Commonwealth and Council, an artist-run exhibition space and studio in the heart of Koreatown, is what some might call a classic "underground" art joint. It's located on the second floor of a dilapidated building, and you have to walk between Amigos Liquor and the popular OB Bear Korean pub to find the entrance. After you ascend a steep flight of stairs, you poke through establishments that include a Korean church, an acupuncture practice and one of the city's oldest Latino AA meeting spaces to find the modest set of rooms that comprise CW&C.
It's easy to find on an opening night, as CW&C's openings are raucous affairs that attract throngs of in-the-know guests, who tend to linger past midnight. The crowd at CW&C, which is still primarily known through social media and word of mouth, is composed mostly of artists who are there to support and network with each other.
When CW&C's most recent exhibition, featuring Margaret Honda, opened on Feb. 18, Pacific Standard Time star William Leavitt, who had a retrospective at MOCA last year, was in attendance. A friend of Honda's, Leavitt came early and mixed easily with the other guests.
CW&C was launched in October 2010 in the living room of artist and curator Young Chung, who at the time lived at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Council Street in Historic Filipinotown. When Chung's landlord could no longer handle all the extra foot traffic, he was forced to relocate the gallery. He found a new space in Koreatown, not far from where he grew up, but decided to keep the original name.
To date, CW&C has organized 16 exhibitions by local artists, including Kaucilya Brook, Lee Maida, Erich Bollman, Kelly Cline and Brenna Youngblood, among many others. As curator, Chung likes to encourage artists to respond to the peculiarities of the intimate, humble space, and to collaborate with one another. This has tended to produce results that are thoughtful, investigative, subtle and dynamic.
Honda's show, titled "... With Observations on Their Habits," was inspired by the artist's fascination with the regenerative power of worms. In it, she takes her own artwork from years past and "reconstitutes" it into new pieces. Old prints were rolled or piled up to make new sculptures, and old sculptures were melted down and reshaped into new forms.
The day after Honda's opening, Leavitt sat on a panel discussion at Pomona College and compared CW&C to the early L.A. art scene of the 1960s -- people doing their own thing, generating their own communities, in unexpected places all over the city. He had a good point: In some ways, L.A. hasn't changed too much, and that's not a bad thing. --Carol Cheh
Margaret Honda's "... With Observations on Their Habits" is on view through March 10. CW&C's next exhibition, of Gala Porras-Kim's work, opens March 17. 3006 W. Seventh St., #220, Koreatown; commonwealthandcouncil.com.
Carol Cheh blogs about LA's performance art scene at Another Righteous Transfer! Follow her on Twitter at @righteoustrans and for more arts news follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter or like us on Facebook.