Monday, October 3, 2011


Los Angeles California conjures many things and those things are specific, intense, and firmly decided. For an East Coast gal, LA is an idea as much as it is a geographic location. On my second time here, I have come to the conclusion that this is a swell town. I wouldn’t choose to live here, but if I had to, I’m sure that I would love it as much as I do New York in time. It is an interesting two-step, the LA, NYC bicker. One zone is always proclaiming itself in comparison to the other, but to what end, to what purpose? It’s like comparing apple to lemon trees. It’s an absolutely unnecessary conversation to be had. Visiting LA this time was due to business but in between work there was fun to be had, things to explore and impressions made.

The big art thing about town is Pacific Standard Time, an encyclopedic survey of art from LA between1945 – 1980. There are over 60 institutions and organizations that are focusing on this wide, yet specific focus. This massive effort was initiated by the J. Paul Getty Museum and it is here that I visited one bright, perfectly LA day. The Getty is like a Mensa compound, it is idyllic, perfectly proportioned, manicured and epicurean. It is unnerving in its serene perfection but the effect is more then mildly impressive. The exhibitions they had up in regards to Pacific Standard Time was Greetings from L.A.: Artists and Publics, 1950-1980 and Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950 - 1970. The first was a scrapbook of certain movements, notable events and remarkable artists. There were a lot of ephemera like posters, invitations, and photographic documentations. These were lovely to see, lovely to learn from but there was also this nagging feeling that this is how things get qualified in history. If you save enough detritus, if you record things consistently, eventually this can be used as evidence to a greatness. I am not implying that these things are not, but there seems to be a strange effort in making sure it is proven. Amongst this display were the TV commercials by Chris Burden. He paid for 10-second slots during prime time and he did various visual/audio subversions. These are just the best things. In the Crosscurrents exhibition, there was a sweeping collection of artists and their respective sub-movements in painting and sculpture. This was inclusive but a bit packed together. There were delights for sure though; David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, 1967 is mind boggling in it’s perfectness, John McLaughlin is smart and tight, early Vija Clemins are surprising and Ken Price proves his chops once again. Both these shows are educational and an introduction to the LA art scenes but the surprising and most detrimental aspects of these shows is how small they were. The spaces that these exhibitions were provided does no justice to the idea of the initiative this institution heralded, especially when The Getty obviously has so much capacity in both space and wealth. It is what it is though and it was a delight, albeit truncated.

More art was seen at a scatter of galleries in Culver City. The way LA galleries are spread out in these virtually uninhabited places with stretches of fast moving cars is absolutely unbelievable unless seen by one’s own eyes. This set up in a way confirms certain things about art and the requirements of the gallery space. Although I am sure these spaces have less attendance in a month than a gallery in Chelsea gets in a week, it makes no difference in the fiscal end. It matters less how many people visit as two the financial capability of those people. David Kordansky is one of my favorite galleries and the current show with Richard Jackson, although not my cup of tea, is still impressive in its production. I would love to attend an opening for the galleries in LA, they seem like they would be a hopping good time in a way that Chelsea openings are an annoyance.

In the end, it is had been decided; I really like LA. I really truly do. The traffic, the smog, the lack of mass transit, yadda yadda, are all more then valid points of complaint but this is exchanged by blissful sunny dry days, the idea that time is slow moving, that punctuality is bracketed by half hour to an hour understandings. The people are odd, they are polite drivers, and there is a mellowness and enjoyment of fresh air. Most interesting, the features of nature shape understanding of space, time, and movement. There are mountains, there are hills, there is the ocean’s vastness and the impossible palm trees and dry hills of bramble. The west coast sun is different than the east coast sun, there is more sky here, there is more sun here, and this allows for you to behave differently, think differently and slow down. LA art, NY art, it’s all just as important as the other, there is a difference of course but this is the point. No one wants to play patty cake with a mirror.