If there is one thing Made In L.A. has highlighted, it is that new art is coming out every day from local universities and that we really, really need to pay attention to what is going on at these institutions since many of the artists are staying in Los Angeles well after their time in school. UCLA has one of the most prestigious MFA programs in the city and, possibly, the world. Taught by some of the leading working artists, they are helping shape and inform the work of some fresh, young voices in the art world. Thankfully, we got to check out what these artists were saying on Saturday.
Located in their Culver City working warehouse, the grad students and faculty opened the doors to their workspace to let art viewers, art enthusiasts, and art supporters in to roam around and consume the newest of new local art. You had everything from performance artists to painters to photographers to video art makers, all of whom collided art practices together to create some truly special pieces. It was very apparent from artist to artist that UCLA’s graduate program really champions getting artists to think outside of what they find to be most accessible to them. Speaking with several UCLA graduates and professors, we are constantly hearing how they are pushed or pushing to consider more than one form of expression, a concept that seems to be carried throughout all areas of Southern California higher education.
We got word of the event from artist Janna Ireland. We were very excited to see what she and other artists were up to considering that we’d be spending most of the day wandering through various new and upcoming Los Angeles artwork at Made In L.A.. Getting to the studios after a semi-sour experience at the Hammer all day, it was so refreshing to see artists who all had equal footing and the ability to do whatever they wanted in the studio space that they have been working in for years. Some presented their work as if they were working in a mini-gallery, some created tiny installations, and others just kept business as usual, them sitting at their desk with a few art pieces scattered around: artists were truly able to let their art and artistic performance do whatever they wanted.
There were plenty of standouts at the open studios, which were more of a window into the mind of new artists versus being a show proper. There were fortysomething participating artists who spanned the artistic gamut from proper painters to abstract photographers to conceptual video artists to queer installations. There were many, many standouts which included Sarah Dougherty‘s layered and enveloping room portraits, Dylan Mira’s somewhat hysterically detailed studio, Laeh Glenn‘s elegantly minimal paintings and pottery, Becky Kolsrud‘s amazing pop culture paintings, Veronique d’Entremont‘s devastatingly personal family work, Leon Benn‘s very fashionable paintings, and Janna of course, whose photographs are brutally honest and whose Altars To Southern California are beautifully haunting.
Another huge thing that the show pointed out was the nature of contemporary art and how technology is playing into it. A lot of artists still don’t “get” how they fit into that world but grad students like Owen Kydd and Michael Kelly pointed toward this connection, both using technology in innovative ways. Kydd dwelled on the idea of the looped moving image, the .gif and how that plays into art: his work landed somewhere between high video art and that plastic bag video from American Beauty. Kelly’s work used the idea of technological blurring and webpages being loaded, placed next to a looping video of him Facetiming his artwork to a looped, fake viewer.
At the center of the open studios were the artists’ finest work in the Spring Review gallery space at the heart of the warehouse. Every artist had one little or big piece to share that showed off exactly who they were and what their point of view is. What the open studios did that Made In L.A. did not was show what these young artists are doing on their own terms. Of course, they are all being graded and judged by professors and viewers alike; however, the point of visiting them is to see what minds and work is coming out of Southern California, without any overhead or any pressure aside from higher education. It was a valuable experience as an art viewer in Los Angeles and really got to what art shows showcasing up-and-coming Los Angeles artists needs to be: the artists, showing their work as they want it to be shown.