Last Thursday afternoon, I was enjoying listening to Pritzker Prize–winning architect Thom Mayne wax nostalgic about Los Angeles in the ’70s when he suddenly cut to the chase: “So, why are you here?” The answer? New York–based art dealer Adrian Rosenfeld and PR virtuoso Brian Phillips had organized the meeting as part of Los Angeles Art Weekend, an annual tour for out-of-town critics, curators, dealers, and artists. The pair cited a desire for “cross-pollination” and an interest in exploring creativity in a “wide-open landscape,” but it was ultimately a networking trip (no shame in that!), a fact betrayed by their final assertion: “It’s as much about the conversations in the cars”—a pair of BMW sedans borrowed for the occasion—“as the visits.”
Sampling only a portion of the compelling, prearranged drop-ins, and following along in my rental—dubbed the “Candor Corolla”—I inevitably missed out on some of that traffic tattle. But the duo had done serious behind-the-scenes legwork, and our posse, which included Fantastic Man and Butt head honcho Gert Jonkers, the publishers of Visionaire, art dealers Chris Perez and Sabrina Buell, Walker curator Peter Eleey, and Modern Painters editor Claire Barliant, among others, was met with warm welcomes throughout the journey.
On Friday morning, before unlocking the Broad Art Foundation’s first-floor gallery (currently holding an impeccable selection of works by Ed Ruscha), director and chief curator Joanne Heyler gave us a pep talk about LACMA’s Broad Contemporary Art Museum. Slated to open early next year, the building will be inaugurated with a special exhibition and three floors of collection works, most drawn from the Broad Foundation and installed by LACMA director Michael Govan and curator Lynn Zelevansky. With seventy thousand square feet of gallery space to fill, Heyler’s biggest logistical problem at the moment is finding works to replace those leaving Eli and Edythe Broad’s house.
I broke away from my companions for lunch with artist Alex Klein, who has organized “Around Photography,” a conference—featuring Tacita Dean, Thomas Demand, and Jonathan Crary, among others—to be held at the end of the month at the Hammer Museum. I rejoined the group later at Regen Projects, where we admired Elizabeth Peyton’s winsome letter-size portraits. Shaun Caley Regen walked us around the corner to her new space at 9016 Santa Monica Boulevard, formerly a Cappellini boutique, set to open May 5 with a single, quixotic artwork: Charles Ray’s long-rumored, forty-five-foot-long hand-carved re-creation of a felled tree trunk. (It apparently gets its own jet for the trip from Japan, where it was fabricated.) “We’re leaving the space raw for the piece,” Regen explained. Looking at the seamless poured-cement floor and gleaming white walls, it was obvious that we had different understandings of the word raw.
After a quick costume change, the group reconvened in Westwood for Emi Fontana’s newest West of Rome project: Diana Thater and T. Kelly Mason’s film installation relay, featuring a band put together by Mason playing outdoors. Joining Govan and Hammer director Ann Philbin for the low-key affair were curators Eva Meyer-Hermann, who co-organized the touring Allan Kaprow retrospective and is now working on a show with Mike Kelley; Russell Ferguson, who discussed his major Francis Alÿs survey forthcoming this autumn at the Hammer; Gary Garrels, who brought the Vija Celmins show to the US (“It was my first phone call after accepting the job here”); and Shamim Momin, in town to do studio visits (ostensibly for the 2008 Whitney Biennial).
Garrels and I had to skip the Fontana dinner, having instead reserved seats at Javier Peres’s fete for painter Matthew Greene at Yamashiro (described to me as both a “kitschy faux samurai palace” and a “great date place”) in the Hollywood Hills. Fifty of us filled the Skyview Room, perched over a slice of glorious west-side landscape, where I discussed squatting in Berlin with video artist Stanya Kahn and Amy Sillman’s new paintings at carlier gebauer—also in Berlin—with Garrels. (“They’re like exquisite lost canvases from 1955—they shouldn’t exist,” he gushed.) Knowing another full day was ahead of me, I excused myself, Cinderella-like, as the clock approached midnight.
At 1 PM Saturday, we descended upon the Little Tokyo studio of artists (and partners) Lara Schnitger and Matthew Monahan. Schnitger, at work on a commission for Keanu Reeves tentatively titled Fucking in the Kitchen, discussed how her new baby informed her practice, offering as evidence a series of graphic collages hilariously pairing the acts of sex and giving birth: In one, a crying newborn pops out of a porn star’s vagina at the same time as her costar’s dick makes its way in. Monahan, whose studio is separated from Schnitger’s by a curtain, talked about his sculpture as “chaotic piling” and Nietzsche as a time-traveling pundit before admitting to an iconoclastic urge. “I’m struggling with how much I should tear down the institution,” he said, eyeing a twenty-five-foot-tall gilded sculpture of an upside-down figure. To his credit, MoCA assistant director Ari Wiseman, who is curating Monahan’s upcoming “Focus” series exhibition, didn’t balk at the claim.
After a quick visit to Sterling Ruby’s studio in Hazard Park, where we saw the monumental sculpture that will anchor the artist’s Metro Pictures debut opening in a few weeks, the city’s casual bonhomie was emphasized once again as I toured Chinatown galleries and bumped into old friends—and made new ones. Painter Bart Exposito, whose studio sits on the Chung King Road drag, invited a crowd in for an impromptu preview of his upcoming show at Black Dragon Society. Photographer Walead Beshty was equally welcoming, riffling through lush prints and talking ’80s-era postapocalyptic films. But there were openings as well! Kirsten Stoltmann has a challenging new show at sister, and Greene’s canvases occupied not one but two Peres Projects spaces. A poet friend astutely described standing in the newer one, with its white-tile floors and eye-searing fluorescent light, as resembling “being inside a really clean tooth.”
Our goal of cross-pollination wouldn’t have been complete without a fashion event, so I scampered off to Hollywood for a party celebrating the new outpost of beloved New York–based boutique Opening Ceremony. Standing around “like art nerds” (in Eleey’s words) gave way to playing dress-up, as we were plied with tiny appetizers (a fashion-world “dinner”) and Sprinkles cupcakes. The crowd—uniformly tall, willowy, and better dressed than Eleey and me—made off for east-side club Echoplex for DJ sets by designer Benjamin Cho, et al. I didn’t dally long, and according to Rosenfeld I missed the chance to dance with Drew Barrymore. But after two and a half days of breakneck art and fashion tourism, I almost didn’t mind.