10 L.A. Art Spaces That Change Our Idea of What an Art Space Is
Audrey Chan performs Walk of Cunts (Study After Judy Chicago) on Sunset Blvd. as part of Los Angeles Road Concerts, which take place along an entire L.A. avenue
In May, L.A. Weekly told you about 25 alternative art spaces that are at the vanguard of Los Angeles' vibrant scene. These are galleries located in funky storefront spaces, artists' studios or even their houses -- homegrown operations that are a far cry from the pristine experiences of museums and established art galleries.
That was only one chapter of the endless adventure that is the alternative arts scene in this city. Here we present 10 alternatives to the alternatives -- exhibition venues that skip the typical "white box" format altogether in favor of odd, tangential spaces, where you'd never expect to see art: a traveling shoebox, a voicemail account, a Facebook identity, a gallery director's desk, someone's vanity closet and the entire lengths of L.A.'s iconic boulevards.
Unlike traditional spaces, which strive for a flat, uniform neutrality that allows the art to bloom, the spaces on this list are so specific in their dimensions that they inevitably shape the installation -- and sometimes even the nature -- of the art that is exhibited.
Becky Kolsrud thoughtfully frames Tif's Desk
Tif's Desk: Art amidst staplers
When Tif Sigfrids first signed on as director of Thomas Solomon Gallery, located in a small storefront space in Chinatown, the gallery didn't have a desk for her. She'd have to bring her own laptop and do her work while sitting a sofa.
Things changed when the gallery organized "Announce," a show of vintage art-event announcements, held in conjunction with the Getty's recent Pacific Standard Time initiative. The show required several display cases to be built in order to house the announcements. After it was over, Solomon suggested one of the display cases be kept to serve as Sigfrids' desk.
True L.A. art hounds know the gallery's office is already the site of some of the most interesting discussions in Chinatown. Solomon, the son of legendary New York dealer Holly Solomon and one of the first directors of the landmark New York alternative space White Columns, is always ready with stories about some amazing work of art that he happens to have lying around. Turning Tif's desk into an alternative site for exhibitions of art, complete with opening receptions and press releases, was a natural move for this crew.
Given the whimsical nature of this project, Sigfrids, who previously organized events at nearby bar Hop Louie, has so far preferred to invite artists with whom she is already friendly. In August, Becky Kolsrud showed three colorful drawings inside the desk and behind it hung a wall piece called Tif's Hair, which acted as a dramatic frame for the gallery director as she sat at work. 427 Bernard St., Chinatown. (323) 275-1687, thomassolomongallery.com.
One of many pieces from Chris Lipomi's Studio Days (Figure and Ground)
Light & Wire Gallery
Light & Wire Gallery: Art on a website
Internet-only art galleries are not new, but Light & Wire, started in 2008 by curator Gladys-Katherina Hernando, is probably the premier gallery of its kind, with its L.A. focus. The 30-plus online exhibitions it has hosted are archived on its website, and combing through it yields some gems by well-known local artists.
Analia Saban, who has received a good deal of positive attention for her highly textured paintings, chose to show a collection of short video works from her undergraduate days. She created absorbing, formal studies that look closely at pulsating lights, shifting colors or the view out a car door; in them, the young artist appears to be sorting through her own perceptions of the physical world.
Tamara Sussman, who has done a lot of work using narrative text, put her exhibition "From Another Los Angeles" into blog form. Through staged photographs and diarylike stories, she tracks the narrator's adventures in a postapocalyptic vision of the Bonaventure Hotel.
Hernando took a break from programming while she got her M.A. in Art and Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere from USC and spent a few months in Berlin. She's returning to the project with renewed vigor, working on a revamped website and planning shows with artists outside of Los Angeles. lightandwiregallery.com.
Up next: Art in a stairwell
Taft Green's Divided by Objects
The Finley Gallery
The Finley Gallery: Art in a stairwell
Look closely at the Los Feliz Villas, a pleasant-looking, Spanish-style apartment building on Finley Avenue, and you may notice something a bit out of the ordinary. Inside of a set of three windows, you can see a bunch of art hanging on the walls that overlook a stairwell. A concrete step has been thoughtfully installed on the lawn just outside these windows, acting as a viewing platform for those who want to get a closer look. A sign beneath the windows announces the artist and the title of the current show.
Welcome to the Finley Gallery, a sly private/public showcase for art that turns art seekers and the curious into peeping Toms. The space was conceived by Villa residents Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer and Jeff Hassay after the former wrote an article for L.A. Weekly that ruminated on the experience of living with art.
The building's residents do indeed get to live with the art, passing by it whenever they go through that stairwell. Others are kept at a remove that feels a little illicit; they either encounter it from the street by accident or seek it out on a tip. Opening receptions are mostly private affairs, but the art can be viewed by anyone at anytime. Nighttime viewing tends to work best, as the gallery is lit from within. 4627 Finley Ave., Los Feliz. (617) 794-4530, thefinleygallery.artcodeinc.com/pages/about.
323 Projects: all you have to do is call
323 Projects: Art on the phone
Talking on the telephone is so last century. People are so accustomed now to texting and other forms of efficient keypad messaging that voice communication over the fiber networks has been relegated to urgent business and intimate check-ins.
This situation just might work in favor of 323 Projects, an exhibition space that consists solely of a voicemail account. (It was featured in our Best of L.A. Issue.) "Shows" by artists are regularly curated by founder Tucker Neel, and listeners need only call the number to experience them. Past projects have included a serial drama, the reading of a novel, a series of noises made by children and adolescents, an interactive sing-along and "October Surprise," a group show with a focus on election season.
The voicemail function has been used to allow people to leave comments or their own sound art, which may be used in future shows. (323) 843-4652, 323projects.com.
Up next: Art on a Facebook page
Austin Young occupies Chloë Flores
Chloë Flores: Art on a Facebook page
Chloë Flores is a curator who doesn't really like social media; she prefers old-fashioned, face-to-face contact. After her friends kept bugging her to get a Facebook account, however, a light went on in her head. Why not use her Facebook identity as a residence space for artists? After all, being on Facebook is essentially a performance, and the site's numerous mechanisms for social interaction open up subtle possibilities for subversion and critique -- in other words, for messing with people's heads.
In November 2011, Flores launched her residency project by posting a detailed statement on her Facebook page's "About" section. As it turns out, however, most people don't read the About page, and one of the first artists (Austin Young) caused confusion and alarm among Flores' friends by making up lengthy, revealing and uncomfortably personal status updates. Flores received concerned messages asking her if she was going through a crisis.
Later, many friends were incensed when the collective Finishing School took over and cheekily posted nothing but large JPEG swatches of bland colors. As Flores later explained, these colors were the approved palette for Internet use in its early days.
At this point, most people have become acclimated to the project, and Flores continues to program a new resident artist every month. She also lectures about it periodically at local schools, and has plans for a book to document it when it's over.
The Chloë Flores archive is fully accessible to the public, but for the complete experience, it's best to friend her. facebook.com/itsallbeendonebefore.
Yes, naked deejaying happens at KCHUNG Radio, courtesy of artists Guan Rong and John Burtle
KCHUNG Radio: Art on the radio
KCHUNG, an upstart radio station founded in Chinatown by artist Solomon Bothwell, started as a joke. After an awkward interaction with a radio station owner who came to speak at the Mountain School (Piero Golia's alternative art university), Bothwell said to his friends, "I could start a radio station myself!" The more he said it to people, though, the more seriously they took him, and they started to contribute equipment, referrals and proposals for shows.
When KCHUNG did its first broadcast in February 2011 from the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, Bothwell bicycled there with all of his radio gear stuffed into a backpack. A year later, KCHUNG's equipment could barely fit onto a truck bound for an art event in Joshua Tree.
The station, which broadcasts a tiny signal at 1630 AM and is best listened to online, recently moved into a shared studio space in Chinatown, where it is enjoying more spacious digs and a newfound stability. Programming, which can be heard Sunday through Thursday nights from 7 p.m. to midnight, is powered by diverse constituents of L.A.'s underground music and art scenes; you can hear anything from dial-up advice sessions to poetry readings to sonic experiments to straight-up deejay mixes. kchungradio.org.
Up next: Art on a person
A Fela Kim and Inger Koerselman work from 2007
Open Arms: Art on a person
How great is it that there are two guys running around L.A. with gallery spaces on their arms?
Open Arms was first inked into existence in 2007 by artists John Burtle and John Barlog (and profiled by L.A. Weekly in October 2011). Since then, the matching 2-by-4-inch spaces have played host to a wild variety of artworks, ranging from felt-pen doodles and arm-hair braids to tanning experiments and Amy Blount's elaborate suspension-bridge installation between the two arms, complete with remote-controlled action figures that viewers could try to maneuver across the gap.
The Johnz, as they are called, have had to turn down proposals to break their arms or bleach their skin; as messy and interactive as they are willing to get with this project, they do have their limits.
Barlog's recent move to the East Coast has put a bit of a damper on the active-collaborative aspect of Open Arms, but the two continue to entertain spontaneous art projects, both individually and as a long-distance duo. yourartonourarms.wordpress.com.
Jay Erker shows off her work in ShoeboxLA
ShoeboxLA: Art on a table
ShoeboxLA is a specially constructed display table about the size of two shoeboxes laid side by side. This highly portable space -- which, like Open Arms, uses the simple, rectangular structure of a traditional gallery but in a whimsical manner -- roams the streets of L.A. for three-hour pop-up shows in random public locations.
Founders Sophia Allison and Paul W. Evans, artists themselves, wanted to create a mobile art experience that interacted closely with the environments it found itself in. After about a year in operation, the shoebox has appeared in a bookstore, an ice cream parlor, a bowling alley and a shopping mall. Artists are invited to create new work that is specifically geared toward the dimensions of ShoeboxLA (no pre-existing work is accepted).
Back in September, the gallery planted itself in the also tiny Los Feliz Triangle Park to show artist Jay Erker's Cut Both Ways, a handmade book of sliced and layered fashion-magazine images. On a boiling hot day, Erker (who also runs the nearby Weekend Gallery) stood under an umbrella, turning the pages for a steady stream of curious and enthusiastic passersby. shoeboxla.blogspot.com.
Up next: Art in a closet
Patricia Lennox-Boyd's "The Pull" pulls you into someone's vanity closet
The Vanity: Art in a closet
Located in artist Asha Schechter's apartment off the Miracle Mile, the Vanity gallery makes use of a vintage vanity closet to mount mysterious, intimate exhibitions. Its minimal website contains an archive of just five past exhibitions dating back to July 2011. Check out, for example, Patricia Lennox-Boyd's "The Pull," a quasi-scientific layout that appears to have been inspired by a dental extraction, or Olga Balema's "The Garden Collection," which plays off the closet's various storage functions.
The Vanity's has been an extremely low-key operation so far, with only a select network of people knowing about its laid-back Sunday afternoon opening receptions. Schechter has promised, however, to "be a more responsible gallerist going forward"; the website will feature announcements of upcoming exhibitions. 630 Dunsmuir Ave., #204, Mid-Wilshire. thevanitygallery.tumblr.com.
Miggie Wong welcomes visitors to Los Angeles Road Concerts on Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles Road Concerts: Art along a boulevard
Los Angeles Road Concerts is an ongoing series of daylong art, music, literary and performance extravaganzas that take up the entire length of one of L.A.'s iconic boulevards. Happening roughly annually, Road Concerts has had three iterations so far, occupying San Fernando Road, Washington Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard.
Organizer Stephen van Dyck, an artist with a background in music and writing, says the Road Concerts are a direct reflection of the city's vast and untamed diversity. Van Dyck puts out a wide call for submissions and doesn't turn anyone down; at the Sunset Boulevard event in 2011, 113 projects took place from downtown all the way to Pacific Palisades.
It would have been impossible to see everything, but Van Dyck has his favorites -- like old punk-rockers Artie Vegas and Tequila Mockingbird plugging into the Sunset Grill and rocking out on the street; and performance artist Kate Durbin creating a colorful pile of donated used panties in the middle of the sidewalk.
The next event will take place Dec. 9 along the length of Mulholland Drive. laroadconcerts.org.