Last Supper

Los Angeles

Dealer Kim Light with Franz Ferdinand's Nick McCarthy. Right: Artists Ed Ruscha and Marnie Weber. (All photos: Andrew Berardini)

Last Saturday marked the final batch of openings in Los Angeles before the galleries trouped to Miami Beach. A strange mood of exhaustion and reservation pervaded the thinly populated Culver City crowds, ready for one marathon to end and another to begin. I started my trek at Blum & Poe, which presented Dave Muller’s new paintings of dissolving album covers. The artist lumbered through the galleries, infant daughter strapped to his chest, stoically observing the observers. Dealer Jeff Poe received visitors in the gallery’s storage area and tried to pass off former Warhol superstar Louis Walden as his father; the uncanny likeness won a gaggle of believers. Walden appeared at one point with another Warhol holdover, inexplicably lugging around the bottom half of an Elvis silk screen (which Poe nobly dubbed “the King’s better half”).

I left Walden and Poe to their antics and headed down to Lightbox Gallery, where a minor buzz had developed around the possibility of a performance by Scottish rock superstars Franz Ferdinand; the band’s guitarist, Nick McCarthy, had curated the current show. They didn’t play, though another band fronted by McCarthy did, putting on a concert more dour church choir than moody cock rock. The exhibition featured a lot of young Glaswegian art—soft-focus images of girls in sylvan light, painted and sketched in delicate lines that fell somewhere between earnest high school doodling and Lisa Yuskavage. Collector Seth Geller, built like a graying linebacker and wearing a dark sweatsuit, was hard to miss among the shabby-chic rock-’n’-roll crowd—kids who looked coolly at one another rather than at the art. “I’m a collector, but I’m also a businessman,” Geller told me. “Though the work is interesting, I have to do some more research.”

At MC, a bluish cloud hung over the chain-smokers celebrating Paul Pfeiffer’s images and video installations of heavily attended basketball games with the players digitally removed. A shadow of the athletes cut from the photos could be found in the gallery staff, booked on the following day’s flight to Miami Beach and ready for their own big game.

Left: Collector Seth Geller. Right: Artist Louis Walden and dealer Jeff Poe.

Next, I drove over to the Sue Williams opening at Regen Projects, arriving just before the doors closed. As I entered the gallery, one wit exclaimed, “So, you’ve come to see the genitals.” Williams’s paintings of abstracted body parts made the lingering attendees appear like the last few standing after a cartoon massacre. Perhaps fans of Williams’s previous work with text, the distinctly literary crowd included writers Benjamin Weissman, Amy Gerstler, Rachel Kushner, and Trinie Dalton (with new husband, artist Matthew Greene).

Leaving the body parts behind, I sped down the freeway to catch a glimpse of Jim Shaw’s new show at Patrick Painter (his second this season!). The quiet gallery had recently been vacated, and I stood alone under the large set paintings that had been reclaimed and modified by the hyperimaginative artist. One depicted a troop of life-size zombies in business suits, ringers for the moneyed classes that will doubtless haunt Miami next week. Painter hosted a dinner for Shaw at a cavernous barbeque restaurant in Koreatown. Opting for an intimate gathering, the artist had invited anyone and everyone who had ever worked for him—sixty people, it turned out. I managed to find a seat in the throng two tables over from Painter, Shaw, the Ruschas, and artists Ivan Morley and Marnie Weber. I’m not sure whether it was the youngish crowd or simply Painter’s retinue, but the mood here felt refreshingly jaunty. After a brief speech by the dealer, we chatted over a cigarette in the darkened bamboo garden off the main outdoor seating area. (A distinctly shaped green leaf, emblazoned on his black hoodie, symbolized another possible bad habit.) Painter explained his multiple Shaw exhibitions as “a smushed retrospective,” proclaiming that if the museums won’t do it, he will. “Sorry it took me a while to come over, I always get social anxiety when there’s people.” He took a drag from his cigarette, the restaurant lights reflecting off his glasses. “Small crowds are tough, give me an art fair anytime. Forty thousand people and I’m just fine.”

Left: MC Gallery director Renaud Proch with artist Paul Pfeiffer. Right: Artist Dave Muller with daughter Frances.

Left: Dealer Patrick Painter with artist Jim Shaw. Right: Dealer Christian Haye with assistant Harry McGowan.

Left: Writer Benjamin Weissman. Right: Writers Amy Gerstler and Trinie Dalton with artist Matthew Greene.

Left: Dealer Lizabeth Olivera. Right: Artist Andy Alexander.