Tourist Trap

Los Angeles
04.07.09

Left: Artist Dave Muller. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Art Weekend) Right: Artist Piero Golia and The Box's Mara McCarthy. (Except where noted, all photos: Andrew Berardini)


“AT HOME HE’S A TOURIST / He fills his head with culture / He gives himself an ulcer.” The words from the Gang of Four song kept rattling around my head as I made my way through last week’s rambling Los Angeles Art Weekend. The event, ostensibly an open house for LA culture but originally conceived by New Yorkers, was quickly latched on to by Angelenos for its salubrious marketing opportunities. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the framing makes me feel a like a tourist in my hometown; there might be such a thing as too much culture.

The “weekend” stretched somewhat amorphously over four days with numerous parties, artist talks, and sundry other events. That first night, it was either a walk-through with artist Elliott Hundley for his most recent show at Regen Projects or a book launch for the carrot-colored designer Valentino. I was more than glad to kick of with Hundley. Discussing his collage and sculptures’ connection to Anne Carson’s translation of Euripides’s Hekabe, the boyish artist took on a clipped pace, and the walk-through was over before you could say “Agamemnon.”

After a quick dinner, I set off for the LA Art Weekend launch party at the Standard’s Purple Lounge, a swanky bar populated with almost as many photographers as guests. The venue is as intimate as a hotel lounge gets, but I only ever seem to go there when someone’s promoting something. Michael Stock from Part-Time Punks put on the haunting Gang of Four song and seemed to rile a few dancers with a sign he hung outside the DJ booth reading, WARNING: TONIGHT NO HIP-HOP / JACKSONS / MADONNA / PRINCE. Miranda July (who Venice Biennale curator Daniel Birnbaum apparently claims is “big in Germany”) and Mike Mills didn’t seem to mind as they toasted the launch of Mills’s newest book, Mike Mills: Graphics Films. “I like that they put my books between the bottles,” said Mills. “It’s a place I feel very comfortable.”

Left: Artist Elliott Hundley. Right: Artists Mike Mills and Miranda July. (Photo: Andreas Branch/Patrick McMullan)


The following day, I battled ubiquitous LA traffic to arrive just in time for Dave Muller’s artist talk at Blum & Poe. As he went through a gallery filled with ten-foot-tall diptychs arranged like dominoes, he riffed on the works’ multitudinous threads: A pile of stones connect to Terry Riley–inspired squiggles connect to cows connect to a loose array of records connect to a Pollocklike splatter; about the last example, Muller said he felt it was finished when it looked “Jackson Pollock-y enough.”

No one I asked was heading to the afterparty, never a good sign. Nonetheless, I made my way to Royal/T, a J-pop café housing an art collection hung behind ghetto-thick Plexiglas. Mungo Thomson and Kerry Tribe were in the back drinking Japanese beers, taking a night off from their baby and work. The artists had recently toiled for exhibitions on different coasts that either just opened (Tribel’s at 1301PE) or were about to close (Thomsonl’s at John Connelly Presents). “When we were students, there was nothing here—no galleries, no decent restaurants,” Tribe noted. “And now there are waitresses in maid outfits.”

I kicked off Saturday night yet again in Culver City, this time at Timothy Hull’s opening at Taylor de Cordoba, then skipped around the corner to Kehinde Wiley’s Culver City debut at Roberts & Tilton’s newish digs. Wiley’s latest stop in his “World Stage” series takes his franchise to Brazil, limning the natives in statuesque poses atop wallpaper of pretty designs and flowers. To quote Martha Schwendener in a recent review: “I wish I liked Kehinde Wiley's paintings more than I do.” As I headed out, I saw publisher Benedikt Taschen heading in. Between us, he’s the better chance at a sale.

Left: Artists Mungo Thomson and Kerry Tribe. Right: Dealer Bennett Roberts with artist Kehinde Wiley.


Most of the Chinatown openings were off the official LA Art Weekend schedule, and I’m not sure whether it was because of or despite this that it was the most fun I had all weekend. At Henry Taylor’s opening at Mesler&Hug, I cut through the exhibition—which is set up like a living room with some paintings casually worked into the pad—and made my way onto the crowded back patio, where LA MoCA curator Bennett Simpson and artists Eric Wesley, Ry Rocklen, and Erika Vogt made lively banter. The sounds of the jamming blues band followed me (along with the aromas of barbecue and pot smoke) as I headed around the corner to Chung King Road. I stopped in at The Box to catch one of Stan VanDerBeek’s ’70s films playing in a one-night event in conjunction with the late artist’s exhibition. In between films, I sneaked to the back; scanning the crowd, I saw people I’d been looking for all weekend: MoCA curator Ann Goldstein, artist Paul McCarthy, dancer Simone Forti, and writer Benjamin Weissman, to name a few. Here was the intellectual ballast to the pomp and circumstance on the other side of town.

I popped into Erik Frydenborg’s exhibition at Bonelli Contemporary before heading over to Candice Lin’s solo debut at Chung King Project. The streets were packed with revelers, a ton of them artists, like Nathan Hylden, Carter Mull, and Amanda Ross-Ho. Looking around the swaying red lanterns, I felt for the first time in three days like I was at home in Los Angeles. With a few closures and moves in the past six months, there have been rumors circulating that Chinatown is dead. I asked Chung King Project owner Francois Ghebaly what he felt about the impending “demise.” “Chinatown’s like a cockroach,” he told me. “You can try to stomp us out, but we always come back.”

Andrew Berardini

Left: Artist Erika Vogt with Mesler & Hug's Vera Neykov. Right: Artists Erik Frydenborg and Amanda Ross-Ho.


Left: Artist Walead Beshty and curator Aram Moshayedi. Right: Dealer Jeffrey Deitch.


Left: Artists Maeghan Reid and Candice Lin. Right: Artist Timothy Hull.


Left: DJ Michael Stock. Right: Chung King Project's Francois Ghebaly.


Left: Artist Lisa Anne Auerbach. Right: Artists Sara Clendening and Eric Wesley.


Left: Artist Henry Taylor. Right: Artists Shana Lutker and Justin Beal.


Left: Artists Sean Kennedy and Karthik Pandian. Right: Dealer Julie Roberts and art adviser Simon Watson.


Left: Gemini GEL's Sidney Felsen and Joni Weyl. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Art Weekend) Right: Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy. (Photo: Andreas Branch/Patrick McMullan)