Islands in the Stream

Los Angeles
09.18.14

Left: Artist Rashid Johnson with collectors Mera Rubell and Don Rubell. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan) Right: Artist Aki Onda. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)


AMID THE CONFLAGRATION of bright new spaces and fall premieres, hardly anyone talks about closings. In the courtyard of the Hammer Museum last Wednesday, I waited for the twilight event of Made in L.A. 2014. The localist biennial divides the past few years’ time of alternative spaces and communitarian flux from the recent burst of commercial galleries expanding, warehousing, and franchising into the city. In the courtyard of the museum, I stumbled into the going-away party for Sarah Stifler, the Hammer’s now former director of communications en route to her new gig as chief communications officer at MoCA, and almost missed the new work by Anne Carson being read for Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer and Lauren Mackler’s turn as Public Fiction, subcurating a segment of the biennial.

Artists Stanya Kahn and Becket Flannery made the most of a series of sharp dialogues. Kahn displayed the exasperated and brilliant comedic timing of her videos while Flannery’s deep, velvety voice smoothed along with a straight man’s unflappability in the sharp and colloquial back-and-forth. In character, Flannery noted, “Skip the lecture just go to the party—half the people do that,” which in this case I did, going directly from the reading to an afterparty at the Ace Hotel for a panel organized by curator Dorothée Dupuis about art in the digital age. Held at the nonprofit Flax/Fahrenheit downtown, the missed panel included curators Adam Kleinman and Ceci Moss, as well as the notorious collector Stefan Simchowitz. He was not spotted at the party on the rooftop bar at the Ace, but I did abscond “early,” near midnight, when attendees began to dip into the pool in their undies.

Left: Dealer Tif Sigfrid. Right: Curator Lauren Mackler with artists Stanya Khan and Becket Flannery. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)


A couple nights later, a dressed-up crowd of collectors assembled off La Brea at the seven-hundred-plus-person private opening of David Kordansky’s newest gallery space. Don and Mera Rubell stood greeting comers at the entrance: “The gallery is gorgeous,” Mera chimed, “and we’re the welcoming committee.” The 12,700-square-foot former car dealership and kung fu dojo was thoroughly made over by Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY architecture. The sandblasted bow-truss roof was so clean it made the whole place look clean enough to eat off of.

The lush greenery of Rashid Johnson’s nineteen-foot-tall steel tower of houseplants nearly made the epic, pristine white cube feel homey. I overheard one middle-aged dandy turn to his gentleman and wonder aloud how they might water the plants if they bought it. Mixed into the crowd of collectors were most of the thirty gallery artists, a few writers, and a handful of some of the more successful artists nearish to Kordansky’s generation, like Piero Golia and Mark Grotjahn.

At 9 PM, much of the crowd drove two miles up the road for an intimate dinner for four hundred on the second floor of a showroom owned by antiquarian dealer JF Chen, who set-dressed the space in Hollywood chinoiserie. During the toast, Kordansky wept with gratitude, Johnson lovingly apologized to his wife, mentioning her depthless understanding, and both noted that the eminent young dealer was, in Johnson’s words, “well, complicated.” Mera Rubell lept up after the artist to announce, to scattered applause (and one assumes the bemusement of Kordansky’s actual parents), that David was officially her adopted son. Leaving the dinner, her husband noted, “It’s the first time my wife’s made a toast and I didn’t get beat up.”

Left: Designer Maria Virginia Troconis and dealer François Ghebaly. (Photo: Andrew Berardini) Right: Architect Kulapat Yantrasast, collector Beth Rudin DeWoody, and photographer Firooz Zahedi. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan)


The following sultry evening, I chased one opening reception to another: from Lisa Williamson at Tif Sigfrid’s to Lisa Anne Auerbach at Gavlak to Min Song at Young Art’s new space on Hollywood Boulevard to Phil Chang at M+B to Claire Nereim at Jancar Jones. “This is still dormancy season in LA,” said Fritz Haeg, rolling into an air-conditioned showroom. “We should all be hiding out underground.”

I yearned to follow his advice but instead stopped at MoCA for the premiere of its new series “Step and Repeat,” a mélange of poetry, music, and performance that is the biggest public programming experiment at the museum in ages and a kind of salvo for new director Philippe Vergne. I slipped into the vast former police garage, littered with empty stages and surging with people, just in time to catch comedian–performance artist Dynasty Handbag jerking off her microphone and making her pearl bracelet money-shot onto her face, just one hot second of a convulsive routine at once stridently bizarre and apologetically tender.

Leaving Dynasty to her devices, I ended the night listening to the sweet susurrus of ocean waves on the rooftop of the fetchingly gritty alternative space the Handbag Factory deep in downtown. Though two major freeways were just on the other side of the surrounding glass towers and run-down factories, one could hear the silence of the expectant crowd enfolding the soft ambient sounds of Aki Onda, field recorded for decades on a Sony Walkman and performed accompanied by subtle instruments like marbles in jars and ball bearings on cymbals. The contemplative quietude was an antidote to the fretful rush of the night, and gently prepared me for the last afternoon opening of the week.

Left: Artist Dynasty Handbag. Right: Dealers Ava Jancar and Eric Renehan Jones. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)


In a petite bungalow in Venice Beach on Sunday afternoon, Team Gallery inaugurated its LA space with tacos, beers, and Cory Arcangel. “This is my first solo on the West Coast ever. I’ve shown more in Pittsburgh than here,” Arcangel said on the back patio between the house—made over with work from the artist’s career—and the diminutive back garage that is, more or less, the “gallery.” Inspired by Xavier Hufkens’s and Barbara Gladstone’s Brussels spaces, Team proprietor José Freire decided after trawling the city that a house best suited his style. “I do sleep in the bed—definitely not in Cory’s sheets.” The bed had been made up with an undulating RGB rainbow. “Have you felt them?”

On the way out, Harmony Murphy and Magnus Edensvard stood side by side at the door. Both were set to open neighboring galleries the following week downtown near François Ghebaly and Night Gallery. Sunglassesed Murphy and suntanned Edensvard were aglow with prospect. Murphy, a refugee from the closing of LA’s branch of L&M, will open an eponymous gallery with Joel Holmberg and Kathryn Garcia, while Edensvard will establish the LA branch of Ibid Projects with a solo of (LA transplant and recently stratospherically successful painter) Christian Rosa. Though the sun set behind me as I slipped out and east, Los Angeles is certainly blazing ahead into some flashy new era, almost blinding in its flare.

Andrew Berardini

Left: Dealer Robbie Fitzpatrick. Right: Dealer José Freire and artist Cory Arcangel. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)


Left: Writer Joseph Mosconi, LACMA curator Rita Gonzalez, and LA MoCA chief curator Helen Molesworth. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan) Right: Artist Alex Olson. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)


Left: Dealer Francesca Pia with collector John Morace. (Photo: Stefanie Keenan) Right: Artist Lisa Anne Auerbach. (Photo: Andrew Berardini)


Left: The Finley Gallery’s Jeff Hassay and artist Lisa Williamson. Right: Artist Fritz Haeg. (Photos: Andrew Berardini)


Left: Ibid Project’s Magnus Edensvard and dealer Harmony Murphy. Right: LA MoCA curator Bennett Simpson.