Los Angeles may have caught more than just El Niño from last month’s Miami. LA Art Show opened its doors yesterday night to a rush of collectors and art lovers seeking this wave of artistic exuberance that seems to be continually moving west. With a refreshingly open spirit and lacking in pretension, the fair’s embrace of performance art and interactive booths created an environment of divine curiosity fed further and satisfied by the artists—present and eager to talk about their works. Tackling this fair by walking straight into the mire of opening night and allowing myself to get taken by the natural flow of traffic, I lost myself in the theater of this year’s LA Art Show.
Ace Gallery hosted several of these performances—namely by Melanie Pullen and Ben Jones. Pullen’s renowned High Fashion Crime Series was staged and shot live with a model hanging by the neck in a midnight two-piece set. A notoriously complicated series to produce, this particular set of Japan’s “Suicide Forest” was dramatically scaled down but maintained its signature shock.
Ben Jones can be found projecting his combined renderings and animations on an enormous canvas that evokes the iris of an eye with angled black stripes piercing its way towards the center. Its pupil dispels chromatic light and geometric patterns mesmerizing you with a hypnotic accompanying track. Video and painting are both re-contextualized and distilled into an infinite experience constructed in the immeasurable transience of a moment.
One non-LA but Tokyo based space, Gallery Kitai, held a fascinating performance by Issai Tanaka. I came upon the Japanese artist while he was working on his second piece of the night, a larger-than-life scale calligraphy of a Kanji character that was taking immense concentration and focus. His first one was already hanging on the wall behind him. With the help of his translator Yuka Kamaya, Tanaka later explained that the first character meant “love” and the second reads “shit.” The deft simplicity and beauty of this concept perfectly matches that of calligraphy—stripped of their meanings, you can see shit and love in all their grace.
Downtown Art Walk presented a singular installation, a world entirely conceived by assemblage artist Catherine Coan. Ethically sourced taxidermied animals, real and imaginary, have taken hold of a Victorian Salon and are wreaking havoc on our dinner tables and record players. In a cross between “The Exterminating Angel” and “Animal Farm,” we are challenged to reconsider us humans as animals, our instincts and our relationship to our perceptions of these creatures.
Scott Hove‘s interactive installation with Think Tank Gallery coaxes you in with a sugary pink, rosy façade. “FORTUNE,” it promises you. Suddenly, the mood shifts as you enter as a garish light takes hold and you are abruptly surrounded by none other than yourself (and everyone else that’s in there with you). Cleverly placed mirrors mold a dreamlike illusion that you are everywhere within that space, that you have no control and can’t escape from the cakes and garlands and garnishes that now seem dangerous if you were to indulge.
LA Art Show this year brought a new poignancy to art fairs, events ultimately cultivated for the purpose of expeditious sales. With threads of thought on the now, the perception of time and the context of realities woven through the curation and execution of these booths, it makes you wonder what more to expect from the culmination of the city’s current artistic boom.