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Back outside, viewers were initially greeted by a block of overly traditional art-society exhibitions, watercolor landscapes and the like, but soon enough, pods belonging to painter Christopher Mercier and collagist Tm Gratkowski offered the first of many breaths of fresh air, and the quality of the work, though uneven, steadily improved as viewers encountered more and more innovative uses of these temporary spaces.
Besides the clear crowd favorite, the sponge-wall environment by Olga Lah shown above, the dozens of pod shows alternated between innovative individual installation pieces and more traditionally formatted exhibitions. For example, the gallery-in-miniature installed in three pods belonging to Offramp Gallery, which included works from gallery artists Mark Steven Greenfield, Quinton Beimeller, Susan Sironi and Chuck Feesago.
More cheeky, so to speak, installations like Johnny Naked's well-appointed sets for staging live nude model-drawing sessions and Carrie Sinclair Katz's room designed for the benefit of feline art-lovers -- not cat-lovers, but actual cats -- made the best use of the event's spirit of adventure.
Steven Hampton's "Super Salon" was an exercise in comfortable maximalism, with a color-riot of a group show.
DEN contemporary's Michael Napper was just one of several artists, including Olga Lah and Susan Sironi, whose art featured diverse forms of destroyed or altered books -- a fact that may not have been so striking to me in a different locale, but which in lieu of the shiny-toy consumerism of the place, seems worth noting.
Besides DEN and Offramp, a number of galleries like l2kontemporary, Neuartig, and LAMAG took the opportunity to show off smaller works in groups shows from their programs, mixed with the occasionally inspired nod to the unusual circumstance. The use of pods in this manner is becoming more typical at fairs like Basel, where they are nevertheless on the margins, and not the groovy main attraction as they were in Torrance.
While the format of certain installations certainly responded to the circumstance, surprisingly few artists chose to show or make work that dealt specifically with the role of industry, sustainability, and decay that one might have expected more of in such a setting. Sculptor Shizuko Greenblatt's uneasy meditation on these issues was a notable exception.
The best pod concepts overall did tend to be the instances where artists were allowed to create miniature environments rather than trying to tame the pod or remake it as a clean white box.
A great many of the pods featured installations that occupied the corners of the "rooms," which was not only helpful for audiences trying to get inside the 100 or square feet of each, but which helped to keep the experimental nature of the layout at the forefront of the experience, despite its overall resemblance to the mainstream Labor Day ritual of the car-lot shuffle.
There's a catalog on Blurb, and you can find a complete list of artists, curators and commissioned projects at the event's main page, plus photos being posted in the over-populated Facebook Meta-verse of main and ancillary event pages created for the occasion.