Growth Spurts

Los Angeles
01.27.12

Left: Judy Chicago's fireworks. Right: Artist Judy Chicago.


“LOS ANGELES IS POTENTIAL,” said dealer Thomas Duncan. It was the first weekend of his new gallery as well as his first fair, Art Los Angeles Contemporary. “New galleries open every week in New York, but starting in LA feels special.” This past weekend was marked by a whole host of beginnings, including the launch of the Getty and LAXART’s Pacific Standard Time Performance Festival and the opening of Matthew Marks’s pristine new West Coast space.

This array of special events is a new turn for Los Angeles, another coming of age in what’s becoming a series of coming of ages. Ours is, after all, a city perpetually in the throes of self-realization. The fair, now in its third edition, felt downright manageable this year—in a good way. And the dealers seemed to be selling: Thomas Solomon’s booth was hectic, to say the least, and Night Gallery, with its raspberry sherbet carpet and broken-mirrored bed (the latter by Samara Golden), attracted its own (buying) crowds, with both the Hammer Museum and Dean Valentine gunning for a Peter Harkawik light box. (Valentine got there first.)

I saw (almost!) every booth before heading to catch the much-anticipated opening of Matthew Marks’s LA gallery in West Hollywood. Inaugurated with a show by Ellsworth Kelly, the new space is all Space Odyssey—nearly totemic in its futuristic coolness, with its high ceilings cut with long narrow shafts for the skylights. I walked across the street with the building’s architect, Peter Zellner, to admire the Kelly-designed facade: The gallery’s long white front is graced with a forty-foot-wide, five-thousand-pound black bar floating along the top. Zellner parlayed a story about a little old Russian lady who pointed out the black bar as she walked by: “So, what’s it going to say?”

Left: The crowd at the opening of the new Matthew Marks Gallery in Los Angeles. (Photo: Amy Duran/Juxtapoz Magazine) Right: Exterior view of Matthew Marks Gallery in Los Angeles with sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly. (Photo: Joshua White/Matthew Marks Gallery)


Back in the car, I headed to the classy Tower Bar along the trashy Sunset Strip for the dinner in honor of the eighty-eight-year-old luminary. This was one of a whole series of prandial celebrations that also included a luncheon at LACMA for a retrospective of Kelly’s prints and a more intimate dinner in which Kelly painted actress Catherine Keener’s face. At the Tower Bar, I sat at a back table and tried to register who was who: artists Jeff Wall, Robert Gober, and Jennifer Bolande were present, as were collectors Tony Ganz, the Rales, and Rosette Delug; writers A. M. Homes and Rachel Kushner; and a quartet of museum directors: the Getty’s James Cuno, LACMA’s Michael Govan, the Hammer’s Annie Philbin, and the Guggenheim’s Richard Armstrong. I slipped out a little early alongside artist Mark Bradford around the time Kelly’s partner Jack Shear commenced a hearty Happy Birthday to collector Alan Hergott.

Saturday found me rushing to Pomona to catch three performances as part of the PST Performance Festival. This particular triad was set in conjunction with Glenn Phillips and Rebecca McGrew’s three-exhibition gem “It Happened in Pomona,” which chronicles Pomona College’s incredibly rich anni mirabiles, 1969–73. I sadly missed John White’s piece, featuring football players stripping and then playing up close inside the gym. And since I arrived too late to secure a seat in the public bleachers, I instead made my way to the other side of the field where the bleachers looked empty. (Apparently we weren’t actually supposed to be there, but if you look like you know where you’re going when you trot past security guards, it sort of works.) Curator McGrew was kind enough not to toss us out, and we ended up watching Judy Chicago’s pyrotechnic extravaganza with Chicago herself, who, in case you didn’t know, is a totally badass lady. She shot off stories and cracked jokes as we waited for the spectacle to start.

Left: Dealer Thomas Duncan. Right: Artists Jedediah Caesar and Stanya Kahn.


The stadium lights flicked off and seconds later the flares sparked in unison, revealing the shape of a butterfly writ large across the field. As the first fireworks exploded bright and white in the air, Chicago called out, “That’s the biggest orgasm in the world!” The butterfly flapped and fluttered with occasional (orgasmic) firework fusillades.

As the lights flicked back on in the stadium, I rushed to the next performance, a re-creation of a site-specific piece that James Turrell made at Pomona in the early 1970s. Huddled in a field, we watched as flares flickered on behind the neoclassical building’s columns. Hearing some fire truck sirens, I followed Turrell as he strode down to the road. He was met there by former Pomona professor Roland Reiss in a kind of jokey reenactment of the fire department showing up the last time Turrell did this piece (in 1971). After exchanging a few friendly words with the firemen, Turrell was beset by old friends and well-wishers. A question, surely a common one, arose from the crowd about Turrell’s long-delayed, forty-year, multimillion-dollar Roden Crater. “I swore I was going to open it in the year 2000,” Turrell said, “and I’ll be damned if I’m not sticking to it.”

Left: Roland Reiss and James Turrell. Right: Night Gallery's Mieke Marple and Davida Nemeroff.


I got back in the car and headed west again to Chinatown to catch Eli Hansen’s opening at the Company and then scurried to a dinner at the elegant townhouse of M+B gallery’s Benjamin Trigano, hosted by Trigano himself along with China Art Objects and American Contemporary. The walls of his Hancock Park place are festooned with vintage photographs and works of contemporary art (Walead Beshty, Raymond Pettibon, Rashid Johnson), with waist-high towers of books throughout; it’s the kind of place you (or at least I) want to live in when you grow up.

I ate quickly and then bolted over to Liz Glynn’s Black Box, a speakeasy and performance venue open late every night of the PST festival, arriving just in time to catch artist-musician Brendan Fowler perched over his keyboard before a packed house. I looked around and recognized nearly every face—some of my favorite artists, curators, writers, musicians, and scoundrels from around Los Angeles, all in one place. Getty curator Glenn Phillips was surrounded by artists: Glynn next to Ry Rocklen next to Stephen Prina next to Stanya Kahn next to Mateo Tannatt next to Eli Langer. Fowler began to play a doleful piano number, the kind of wistful melody that feels both like the beginning and the end to something. Half-drunk on a warm January night, Los Angeles felt ready, after so much posturing and growing, to finally and unapologetically celebrate itself. We all clapped loudly at the end.

Andrew Berardini

Left: Artist Brendan Fowler. Right: Artist Liz Glynn and Getty curator Glenn Phillips.


Left: Artist Eli Hansen and The Company's Anat Egbi. Right: Artist Dawn Kasper.


Left: Artist and publisher Brian Kennon. Right: Architect Francis Perrin and artist Xavier Veilhan.