“LIKE TOULOUSE-LAUTREC IN A GAY SEX CLUB,” observed MC Gallery’s Renaud Proch last Friday night as we watched Mark Verabioff and Flora Wiegmann’s performance at the Eighth Veil. Hollywood’s latest gallery takes its name from the Seventh Veil, an adjacent strip club on Sunset Boulevard. That club’s neon arabesque sign flickered over the crowd waiting outside, which included artists Jedidiah Caesar, Mary Weatherford, and Eli Langer, as well Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery director Enkhe Dashdavaa, and recent LA transplant Shamim Momin.
When the door finally swung open, a disembodied, but not unappealing high-heeled leg appeared, hanging down from the balcony office. “Go ahead and touch it,” suggested Eighth Veil co-owner Kane Austin. “I think it’s a part of the piece.”
Verabioff (much taller than Toulouse-Lautrec) squatted in the center of the gallery wearing nothing but black hot pants, a coat, and flip-flops; his face was tied up with white rope. The scene recalled something from a West Hollywood S&M dungeon. Wiegmann, clad only in black denim boyshorts and a black boa, looked right at home on the Strip, her thickly kohled eyes, lugubrious moves, and deadened stare redolent of a failed starlet. Through a thick fog pouring out from under Verabioff, a video projection flashed his trademark texts, a seemingly nonsensical mixture of pop and art-world celebrity. UC FATHER FIGURE CHARLES RAY DISPATCHED PREHAB WITH FALL ’91 MAYDAY OVERAWE. As Verabioff described it to me after the performance, the piece brings together uncut cocks, Matthew Marks, and James Bond with the venerable LA “father figure.”
But art-world “daddies,” (both Charles Ray and the leather-clad kind) were off the agenda the following night. I first stopped in Culver City at Honor Fraser, where critic-turned-consultant Emma Gray had curated an exhibition of emerging LA women artists titled “Bitch is the New Black.” Just moments before the 6 PM opening, Gray was flitting around the counter next to Fraser, pricing a final few works. A brisk tour commenced. As we stood in front of a photograph of the half-naked and profoundly pregnant Cathy Akers pissing in the woods, Gray pronounced the rear gallery “the Earth Bitch Room,” a declaration I wasn’t inclined to argue with.
At Cherry and Martin up the road, I ran into Mihai Nicodim, who was moving his Chinatown gallery to Culver City to join a new warren of blue-chip spaces spearheaded by David Kordansky. He was raving to artist Kori Newkirk about a few Romanian painters (Adrian Ghenie and Ciprian Muresan) that seemed to be recession-proof. “I ought to start painting again,” lamented Newkirk. “At least they can sleep at night.”
After swinging by Mark Roeder’s opening at Sister, a summer group show at Cottage Home (co-organized by China Art Objects, Sister, and Thomas Solomon), Solomon’s inaugural opening of his own new gallery, and Aaron G.M.’s frenetic performance at Parker Jones, I ended up, as per usual for a night in Chinatown, drinking in China Art Objects’s basement, where quite a few painters and other artists, including Roeder, Mimi Lauter, Stephen Rhodes, and Krysten Cunningham were packed in with the gallery’s proprietor Steve Hanson. In the crush of bodies and the haze of smoke, I thought of Tom Marioni’s The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends…, Dave Muller’s Three Day Weekend, and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s entire oeuvre, and concluded, along with Hanson, that this, itself, was art. Or at least that’s what we’ll say when the cops show up.
If drinking is art, then the hangover must be the critical reception. Unfortunately, the weekend wasn’t over yet. The following evening I made my way to a party on the front plaza of MoCA to inaugurate the opening of “Collecting History,” an acquisitions survey (like the group show, not an uncommon summer phenomenon). The donors group Happy House spearheaded the party with the help of the PR firm ForYourArt and hip outfitters Opening Ceremony. It was likely the best dressed and most youthful party I’ve ever been to at a museum, which even in the “youth-rules” world of contemporary art tends toward the geriatric. Happy House cofounders Karyn Kohl and Ezra Woods DJ’d The Smiths and The Vaselines, while MoCA associate curator Bennett Simpson slipped in some Sun Ra for his set on the turntables.
I ran into dealer Erica Redling, who was a bit sunburned from Aaron G.M.’s flag-raising earlier that day at collector Shirley Morales’s Hollywood Hills house, where Redling had politely declined to participate in a ping-pong tournament with artists Mark Grotjahn, Nathan Mabry, and Jonas Wood. While cutting through MoCA’s galleries, I came across associate curator Phillip Kaiser and deputy director Ari Wiseman. Kaiser and I commiserated on overlaps between MoCA’s stunning exhibition and Daniel Birnbaum’s “Making Worlds” at the Venice Biennale (a yellow screen by Tony Conrad and a wall-work by late Swedish artist Öyvind Fahlström, for example), to which Wiseman boasted, “We had them here first.” A default point, perhaps, but the score still seemed clear: LA: 1. Venice: 0.