Mangonadas in hand, a festive crowd on Sunday shuffled between the last patches of sunlit sidewalk and the inside of a smallish storefront in the Fashion District — where nearly every inch of wall was covered in a superbloom of lovingly curated feminist art. The salon-style exhibition is a local outpost of the wildly popular Every Woman Biennial, first conceived in 2014 as a rejoinder to male-dominated institutional surveys in New York (namely the Whitney Biennial, which inspired its original moniker, “The Whitney Houston Biennial,” until the late singer’s estate quietly shut that down). Los Angeles is the first exploratory foray into what organizers hope will be a global movement.
“It’s like a birth — it’s the beginning, in L.A. Does it work, is it cool?” wondered artist and founder C. Finley, noting nearly all of the 100 or so participating artists are local. “I have maybe one or two pieces from New York; it’s mostly from L.A. because my shipping budget is, you know, nothing.” (Finley lives between NYC and Europe but has shown in L.A. and has a massive mural, “Divine Feminine,” at Pico and Grand).
Nestled between wholesale vendors on the ground floor of the Bendix Building near Santee Alley, the L.A. edition is smaller in scale “and maybe less polished” than this year’s New York iteration, which has grown to more than 600 artists, includes a film festival and last month drew crowds in the thousands. “We were more organized and people knew about us. We sent to everybody who’s ever been in the show and asked them to send it to their friends — like, female nepotism,” Finley said. In L.A., she drew on a tight-knit community of NYC transplants, respected West Coast names and artists she met at dinner parties and in the neighborhood only days before the opening. The resulting mix — including work from Lorelin Gilmore, Nneka Osueke, Meegan Barnes, Crystal Vielula — is dazzling.
“I need to get my L.A. ladies here in the same house and see what we can do. You know, because it’s also different, what people are doing here, it’s a little bit freakier. I’m into L.A. art. And I want to put everyone together and see how weird we can get.”
So far, Finley said, the response has been overwhelming. “People are thanking me with so much love. There’s an outpouring, because to bring people together like this, it’s very meaningful.”
Suzanne Wright, a participating artist (her pieces, “Hoover” and “Cockpit,” are highlights) who helped organize the show, stressed the celebratory, inclusive vibe. “It’s really, to me, about the intergenerational relationships we have with a spectrum of women, and also, somewhat, queerness… We’re trying to recreate this feminist future. So having an inclusionary, intergenerational show — it’s a really freeing, amazing experience.”
Eddy Segal, an artist who also helped organize and exhibited new work from her series of painted, narrative wedding dresses — “I liked the idea, taking the inherent power and redirecting it” — said her focus right now is about “giving as many women and queer and non-binary people a voice as possible… I’m still doing my practice but now it’s become so much more about getting the whole tribe up in there.”
Sunday kicked off 10 days of programming and fortified Finley’s bright ambitions. “My goal is to go get some seed money, from grants and writing proposals, to then ask cities around the world to propose a curatorial project,” she said, describing a month-long format that would open on International Women’s Day and run through March. “Every city in the world would be the ultimate goal,” she added, playful but not playing. “But if we could get five or 10 for 2021, that would be great.”
Segal likened it to a franchise. “We want any person any place to hit us up, say ‘we want to do it.’ We can provide you with how to do it, maybe someone to help — but also maybe some funding. Like, you want an all-woman or all-queer art show where you live? We’ll give you everything you need.”
Bendix Building, 1206 Maple Ave., downtown; 1-7pm daily, through June 12; free.