L.A. Art Diary: Week Two, Part Two

by Michael Anthony Farley on July 7, 2017 L.A. Art Diary

A Parker Ito transfer painting in the office of Chateu

A Parker Ito transfer painting in the office of Chateau Shatto, One of my favorite images I’ve seen of L.A.

Michael Anthony Farley (lifelong non-driver) is in Los Angeles, checking out the art scene and learning to love the city. Read parts one and two of his L.A. diary. 

Saturday 7/1

Chateu Shatto

“At this stage” Installation view.

I am hungover and terrified that I agreed to go to yoga.

Thankfully, Meghan Gordon, artist and L.A. tour guide extraordinaire, is also hungover. We decide to skip yoga. “Sigh of relief” is the breathing exercise I learn today. She picks me up and we head to Downtown’s Chateau Shatto. The drive takes about 45 minutes longer than it should, because there is an anime convention happening a few blocks away from the gallery. Meghan explains that L.A. drivers aren’t used to this many pedestrians (let alone ones in giant wigs and spandex outfits) so people “just kind of sit at intersections waiting to see what other people do”.

We arrive at the gallery, and the current show At this stage seems to reflect many of the same uncertainties as True Lies, the show I had seen the night before. With a hangover, however, the show here is mildly panic-inducing rather than commiserative. There’s a small mountain of American flag scraps in the middle of the gallery. The piece, Gardar Eide Einarsson’s “Flagwaste (Stars and Stripes)”, is made up of waste materials collected from flag factories. Around it, monitors display works by Jordan Wolfson and Elaine Sturtevant, among others. One Wolfson piece, “Con Leche,” follows a gaggle of animated Diet Coke bottles as they cheerfully traverse post-industrial suburbia. All the while, a narrator flatly discusses things like the bioaccumulation of toxins in our bodies. It’s upsetting on a level my hungover self isn’t prepared for.

Chinatown

We embrace the healing power of greasy/spicy eggplant in a Chinatown eatery where Rush Hour 2 was filmed, apparently. We’re ready to see more art.

Velveteria

I’m told Chinatown is fading as an arts neighborhood, but there are still plenty of galleries—many occupying niche specialties. The Los Angeles Contemporary Archive is an artist-run library with the near-impossible goal of indexing the city’s vast art scene. It’s unfortunately closed when we attempt to pop in, as is the Institute for Art and Olfaction, where artist Saskia-Wilson Brown teaches workshops about the potential of scent. The Good Luck Gallery, which specializes in “outsider artists” is open, however. They have a show up of self-taught Anna Zemánková’s mixed-media illustrations of imaginary plants. The late artist, who began making work in her retirement, left behind a relatively small portfolio of drawings incorporating embroidery and pieces of fabric. We’re told a substantial number of her surviving works are on display here. We decide to skip Velveteria: The Museum of Velvet Paintings because we don’t feel like paying the admission while we’re already short on time.

"Virgin and Child"

Christine Stormberg, “Virgin and Child”

The highlight of Chinatown is undeniably Christine Stormberg’s solo show Tina Warrior Princess Gallery at Leiminspace. The show features lumpy figurative cement sculptures and oil paintings depicting everything from grotesque Madonna-like icons to a huge painting titled “Lesbian Twins”. All the work is high-femme but exaggerated and slightly ridiculous—a diptych features feet bulging out of stripper heels and the shorts one of the sculptures is wearing sit about an inch off her butt, exposing her crack. Everything in here is great.

Christine

Christine Stormberg, “Standing in Line for the Club”.

Paul McCarthy at Hauser & Wirth, installation view.

Paul McCarthy at Hauser & Wirth, installation view.

It’s a bit of a disappointment, then, to arrive at Paul McCarthy’s solo show at Hauser & Wirth. Here, he’s going for a similar grotesqueness, but in massive wooden sculptures that resemble toys warped in both scale and perspective. They’re monumental but disconcertingly illegible—the luxurious wooden carvings don’t lend themselves to the same graphic sensibility as Stromberg’s vulnerable sculptures. They just look expensive and large—unapproachable in a way that negates their sensuous potential.

Hauser & Wirth

Hauser & Wirth

Then again, everything about Hauser & Wirth’s Arts District location feels expensive and large. It’s a massive warehouse complex around a central courtyard, complete with “a ridiculously expensive brunch spot” at the center of the compound. The works in the other galleries aren’t all that impressive either. Monika Sosnowska’s massive sculptures—in which architectural details are crumpled into inutile abstractions—are memorable only due to their size. The curatorial ethos here seems to be “shock and awe” with scale, rather than providing any opportunities for intimate access to actual content. After roughly twenty minutes walking around the cavernous spaces, I decide my time is better spent at a dinner party.

Sunday 7/2

I notice a peculiar tendency in Los Angeles: people frequently make oddly specific plans without going into any details explaining precisely what they are. I am told to meet at a friend-of-a-friend’s apartment because we’re being picked up to attend *something* that another friend-of-a-friend curated. I am told it involves the beach, and to dress accordingly.

Myself and a group comprised mostly of male models and artists assemble in Hollywood and are picked up by a party bus. No one seems to know exactly where we’re going, but champagne is flowing so there are few complaints. About an hour later, we’re herded into a VIP area (I can’t tell if it’s a house or restaurant) and handed whisky. I still have no idea what this curatorial endeavor we’re here to see is.

Hours later, we’re in an Uber to Malibu (despite my best protestations to the fact that Malibu is really far away) and I find myself at a house party, stranded over an hour away. I fall asleep in a guest room, and the last thing I see is a Jeff Koons Da Vinci purse for Louis Vuitton.

Monday 7/3

I’m performing at Exposure Drag, an eclectic queer night at a Highland Park punk bar. From the start of my time in L.A., Highland Park has been an uncommonly hotly discussed topic—the neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying, as yoga studios and chain stores push out taquerias and laundromats. Many Angelinos speak about spaces in the neighborhood as “a white people thing” or “a Mexican thing”. This night, however, is jam-packed and pleasantly diverse—with perhaps a slight majority of Latinx queers. There are performance art weirdos alongside more traditional drag queens, and the crowd is a nice mix of gay, straight, male, female, and everything in between.

The night is Independence Day themed. Two queens, Izzy A. She and Maebe A. Girl, put on a veritable soap-opera of a performance in which they alternately lip synch to prerecorded dialogue of housewives bickering about Fourth of July barbecues, and music. It’s so good. The drag king Spacee Kadett emerges as the world’s most terrifying Uncle Sam. For the first time since I’ve arrived in L.A., I feel at home.

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