All Gaul might have been divided into three parts but they couldn’t have been farther apart than the art galleries in Los Angeles. Having heard about the burgeoning new art scene in the city that is supposed to be taking over New York dominance in the field, I talked a good friend into driving me to “the galleries” in LA. Turned out we spent much of the time looking for parking spaces. That’s because the galleries are separated into segments of the city – not totally unlike Manhattan – but a lot harder to maneuver. As far as I could tell there is Bergamot Station, Culver City, and Downtown (Still not sure what that encompasses because we never got there. An Armenian protest march prevented the trip.)
Bergamon, a group of clustered galleries, one after another like a railway train, used to make viewing easy, but the place appears to be slowly closing down before a subway station is built nearby. The small museum in the complex is gone and is now homeless, half the old galleries have moved on or closed, many to Culver City where one crosses a scary boulevard to get to galleries across the stretch. For a New Yorker used to busses, subways and shoe leather, getting to galleries in LA is beyond daunting. Even my California collector friend admitted it was far easier to go to art fairs where she could see dozens of galleries under one roof (or tent ceiling) than to expend so much gas on the freeway. And so on to Frieze!
What I do remember finding exceptionally interesting on our trek was Mark Ruwedel’s “Pictures of hell” at Gallery Luisotti in Santa Monica, haunting photographs of the California desert. At Robert Berman Gallery a series called “Endangered Species” featured a brilliantly colored marquetry patterned wood chair that I thought would fit it nicely in a gray/beige environment. From Susanne Vielmetter’s Los Angeles Projects came two series of impressive paintings by Markus Bacher and Tam Van Tran.
At Samuel Freeman Gallery on La Cienega I saw the delicately crafted pure white ceramics of Mineo Mizuno, elegant and fragile, but what intrigued me most was that this Japanese artist who had lived most of his adult life in a California climate paradise was moving to Williamsburg at the age of 70 to begin this new episode in his career. I could not be more in awe of a resolve like his, or perhaps he never watched the Weather Channel.
I think it will be a while before LA takes over the NYC art scene. After putting it on my agenda for a couple of years I finally did get to the Norton Simon Museum and was very glad I did. I never expected the plethora of really good paintings that spanned the 17th to the 21st century, and that almost all bought by one man of obviously a wide-ranging interest in art of encompassing a wide time span. Not sure what I was expecting, but whatever it was I was happily surprised and ready to return in coming years. No, it wasn’t cutting edge, but it was intelligent art and Norton Simon was more of a connoisseur than I had imagined.
Written by Dr. Elin Lake-Ewald