Critics’ Picks

Hannah Kim Varamini, Dalgona Ghosts, 2020, Dalgona candy, sugar, baking soda, found bullet, 2 x 4 x 1".

Hannah Kim Varamini, Dalgona Ghosts, 2020, Dalgona candy, sugar, baking soda, found bullet, 2 x 4 x 1".

Los Angeles

“No more land West”

Visitor Welcome Center / Arm Gallery
Contact info@visitorwelcomecenter.org for viewing.
March 11–December 12, 2020

How will galleries and alternative spaces survive 2020? This seemingly endless refrain obscures the rich history of unorthodox approaches to presenting art as well as the potential for innovation that lurks all around us. One such example is Arm Gallery, a two-by-four-inch rectangle tattooed on the left forearm of artist John Burtle. Since 2007, Arm has presented sculptures, paintings, performances, videos, and more with the help of some spirit gum, medical tape, and straps. These artworks can attach themselves to Burtle for just a few hours, days, or even months. When the artist-run Visitor Welcome Center (VWC) closed its brick-and-mortar location in Los Angeles’s Koreatown this past March, Burtle offered up his body in order to host VWC’s “No more land West,” an exhibition that features the works of forty artists.

Some of the works that have occupied Burtle’s arm for this show include a text piece by Ruiling Zhang, which considers being a person of color exhibiting on white skin, and Victor Yañez-Lazcano and Livien Yin’s project incorporating sunscreen and tanning oil, which laid bare our strange fetishization with manipulating flesh tone. Hannah Kim Varamini’s edible Korean confections were modeled after a bullet dislodged from a wall of the actual VWC—possibly a remnant of the 1992 LA riots—echoing the city’s violent and complicated past. To my mind, this patch of skin illuminates more about life in LA now than most of the art currently hanging in SoCal galleries.

A transient location without fixed viewing hours, “No more land West” can be tricky to track down. You could check out photos of the show on Instagram, but you’d miss out on Arm’s special qualities, which can only be experienced in the flesh. Instead, keep an eye out the next time you’re waiting at the bar or in line at the grocery store. You might be standing next to a living reminder that the only resource art truly needs is an artist’s perseverance.