Returning to the Convention Center this weekend for its milestone silver anniversary and hosted by actress and fashion icon Sofia Vergara, the L.A. Art Show continues to evolve and grow. But its core dedication to honor the city’s eclecticism, diversity and interdisciplinary spirit has not wavered. As its founder and director Kim Martindale tells L.A. Weekly, “When I started the L.A. Art Show 25 years ago, I was trying to create a platform to harness all the creative energy here. Los Angeles has always been recognized as a creative capital because of Hollywood — and more and more because of fashion — but I knew we could become recognized as a major arts capital too.” And that’s what he set out to do, championing the artists, galleries and art movements that can only be found in L.A.
One pillar of the fair has been the DIVERSEartLA section curated by Marisa Caichiolo, as a way to bring local artists and institutions into conversation with international artists around the topic of pluralism. “In the short time it’s been a part of the L.A. Art Show,” Caichiolo tells the Weekly, “DIVERSEartLA has always been about showcasing the full spectrum of art influences that can be found in the local community, and come here from Latin America and across the ocean. It has evolved into a unique contemporary art platform for the institutions that showcase here. It creates a conversation about cultural diversity in Los Angeles; and for the programming this year, I really kept in mind that it was an election year…”
Some fascinating special projects join the ranks of galleries and institutions this year, especially those with an eye toward the worlds of film and fashion. One highlight is artist Linda Vallejo, known for her “Make Em All Mexican” series, which reimagines pop culture icons from Marilyn Monroe to Superman as people of color. Meanwhile, the Fine Arts Film Festival will screen a lineup of art-based and experimental short films from Australia, Norway, Russia and the United States. Founder Juri Koll tells the Weekly, “Each film deftly presents subjects as diverse as environmental destruction, the reality/fantasy of filmmaking, the quest for a beautiful horror aesthetic, chance encounters, and dance-based expressionism. We are so pleased to be returning to the L.A. Art Show, contributing to the conversation between art and cinema.”
Sculptor Kazu Hiro has been on both sides of that conversation. With a 25-year career as an Oscar-winning (Darkest Hour) and Oscar-nominated (Bombshell) special-effects makeup artist (he’s the guy who turned Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly), Kazu is no stranger to the alchemical properties of resin, silicone, pigment and finesse. Since 2012, he has pursued his personal creative vision in the art studio, creating breathtaking hyperrealist portraits of cultural figures from Frida Khalo to Salvador Dali and Jimi Hendrix.
At the L.A. Art Show, Copro Gallery presents “ICONOCLASTS,” a series that Kazu tells the Weekly was all about creating art that can “inspire empathy. I recreate the faces of these famous people from the inside out and twice their actual size, so you can truly see them up close, frozen in a moment in time. If you can look at someone that closely, you can find a sense of compassion,” Kazu says, “even if the person you’re looking at is so different from you. And I think in these times, that is more important than ever.”
In the legendary atelier of designer Sue Wong, couture and cinema carry on a never-ending romance. Her designs channel Hollywood’s Golden Age and the allure of the Far East, executed with flawless artistry, vintage elegance and modern luxury. Her look is lavish, beaded, embroidered, hand-stitched, and requires words like “passementerie” and “soutache.” The Sue Wong Signature installation project inaugurates a new section of the fair devoted to fashion, with examples of her most red carpet-scorching designs for clients like Anne Hathaway, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Biel and Tyra Banks. Wong speaks about her career and her incredible life story as an immigrant and self-made woman as part of Dialogs L.A., at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 6, and will be joined on stage by models showing exceptional pieces of her work.
Wong shared with the Weekly her appreciation for being recognized by the L.A. art community, and what’s more, on the very same weekend as the Oscars, a ceremony she has been part of for decades. “I have always considered myself an artist, since I was 7 years old and making paper dolls to play with,” Wong says. “I’m thrilled that a venue like the L.A. Art Show sees me that way too. This is a retrospective exhibition of my work, and I really consider it to be a look at the journey I’ve been on for five decades. But it’s also a look at the evolution of glamour and high fashion over that same period. I’m so proud to be a member of the L.A. creative community, and for this city to really embrace the whole spectrum of what art is and can be.”
The L.A. Art Show happens Thursday-Sunday, February 6-9, at the L.A. Convention Center. laartshow.com.