At the start of 2015, so many galleries were opening in L.A. that gallerist Charlie James joked that I should write the saga of a Saturday night. He suggested I detail driving from one side of the city to the other, trying to catch all the openings (from Santa Monica to Venice to Culver City to West Adams to Mid-Wilshire to Hollywood and on, until I landed somewhere near Glendale). I could tell readers exactly how long it took and which routes worked best. This seemed masochistic.
The sheer number of galleries moving in — some homegrown, some transplants from New York or Europe — was staggering. It became too easy to overlook the spaces moving out or moving on, which is unfortunate given how exciting and influential some of these now-closed, or temporarily homeless, venues were.
So, lest we forget, here are some of those dearly departed galleries.
Every summer since 2009, HK Zamani hosted a series of exhibitions called PØST Kamikazes at his space on industrial, alleylike Seventh Place. A new artist-curated show would open every night for a month. Seeing everything was impossible, but the project had an infectiously populist feel. Zamani, a painter, held these exhibitions in the building that had been a studio since 1995. When he first moved to Seventh Place, he began curating shows in a small upstairs room and a larger ground-level room behind a garage door. Eventually he started asking artists to curate their own shows. “As soon as you invite others into the process, it begins to grow exponentially,” he told Annie Buckley for KCET, just after a steep rent increase forced him out of a rapidly changing downtown. PØST may re-emerge in another location — we’ll see.
Thomas Solomon Gallery
Tom Solomon is still in the art business. The longtime gallerist uses his Chinatown storefront as an office rather than as a gallery now, and has been staging memorable shows around town since he quietly ceased to exhibit on Bernard Street. But his gallery’s intimate scale and unusual energy will be missed. The space mixed a certain scholarly seriousness with sensuality and play (Solomon once explained to me that conceptualism was largely about love).
John Espinosa ran Agency from 2013 until the spring of this year. At first he occupied a large former storeroom in the Pacific Design Center, a space he’d renovated with former partner Annie Wharton and where the two helmed Wharton-Espinosa. Then, in 2014, he moved into a storefront on Clinton, just off Western in East Hollywood, to focus on emerging artists. He liked the thrill and responsibility of finding and showcasing new talent, and his space was a friendly one — he’d always talk someone through a show. His last exhibition featured new graduate Elan Greenwald, who had just spent time at a never-completed Nazi resort on the Baltic.
Angles Gallery was in Santa Monica from 1984 till 2009, when founder David McAuliffe moved it to La Cienega in Culver City. The tough women he exhibited were always the highlight — Judy Fiskin’s wry, dry photographs of houses and artifacts; Judie Bamber’s vintage-looking drawings of sexy mothers; Linda Stark’s fleshy canvasses. The Culver City gallery also had a bathroom, which could be a godsend on a night of all-over art viewing. Angles closed in January, with an all-female show called “Hidden and Revealed.”
Visit the Western Project website now and you’ll see a painting by Wayne White of the words “Fuck That Shit” arcing over an idyllic autumn landscape. Founded by Cliff Benjamin and Erin Kermanikian, Western Project opened in 2003 and was one of the first galleries along that stretch of La Cienega in Mid-City. The gallery's shows have been daring and visceral. It's exhibited Arne Svensen’s voyeuristic photographs of unsuspecting neighbors. It has also frequently shown work by collaborators Sheree Rose and Bob Flanagan, who engaged in S&M play partly to help the late Flanagan cope with the pain of his cystic fibrosis. (Update: The owners have clarified that Western Project is in the process of relocating.)
Frank Lloyd Gallery
Opened in 1996, Santa Monica–based Frank Lloyd Gallery primarily featured ceramics — but the unwieldy, quixotic kind. He showed rough, leaning vessels by L.A. icon Peter Voulkos, and his gallery's last exhibition showcased new work by Akio Takamori: blown-glass, skeptical-looking heads on pedestals shared space with concrete and glass sculptures of sprawled, sleeping figures. An expert in the history of clay and plastics in SoCal, Frank Lloyd is a frequent source of mine — he knows the bios of certain artists inside out, and also knows some secrets. He still blogs at franklloydgallery.wordpress.com.
Santa Monica Museum of Art
The museum isn’t closing exactly, but it’s leaving Santa Monica. SMMoA, founded in 1984, originally stood on Main Street before moving to Bergamot Station in 1998, when Bergamot was still home to one of L.A.’s most happening gallery scenes. Financial problems and a steep increase in rent prompted the museum’s relocation effort. It has never had a permanent collection, and its shows have always been more experimental than those at larger museums. A recent highlight: an exhibition of aggressive Batman paintings by unapologetic New Yorker Joyce Pensato. Rumor has it that the museum will eventually settle downtown. But will it change its name?
Ambach & Rice
Technically, Ambach & Rice closed its Mid-Wilshire gallery in late 2014, not 2015. But this has been our first full year without them. Amanda and Charlie Kitchings started out in Seattle and relocated to Los Angeles in 2010. I remember a night in their booth at Paris Photo Los Angeles, drinking Champagne while talking with artist Abigail Reynolds. The gallery always felt like a sensitive, inviting space. Its final show was, appropriately, called “Sincerely.”
OK, OHWOW, the flashy WeHo gallery at 937 N. La Cienega didn't shut down, it just changed its name. Now it's the serious-sounding Moran Bondaroff, after the last names of two founders. The gallery has always had a confusing scene. It shows artists who graduated from gritty Lower East Side graffiti into high-art cool, and it shows photographer Terry Richardson, whose aesthetic could best be described as sleazy, faux-vintage chic. Then it shows fantastic aging Beat artist George Herms. OHWOW was a perfect name for this hodgepodge. I'm sorry to see it go.
This post originally stated that Western Projects had closed, but the owners have clarified that the gallery is simply moving and making some changes to what it does.
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