Art of the angels

By Xu Ming Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-15 19:48:01

Exhibition at UCCA unveils art diversity of Los Angeles

Sculpture by Matthew Monahan (left) Photo: Courtesy of UCCA


Installation by Aaron Curry Photo: Xu Ming/GT

Talking about Los Angeles, what usually comes first to people's minds are Hollywood, the Dolby Theatre, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Disney Land. Despite being a major art hub along the west coast of the US and an important city for contemporary art, the city hasn't received much attention in China when it comes to art.

One exhibition, The Los Angeles Project at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, is looking to change this situation. Showcasing works from seven artists who are the backbone of the city's contemporary art scene, the exhibition provides Chinese art lovers a rare opportunity to get to know the city and its art better.  

City of diversity

Occupying all of the UCCA's exhibition halls, The Los Angeles Project provides each artist an independent room to showcase their talent.

This marks the first time the city of LA has brought a comprehensive look of its art. In addition to paintings, sculptures, installation and video works, the exhibition is also the debut showing for many of the artists in China, including Kathryn Andrews, Aaron Curry and Alex Israel.

Walking through the exhibition, you might expect to find something in common between the art works as they were all created by artists living in the same city. However, going from room to room you realize that although the artists are all from LA, they represent various styles of art that reflect their unique understanding of art and the world.

Entering the exhibition hall visitors can see a mural by Alex Israel on the walls. Born in LA, Israel has his own workshop in a studio within the main campus of Warner Bros., and much of his artwork is created through Hollywood production channels to mirror the form and construction of film sets.

Israel's creations focus on the Hollywood lifestyle, entertainment culture and the consequent public consumption of the two. The 20-meter-long mural, which is based on his experience driving around the city, includes an array of images that are turned into scenes from a Hollywood studio lot by the addition of absurd objects and props.

Another artist, Matthew Monahan, who has held exhibitions in Xiamen, Fujian Province, won attention worldwide with his sculptures and charcoal drawings that explore the interaction between two-dimensional and three-dimensional art and recreate classic aesthetics from the perspective of post-modernism.

One of his column shaped sculptures on display was first wrought painstakingly from blocks of foam and then cast in bronze. This creates an effect that causes depicted figures to appear as if they are trying to emerge from the rectangular blocks from which they were hewn.

Building communication

Each artist explores art in his or her own way. Kathryn Andrews distinguishes herself from others with her series of aluminum sculptures printed with the images of Bozo the Clown, a figure popular among American children, and the reproduction of the seduction scene from The Graduate.

Through these works, she tries to explore how authorship, originality and authenticity are employed and distorted.

Deeply affected by subcultures like cartoons, graffiti and punk rock, Aaron Curry specializes in creating large abstract sculptures out of aluminum and wood that show a blending of science fiction, hot rod culture and Modernist sculpture.

Though all the works were created by artists living or working in LA, it is difficult to generalize them, as some of the works are not even necessarily related to the city, except for maybe some of the logos used.

"It is hard to generalize the characteristics of the art of Los Angeles, which is both a local and universal city. Here, we just want to present the diversity of art creation in Los Angeles," said UCCA Director Philip Tinari, who is also one of the curators for the exhibition.

According to Tinari, Baron Guy Ullens, the founder of UCCA, once stayed in Los Angeles for a period of time and was impressed with the art in the city, which finally led to the current exhibition.

"Of course, it means a challenge to put together an exhibition to address the diversity and artistic practice of a city as well known and complex as Los Angeles. But we feel it's extremely urgent to do this, because LA is one of the most interesting cities for art on the planet at the moment," explained Tinari.

At the press conference on Friday, the curators and artists also talked about the connection between Beijing and LA. Though they share many geographical similarities, the two don't communicate much when it comes to culture and art outside of Hollywood films.

"Many Chinese are quite familiar with it as a popular destination for shopping and sight-seeing, but maybe they are less familiar with it as a center of modern art," said Alan Clark from the US Embassy in Beijing, adding that through art, one of the purest forms of culture, people from the two countries can communicate beyond the gap of language.

In addition to the exhibition that will run to November 9, a series of programs including The Los Angeles Art Weekend and Los Angeles: A City on Film, a screening for 13 Hollywood classics, independent films and artistic experiments, will also be held to share the city's culture.

Posted in: Art

blog comments powered by Disqus