This special issue celebrates the ever-growing vibrancy and richness of
the L.A. art scene. As Ann Philbin, director of the Hammer Museum, notes in her
interview, Los Angeles is now the world’s fourth art capital, along with
New York, London and Berlin. In at least one area — new-media arts —
Southern California is the world’s hub, thanks to the intersection of academic
institutions and the film, music and gaming industries. Add renowned art schools,
design and fashion and architecture, and (relatively) affordable housing (not
to mention the weather), and it’s clear why, as Philbin says, students of
those schools no longer move away upon graduation. They’re staying put and
adding layer upon layer to this expanding universe.
But how to cover it all?! It would be impossible to make note of each and every
significant player in the L.A. art world. Thus the following list of artists (plus
selected gallerists, curators and collectors) is representative rather than definitive.
This year’s emerging artists, chosen by critic Doug Harvey, appear in a separate
article, and are on exhibit through November 12 at Track 16 gallery in Bergamot
Station. We expect to do this at least biennially in some form, so for all those
deserving people not mentioned, there’s always the next time!

By Doug Harvey, Holly Myers, Peter Frank, Christopher Miles, Michael Duncan,
Kristine McKenna and others as noted.

The Rev. Ethan Acres
Raised to be an evangelical preacher in his native Alabama, young Ethan Acres
forsook the cloth to pursue his other calling — as a visual artist. By the time
he emerged as the most multidimensional artist of the Vegas scene in the late
’90s, he had come full circle, getting ordained over the Internet, modifying
a trailer into the first Highway Chapel, performing wildly original sermons,
marriages and funerals, and producing enough curdled Christian Pop sculptures,
paintings, photo works and crocheted goods to fill galleries in L.A., New York
and London — where he preached at the Tate Modern, baptized Damien Hirst’s baby,
and performed a modern-dance interpretation of the Fall on the Eve Club’s colored-glass
hydraulic dance floor.
Having relocated to L.A. for the new millennium, Acres kept up his grueling
global schedule for several years, including star turns at Patricia Faure Gallery
and Track 16 and an exorcism of the Santa Monica Museum. Unfortunately, many
in the religio-phobic art world mistook his profound ambiguity for simplistic
caricature. Feeling constricted by conventional art-world channels, the Reverend
recently began withdrawing from his art-world affiliations and seeking ways
to engage his public directly. While still traveling occasionally and speaking
to students, Acres has been pouring his energies into a new version of the Highway
Chapel — a pimped-out 1982 hearse this time — and negotiating the opening of
his own church. “My new role model is Thomas Kinkade,” he says, laughing wickedly.
“He really is!” (DH)
Doug Aitken
He has made music videos, shot photographs, co-written a book (I Am a
, with Dean Kuipers), and created Web-based artwork, but video installation
is where Aitken has had the most impact, crafting visually stunning, spatialized
semi-narratives attuned to a post-millennium need for new forms of time and
space. (HW)

Doug Aitken, The Moment (2005)
Courtesy Regen Projects

John Baldessari
Genial giant John Baldessari is rightly considered one of the most influential
artists of the past 35 years, having almost single-handedly invented the West
Coast flavor of conceptual art. His witty, pared-down, semiotic object lessons
on perceptual and cognitive conundrums were at their most distilled in his most
recent body of work, Prima Facie, which pairs single words with appropriated
images of human faces. (DH)

Larry Bell

After decades in Taos, Bell came home last year and slipped back into the Venice
scene he helped create as a Chouinard grad in the early ’60s. He also helped
create Finish Fetish and Light & Space art, Southern California’s answer(s)
to minimalism, with his etched-mirror-glass, then just etched-glass boxes, moving
on to glass almost imperceptibly tinted per a vacuum technique he’s applied
to other media since, with equally luminous results. (PF)
Bendett, Narcissus
(detail, 2005)
Courtesy Roberts & Tilton Gallery

Maura Bendett
Bendett’s recent exhibition at Roberts & Tilton was the highlight of the spring
gallery season. Master of the glue gun, she forms large, drippy wall concoctions
of blossoms, thorns and pods that have their own fantastic biological life. With
a painterly eye, she sculpts in color and form, making beautiful ornaments that
have a living, breathing presence. (MD)

Karl Benjamin

Hard-Edge Abstraction began here — well, in Claremont. Benjamin was teaching
there in 1959 when he was coupled with John McLaughlin, Lorser Feitelson and
Frederick Hammersley in a show that went to Europe — where New York got wind
of it. Benjamin had already been painting in cubism-derived geometric manners
for a decade — and has worked thus ever since. In the process, he’s taught and
influenced several generations of Southern Cal artists. (PF)

Sandow Birk

Birk’s epic In Smog and Thunder used a fictional war between north and
south California to produce a torrent of gorgeous, scathing artworks. Since then
he’s made angry and poignant work tackling federal prisons and the Rampart scandal.
His latest series updates the social criticism of Dante for the Bush era. (See
feature here.)

Ginny Bishton

Bishton’s feverish collages featuring thousands of minced snapshots of, say,
all the food she ate in a year, or very low-altitude aerial shots from her daily
walk, have always been dazzling showstoppers. Last year, she quit her day job
and produced her most focused and extravagant photo mosaics yet. (DH)

Black Dragon Society

Black Dragon Society is the oldest Chinatown gallery still open, and it still
isn’t putting on airs. Less a commercial venture than an effort of local art
professors (mostly associated with UCLA) to provide an outlet to younger talents,
it reflects the communitarian ideals that bespeak both those professors’ European
roots and the L.A. art world’s own continuing camaraderie. So does the wild
diversity of style, attitude and accomplishment. (PF)

Chris Burden

Many people focused on the irony of Burden quitting UCLA over a gun performance
when he himself achieved overnight fame by having himself shot in the arm as
a sculptural event. But for decades, Burden has eschewed the risky physical
shtick for more mediated explorations of power structures — most recently through
almost stately architectural and engineering models. (DH)

Carole Caroompas

Caroompas’ seething, reference-laden Technicolor canvases have a dark, confectionary
seductiveness that should serve as fair warning to anyone who wants to tangle
with them. In spite of their sheer retinal and pop-cultural overload, series
like Psychedelic Jungle, the recent sortie into curdled exotica, pack
a wry and subtle punk-feminist punch. (DH)
Karen Carson
With each show, Karen Carson confounds expectations, expanding her visceral
examination of the interaction of nature and culture. Her recent paintings on
silk of fires and windstorms in Western landscapes are cosmic tableaux that
reveal the terror and comedy of the sublime — while offering a vehicle for her
most virtuosic freeform drawing. Her new work debuts at the USC Fisher Gallery
November 18. (MD)

Center for Land Use Interpretation

Matthew Coolidge, Erik Knutzen, Steve Rowell, Sarah Simons and the other creative
minds behind Culver City's Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) continue
to be active on several fronts, while maintaining a healthy distance from actual
art-world entanglements. Two upcoming projects: an exhibition focusing on the
tops and bottoms of mountains, and a profile of the Hudson River that will eventually
go on permanent display in their new Troy, New York, facility. (DH)
by Sean Bonner

Caryn Coleman and Sixspace
“There’s no denying what’s happening here with art, but I resisted Culver City
for so long, to me it was like the Valley without having to go over the hill,”
says Caryn Coleman, having just moved her gallery, Sixspace, from downtown,
mostly because of landlord issues. “I gave Chinatown a shot, but getting our
business permit and stuff like that here was so easy, Culver City was like Mayberry.”
So she and partner (and husband) Sean Bonner converted a warehouse near Susanne
Vielmetter and Billy Shire Fine Art, just down from most of the other galleries
that followed Blum & Poe about two years ago to the little no man’s land east
of La Cienega.
Sixspace has a reputation for attracting young collectors, their pockets heavy
with disposable income from the movie and music industries, and young artists
you can watch evolve before your eyes. Like its owner, who also runs the art.blogging.lasite,
Sixspace is all over the map, showing installations, paintings, photography
and works on paper. The gallery’s vibe is young, and Coleman has the
youthful glow of a WB star. Then again, she is only 28.
“I feel like in all of L.A. there’s this huge buzz and energy. Even New York
writers and N.Y.-centric people I know are admitting that what’s happening here
in L.A. is extremely vital,” she says as she pushes her long, dark hair behind
her ears. “Culver City is definitely going to be the new Chelsea.”
Coleman and Bonner recently put together a walking guide, a handy little gallery
map, for navigating Culver’s nooks and crannies. It will need to be updated
soon, as two more galleries just announced they’re planning to join the pack.
“I don’t know if anybody would have predicted Culver City, but there’s
a feeling here that we’re a part of something special that transcends the” —
Coleman searches for the word — “commerce.” She smiles. “Kind of like we’re
all part of history in this time period.” 5803 Washington Blvd., Culver City,
(323) 932-6200. (Linda Immediato)

Robbie Conal

Between teaching at USC, Getty panel discussions on Jacques Louis David, and
his Weekly column “Artburn,” Conal still manages to execute nationwide
guerrilla-postering campaigns that bring his scathing political caricatures
— Dick Cheney the most recent victim — to thousands of people who never set
foot in a gallery. (DH)

Meg Cranston

A 30-foot mountain of eggshells; a room full of life-size piñata self-portraits;
a cone of mint-green ice cream, projected wall-size and melting in real time:
The work of Meg Cranston is often oblique but big, striking and always memorable,
built of history, memory, fantasy and allusion, and couched in an affable homespun
style. (HM)

Russell Crotty

Crotty’s plainspoken ink renderings of planets and galaxies are the results
of his backyard telescope observations. Bridging the gap between science and
art, he measures and records the emotive power of the skyscape. Crotty defiantly
claims his back yard as the center of the universe, his canyon’s horizon line
as the edge of the world. Silhouettes of palm trees, oaks, satellite dishes,
mansions, electrical pylons, outdoor sculpture and Winnebagos are silent and
peripheral witnesses to one man’s heavenly manifestations. (MD)

Georganne Deen

Mothers and witches, lovers and wolves, doilies and paisleys, and flowers and
snakes — the horrors of female adolescence, courted with trepidation and rendered
with ruthless eloquence, run rampant in Georganne Deen’s delicate but sour and
wonderfully sordid little paintings. Her piece Pluto's Pleasure graces
one of our two covers this week. (HM)
Roy Dowell
Dowell’s local influence may come most apparently from his stewardship of
Otis College’s graduate division. But it’s his collage rather than college connection
that’s truly, enduringly persuasive, reaffiriming the tenets of modernism in
a postmodernist milieu. Dowell’s pasted papers, and his paste-up approach to
painting, conflate the billboard breadth of Pop art with the urgency and intimacy
of early-20th-century collageomaniacs like the Dadaists and Futurists. (PF)


Michael Duncan
Art in America’s man in Los Angeles and Weekly contributor
Michael Duncan is turning into one of the most interesting local freelance curators,
specializing in forgotten movements like Post-Surrealism, underappreciated regional
talents like Sister Corita and Richard Pettibone, and his own quirky surveys
of the contemporary “Post-Cool” scene. Currently, “Semina Culture,” Duncan and
Kristine McKenna’s show on “Wallace Berman & His Circle,” is on view at the
Santa Monica Museum of Art through November 26. (DH)

Sam Durant
Durant’s many-layered multimedia remixes of Robert Smithson, ’70s rock & roll,
and insurrectionist politics have — surprisingly — resulted in a burgeoning
acceptance by the art-world establishment. Durant, named this year’s prestigious
CSULB Zeitlin Lecturer, has new gallery affiliations with Paula Cooper in NYC
and Gagosian in London. All power to the people! (DH)

Miriam Dym

Ever flip through your Thomas Guide just to look at the lines and shapes?
Miriam Dym obviously has, but in her paintings, drawings and objects she never
loses sight of the map’s syntactical coherency, symbolic intricacy and landscape
properties. Without visual tricks, but with a lot of conceptual play and a powerful
sense of design, Dym brings us places we could never imagine existed. (PF)

Tim Ebner

In the ’90s, Tim Ebner shifted from Finish Fetish works to lush paintings of
storybook animals, with an emphasis on rich color, expressive brushwork and
upbeat fantasy. Vanquished heroes of slightly unsettling fairy tales, Ebner’s
animals are oddly moving, mysteriously charming fantasy surrogates anchored
by a kind of psychological urgency. (MD)

ECF Art Center

My favorite source of great cheap art is the ECF Art Center just east of the
Magic Johnson Theaters at Crenshaw and King. Artists with developmental disabilities
churn out awesome and inspired visual treats five days a week. Their annual
holiday sale is on December 10 from 1 to 5 p.m., 3750 W. Martin Luther King
Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 290-6030. (DH)

Merion Estes

Estes’ retrospective at Pomona College Museum of Art next year will reveal the
fresh relevancy of this longtime master of visual extravagance. Estes creates
alternate universes of hyperdecoration civilized by color, texture and fertile
excess, in which ornamentation is the means to unleashing imaginative fancy
and enhancing everyday reality. (MD)

Nancy Evans

One of L.A.’s most consistently inventive abstract artists, Evans is returning
to the scene with new paintings and a surprise — bronze figural sculptures cast
from augmented segments of leaves and pods. With an experimental exuberance
that rivals that of Ed Moses, Evans toys with the intersection of the organic
and the abstract, creating a new synthetic nature. (MD)

Bart Exposito

Are we finished having fun yet? Young artists may actually have gotten serious
again. When they turn to idealistic models such as Constructivism and make them
their own, you begin to think Neo-modernism is around the corner. By turning
that corner with a forceful (almost Pop) compositional vocabulary and an abiding
ability to surprise, Exposito doesn’t just follow in Mondrian’s and Kelly’s
footsteps, he leaves tracks of his own. (PF)

Shepard Fairey
Shepard Fairey heads a media empire launched in 1990 by the now-ubiquitous face
of Andre the Giant. Originally an experiment in “phenomenology,” the OBEY GIANT
and ANDRE HAS A POSSE sticker revolution led to sold-out gallery shows of hand-screened
prints. Meanwhile, the Fairey phenomenon evolved into a design studio (Studio
Number One), a quarterly lifestyle magazine (Swindle) and a streetwear line
(Obey). In his spare time, he nurtures new talent in his own gallery space (Subliminal),
directs a new urban branding agency (Project 2050) and books regular DJ gigs
as DJ Diabetic. Oh, and that graffiti thing — he still throws up to keep up.
What does this have to do with art? Paraphrasing ’60s cultural media guru Marshall
McLuhan, the Giant’s motto is “The medium is the message.” Fairey makes no bones
about his capitalistic intentions, but believes his commerce is done with integrity
and helps him achieve loftier goals, such as perpetuating the myth of the Giant
image on the street and contributing to social and political causes. Now in
his mid-30s, he can keep up the pace. He does what he loves and surrounds himself
with smart people at the top of their game who can carry out his vision — and
their own. (Shelley Leopold)

Llyn Foulkes

The Lost Frontier — Foulkes’s astonishing new 8-foot-tall panel depicting
the bleak L.A. basin — conveys a powerful sense of an urban society run totally
amok. Commanding viewers with its shimmering light and sense of sublime vastness,
this major work invokes a new kind of terribilità, inspired by waste,
hubris and human indifference. Foulkes desires nothing less than ?to reinvigorate
painting with the moral seriousness of Renaissance religious art. (MD)

Charles Garabedian

Most artists peter out or at least hit a plateau once they reach 80, but Charles
Garabedian just keeps getting better. His two massive, dreamlike island scapes,
September Song and The Spring for Which I Longed, are both hauntingly
elegiacal and riotously sensual, among the best artworks to surface in the past
year. (DH)
Invisible Glass (2005)
Courtesy Janie Geiser

Puppet Master Janie Geiser

At the moment, Janie Geiser inhabits a little house facing a palmetto forest in
New Smyrna Beach, Florida, with crickets and birds chirping outside. The recipient
of an Atlantic Center for the Arts residency, Geiser is using the time away from
her busy life as the director of the Cotsen Center for Puppetry and the Arts at
CalArts to work on several new projects set to premiere next spring. Geiser is
known for a host of deliciously rich and sensuous animated films that often combine
objects and cutouts seemingly plucked from the past. These things are set in evanescent
landscapes, and the films frequently feel like shadowy memories or murky dreams.
Lost Motion (1999), for example, features a little metal man searching
for a woman who is supposed to arrive by train; he stumbles through a desolate
downtown built out of scraps of metal, looking and looking, but in vain. In just
a few minutes, the short film captures a sense of deep melancholic sorrow. “I
like the way inanimate objects are able to speak,” Geiser says, and her films
are a testament to the ability of these objects to communicate. The same power
resonates in Geiser’s puppet theater, in which wood, wire, paper and other materials
become utterly real, speaking to us about love and loss. In her newest work, Geiser
is combining puppetry, live performance and film. “They reflect on each other
in a great way,” she says. Geiser is currently collaborating with Susan Simpson
on an adaptation of Frankenstein that borrows from, among other
things, the history of 19th-century painting and will be staged as a kind of panorama.
(Holly Willis)
Giant Robot's Eric Nakamura
Photo by Kevin Scanlon

Robot vs. Munky
Just over a decade ago, Giant Robot was a punk rock zine — less punk, more
rock — cut, pasted and stapled together by two Asian-American college guys, one
of whom had a thing for mechanical Japanese robot toys. Today, Giant Robot
is a glossy lifestyle, arts and music magazine with an international readership
of 60,000. And it is a small network of stores/galleries in New York, San Francisco,
Silver Lake and West Los Angeles that sells underground comics, stickers, fire-breathing
Godzilla Gama-Go T-shirts, cats-dressed-as-food toys and Marcel Dzama ghost lamps.
Now, there is even a Giant Robot café, Gr/Eats, a block from the flagship store
on Sawtelle Boulevard (see Counter
Intelligence, here
“When we started in 1994, there wasn’t anything around dealing with the cool,
interesting aspects of Asian life,” says founder-publisher Eric Nakamura. “We
wanted to fill that void.” Nakamura oversees the stores and curates the art
shows, while his business partner, Martin Wong, edits the magazine. Nakamura
likes taking chances on young unknown artists. His was the first store to carry
David Horvath’s scary-cute plush line of Ugly Dolls. Kozyndan and Ai Yamaguchi
had their first shows there. Barry McGee, Yoshimoto Nara and Seonna Hong have
appeared in group shows. Giant Robot may not have discovered Asian-American
youth, but it certainly helped put us on the map.
Two years ago, another gallery/store began to court the same demographic. Chinatown’s
Munky King is SoCal’s first toy store devoted exclusively to the sub-sub-subgenre
of urban vinyl art. Inside Patrick and Chanda Lam’s store is a small army of
customized collectible action-figure critters (called Qees), each as unique
as the artist who painted it. A little competition isn’t a bad thing. When it’s
Robot versus Munky, everybody wins. (Gendy Alimurung)
Jeff Gillette
Gillette rivals only the great Llyn Foulkes as L.A.’s most trenchant political
artist. His bitterly funny works skewer the shibboleths of religion and commerce
that have made the Bush era so heinous and dumb. Casually disregarding any semblance
of a careerist path, this Orange County high school teacher and former Peace
Corps volunteer is the ruling anarchist of Dirt Gallery, the brainchild of artist
Rhonda Saboff.
Gillette’s beautifully articulated paintings of Bombay and Calcutta slums deliver
a dark satiric bite: Vast landscapes of shanties extending into a distant horizon
are interrupted only by single small signposts, a shimmering banner for Kentucky
Fried Chicken or a McDonald’s arch. Other recent works update traditional Orientalist
themes of desert exoticism with accouterments of Imperialist Pop: an Afghan
camel rider sets off to deliver a Domino’s pizza; a turbaned insurgent sips
a Starbucks double latte.
Gillette augments the paintings with off-the-cuff collages stuck in thrift-store
frames — simple interventions of Sunday-school illustrations with cut-out cartoon
characters. His grinning Mickey cast as Judas, Peter Rabbit denying the dead
Christ, and the Grinch leering at a stolen crucifix skewer the myths of both
Bible thumpers and the Disney Channel.
Gillette is a sanctimony-seeking missile, and in other collages he hilariously
tweaks the sacrosanct values of art history, leveling the playing field. Playboy
cartoon nudies pose alongside Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon; Archie and
Veronica explore “gender issues” inside an installation by Barbara Kruger. As
incisive and tough as Raymond Pettibon’s early drawings, Gillette’s work takes
no prisoners. (MD)


Jeff Gillette, Dirty Vegas (2004)
Courtesy Dirt Gallery

Marsea Goldberg and New Image Art
Marsea Goldberg is quintessential L.A. bohemia — a sun-kissed, middle-aged surfer-girl
Jewess, with a small streak of anarchy in her hair, who sampled all the dishes
in the big buffet of life before accidentally sinking her teeth into the main
New Image Art gallery started in 1994 in Goldberg’s 10-by-10-foot surf-wear
design studio when some of her friends needed walls on which to hang art. Having
formerly been a painter-who-showed, Goldberg was sympathetic. “I was
slacking and I had this studio and my friends asked if they could put their
art up and I said, ‘Yeah, if you clean the room.’ I wasn’t planning on this,
but it snowballed.”
What it snowballed into is the local way station for hobo artists hopping
trains on their way from obscurity to something in the vicinity of, well, if
not fame and fortune, then at least some notoriety. New Image exists more or
less to give promising artists, most without means or pedigrees, a break. She
can lay claim to either breaking or propelling the careers of such nouveau “outsider”
art stars as Ed Templeton, Jo Jackson, Chris Johanson, the late Rebecca Westcott,
Neckface, et al.
Goldberg ain’t getting rich either, housing, feeding and packing the lunches
of these kids before they head off into the big, bad art world, but that’s okay
with her. “I have the life I want,” she says. “It’s not about money. It’s about
moving the art forward.” 7908 Santa Monica Blvd., (323) 654-2192. (Joe Donnelly)

Goldberg (center) with artists at New Image Art
Photo by Kevin Scanlon

Joe Goode
In his intricately textured paintings and works on paper, Joe Goode processes
the actual experience of nature, taking viewers under water, up trees, behind
waterfalls, into tornadoes and within wafts of smog. His new painted photographs
re-examine various themes from the past, putting a new conceptual spin on his
longtime study of perceptual illusion. With works that are both sensuous and
intelligent, Goode is L.A.’s most sophisticated abstract artist. (MD)

Griffin Contemporary, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Daniel Weinberg Gallery

The most informative, and certainly the most pleasurable, group of galleries in
New York isn’t in Chelsea but uptown, where many art emporia specialize in yesterday’s
avant-gardes and in the current, ever-vital work of artists who you thought died
years ago. There are few such galleries in Los Angeles, but they are growing in
number and sophistication. West Hollywood has seen the best local concentration
of them, but now you can find several good ones near LACMA — logically enough
— and even out in Santa Monica. Griffin Contemporary, in the latter location,
and Marc Selwyn Fine Art and the Daniel Weinberg Gallery, in the former, all show
younger contemporaries, but in all three cases, their strong suit has become the
art and artists of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, notably the ones you hadn’t ever
heard of or hadn’t thought of since you were in school. A few months ago,
Griffin mounted a delicious show of West Coast minimalism (which market gallerist
Bill Griffin seems intent on cornering), and just recently hung a roomful of excellent,
rarely seen Rauschenbergs. For their part, Selwyn and Weinberg just joined forces
to take a look back at Sir Anthony Caro’s expansive abstract sculpture from 1965
to 1985. Weinberg also has a preference for some of New York’s quirkier talents
— Pop painter John Wesley, color-field éminence grise Paul Feeley, post-minimalist
Ralph Humphrey, even post-post-minimalist Tom Nozkowski — while Selwyn is the
place to go for the work of the late, local Lee Mullican and various other late-modern
masters from either side of the Atlantic whose work on paper invariably graces
the backrooms. Everything post- is neo- again. Griffin, 2902 Nebraska Ave.,
Santa Monica, (310) 586-6886; Selwyn, 6222 Wilshire Blvd.,

Grotjahn, Untitled (2004),
new acquisition, Museum of
Modern Art, New York


(323) 933-9911. Weinberg, 6150 Wilshire Blvd., #8, (323) 954-8425. (PF)

Mark Grotjahn

Persistence pays off. I was initially skeptical of the clunky geometric abstraction
of Mark Grotjahn’s rainbow-perspective paintings, but his project of trading
shopkeepers’ sloppy signage for his own tidied-up versions and his recent show
at Blum & Poe — particularly the COBRA-esque Untitled (Blue Face Grotjahn)
— won me over. If that doesn’t make you take notice, maybe the fact that MOMA
keeps buying him will. (DH)

To read part two of the story, from Tim
Hawkinson to Laura Owens click here

To read part three of the story, from Jennifer
Pastor to Diana Zlotnick click here

LA Weekly