
During Paul Schimmel’s 25-year stint as MOCA’s chief curator, he became known for sprawling, ambitiously well-researched shows. His 2011 show, “Under the Big Black Sun,” chronicled seven years when post-Watergate disillusionment replaced “hippie optimism of the 1960s.” Now he’s a name partner in Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, the blue chip gallery opening a 100,000-square-foot space in the Arts District in March. The first show, "Revolution in the Making," is an ambitious, multigenerational survey of more than 30 women sculptors. How well will Schimmel’s research-driven, no-holds-barred approach translate to a commercial gallery? Hopefully, really well. "Revolution in the Making" opens March 13, 901 E. Third St., downtown. hauserwirth.com

John Outterbridge's Rag and Bag Idiom III (2012)
John Outterbridge's Rag and Bag Idiom III (2012)
Courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York

Return of Evan Holloway (to an L.A. gallery)
It’s been years since longtime L.A. artist Evan Holloway, who marries an attraction to modernism with anarchic impulses, had a solo show in Los Angeles. The closest thing to it was seven years ago, when he made his mind-bending room of polka dots as an antidote to James Turrell's exhibition of pristine, lofty light works at the Pomona Museum of Art. Holloway has mostly been showing his funny mobiles, monuments and spaceship-like assemblages overseas. But he’ll have a show at David Kordansky in February. Best-case scenario, it will be weird, well made and transfixing. Holloway's exhibition opens Jan. 30; 5130 W. Edgewood Place, Mid-City. (323) 935-3030, davidkordanskygallery.com

JOAN on Jefferson
The nonprofit JOAN opened in West Adams last spring. Three young female curators — Summer Guthery, Gladys-Katherina Hernando, and Rebecca Matalon — co-founded it with a mission to support emerging, or under-the-radar artists. The first year saw some hits and misses; a highlight was Anne Hirsch's "Playground," about a 20-something guy who starts an online relationship with a preteen girl. But the energy is compelling. There's a vitrine up in the loft for small installations and a garage door that opens to let the crowd spill out. 4300 W. Jefferson Blvd., West Adams. (323) 641-0454, joanlosangeles.org

Claire Titelman and vulnerability
Comedian Claire Titelman wanders into the art world occasionally. She's performed at alt-space Machine Project a few times and has collaborated with other artists. In late 2015, she started workshopping a show about economic vulnerability, the pervasiveness of debt shame and other things we're afraid to talk about. These are issues relevant to most creative worlds, where debt denial runs rampant and financial insecurity stays pretty hush-hush. It'll be exciting to see where Titelman's project goes. 

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