Roamin’ Holiday

Los Angeles

Left: Artist Friedrich Kunath with dealer Jeff Poe. Right: Dealer Mara McCarthy. (All photos: Andrew Berardini)

“WE DON’T FUCK AROUND WITH CHRISTMAS,” said Mara McCarthy, director of the Box LA, at her holiday party in Altadena last Friday night, one of a string of holiday activities and end-of-season wrap-ups scattered across Los Angeles. There’s plenty of evidence of that: After seeing the premillennium installation by her father, Paul McCarthy, Tokyo Santa Santa’s Trees, currently up at LA MoCA, and his more recent chocolate Santa with Tree and Bell (replete with rounded butt plug), I—not unreasonably, I thought—expected some scatological take on the most American of commercial holidays. But aside from a few boxes of the chocolate Santas (and the white-bearded elder McCarthy quietly presiding like some sort of LA Saint Nick), the party was authentically Christmas, right down to mulled wine made from the recipe in It’s a Wonderful Life.

The following night, still a step or two behind due to holiday spirits, I arrived at Machine Project for a distinctly unholiday festivity: a gothy screen test for a music video for local noise outfit the Gowns, directed by artists Dawn Kasper and Deanna Erdmann. Their appointment had dropped out and they persuaded me to get “all gothed up,” like I’d gotten kohl in my stocking. Smeared lipstick and eyeliner seemed a small price for fifteen minutes of Warholian screen-test fame.

Left: Dealer Tim Blum with Guess CEO Maurice Marciano. Right: Artist Mark Verabioff with LAND director Shamim Momin.

The lipstick came off fine, but traces of eye makeup lingered when I set off for my first party on Saturday night, this one for Culver City dealers Blum & Poe at the Mandrake. It started out as a low-key office affair but quickly transitioned into a real party populated with collectors, artists, and curators (almost the entire Hammer staff came, including Russell Ferguson, Douglas Fogle, Ali Subotnick, and Corrina Peipon) drinking from the open bar and eating Korean tacos from the famed Kogi BBQ truck parked in back. Besides the usual holiday-party chatter, I witnessed Jeff Poe inquiring about a Hello Kitty painting from collector Susan Hancock, who recently hosted a show about the ubiquitous Japanese cat at her café/gallery Royal/T. Lots of speculation was afoot about the new MoCA director, slated to be announced early next year, with guesses running the gamut of notable New Yorkers and the odd auction-house specialist, though a European wild card was also name-dropped. On my way out of the party, Tim Blum introduced me to Maurice Marciano, collector and founder of Guess. He clutched my hand with fervor and declared in a crisp French accent, “You have a passion for life, you must follow it.”

Pressure. I wasn’t quite sure where the passion was, but I did follow a lead to another party. Two neighboring artist-run spaces in Chinatown were having dual openings: Dave Hughes at WPA and Bobbi Woods at 2nd Cannons. I’m not sure whether it’s the tight hallway and diminutive spaces (2nd Cannons is a closet-cum-vitrine), but openings on Bernard Street always feel packed: lots of grad students, long-haired rocker types, and occasional Chinatown éminences grises like artists T. Kelly Mason and Dennis Hollingsworth.

Left: Lucky Dragons' Sarah Rara. Right: Artists Brian Kennon and T. Kelly Mason.

Nearby, the Fellows of Contemporary Art, in conjunction with their current exhibition “All Time Greatest” (for which I provided a bit of gratis writing), hosted a concert of LA artist-musicians including Steve Roden, Eamon Ore-Giron, and Lucky Dragons. I stumbled into the strangely subdued affair (some whispering, mostly bearded twenty-somethings plopped on cheap blue wall-to-wall carpet) right before Lucky Dragons’ set, which involved Sarah Rara (no sign of Dragons cohort Luke Fischbeck) handing out CDs for people to create their own light shows off a projector while she sang mournfully along with her laptop. When curator Shamim Momim and artist Mark Verabioff skipped out midway through Ore-Giron’s set (which included an unspeakably strange, brightly lit keyboard and long steel tubes) for drinks at Hop Louie, I followed suit. Around the bar was talk of even more holiday parties: Mike Kelley DJing booty bass at his studio soiree and Gagosian’s supposedly first-ever holiday fete, spearheaded by its Beverly Hills crew (complete with a curated show of the employees’ work in a utility closet).

The following day, I made my way to the Hollywood Hills home of collector (and newly minted gallerist) Shirley Morales, who was flying the flag (literally) for artist Mario Garcia Torres. The intimate afternoon affair served mostly as a going-away party for Garcia Torres and his wife, curator Magali Arriola, as the two were decamping to Mexico City, where Arriola is taking up a position at the Museo Tamayo. I crouched on the sofa with poet Joseph Mosconi and Scoli Acosta, looking through the maquette of their new children’s book based on hidden phrases culled from websites. Its strange and beautiful nonsensicality seemed a perfect prelude to Christmas in LA: “Jeez! a zebra is far less lucid than some celestial naked mole-rat. Uh! this sober mastodon indiscreetly awakened that dramatic hippopotamus.” Precisely.

Left: Collector Susan Hancock. Right: Collector and dealer Shirley Morales with artist Aaron GM.

Left: Artist Dawn Kasper. Right: Artist Scoli Acosta with LACMA curator Rita Gonzalez.

Left: Artist Drew Heitzler and Flora Wiegmann. Right: Artist Bobbi Woods.

Left: Artist Sayre Gomez. Right: Dealer Erica Redling with artist Walead Beshty.