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Alternative Spaces

10 L.A. Art Spaces That Change Our Idea of What an Art Space Is

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Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 12:26 PM

click to enlarge 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 - ELANA MANN
  • Elana Mann
  • 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
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*5 Artsy Things to Do in L.A. This Week

*25 Alternative L.A. Art Spaces to Check Out Now

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.

click to enlarge Becky Kolsrud thoughtfully frames Tif's Desk - RUBEN DIAZ
  • Ruben Diaz
  • 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.

click to enlarge One of many pieces from Chris Lipomi's Studio Days (Figure and Ground) - LIGHT & WIRE GALLERY
  • Light & Wire Gallery
  • One of many pieces from Chris Lipomi's Studio Days (Figure and Ground)
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

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