Los Angeles art is all over the world. It would be absolutely impossible for us to keep track of every single LA ambassador working outside of our city as it happens every week on small and large scales. There are some really magnificent efforts, too. We received a note a few weeks ago about a very Los Angeles show that opened very recently at Milan’s Cardi Black Box. The show is Set Pieces and is curated by Angelenos Andrew Berardini and Lauren Mackler. The show has Los Angeles contemporary artists Sarah Cain, Liz Glynn, Samara Golden, and Mateo Tannatt building artistic set pieces that feature the work of other LA artists from Amanda Ross-Ho to Zoe Crosher to Eli Langer to Raymond Pettibon. Set Pieces is a wonderful concept and obviously shares Los Angeles’ creativity, collaborative nature, and climate with art goers in Milan.
To get an idea of what went into the project and where the inspiration for Set Pieces came from, we spoke with curators Andrew and Lauren about the experience and what it means to be Los Angeles contemporary art ambassadors. Hear what they have to say and take a tour of the installed show after the jump.
Set Pieces is going to bring Los Angeles to Milan in a very big way. Where did the idea for the show come from? It is such a unique showcase and includes some huge LA talents.
Both of us have been doing research for a spell on the relationship between fiction and reality, and Los Angeles as a site where these two are permeable. When Nicolo Cardi invited us to conceive an exhibition about art from Los Angeles I think both of us had covered this ground pretty thoroughly and neither of us wanted another boosterish show with the word “New” in the title. We wanted something more complicated, mindful, poetic. A stronger gesture to reveal the potential of this place.
William Leavitt’s work was a huge inspiration. The mundane California patios and pastel tract houses in his work hide the cinematic soft-light of all Los Angeles, a place constructed quickly with suburban dreams tracted out over orange trees and amidst movie studios, and is currently the only place we know where transgender vegetarians, founders of new religions, and Salvadoran Teamsters can all mix together seamlessly at the farmers market.
As Thom Anderson brilliantly points out in his film Los Angeles Plays Itself, the city is always (built into its founding) performing some fictive version of itself. Baudrillard writes that Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest of Los Angeles is real.
Besides art is always a kind of emanation of the imaginary into reality.
After a performance for his play The Particles of White Naugahyde, Bill Leavitt told us that he had never built a more elaborate frame for a painting. We thought the best way to represent Los Angeles, this space in-between fiction and reality, was to invite artists to build sets that like Bill’s pieces, would act to frame works of art, though in this case other artists’ works.
The creating of the sets is such a feat for artists and pushes art making into habitat forming and performance spaces. Although all of the artists artists building sets and including work within sets are very different, is there any connection between the set and Los Angeles? Do you guys see a connection between each participating piece?
That’s a great question, and gets to the protean, polyphonic song that is LA. The city has developed some fixed history these last decades, but its sense of place is still essentially a place of potential, possibility. A city of secret gardens where everything grows. Any idea, vision can manifest under its steady sunlight. Chinatown is as much a fiction as Disneyland. The Hollywood sign is an advertisement for a subdivision. The Tiki craze began not in Honolulu but Los Angeles. We are the mysteries and the visions at the end of the West, strange and heartbreaking, otherwordly and pasteboard. Why limit artists to literal depictions of a city constructed mostly out of the fictions of real estate developers, spiritualists, and studio moguls?
Do we see a connection between each connecting piece? Of course. Works and artists were picked and paired with others, but we’ve done our best to evade too literal connections to an altogether poetic space.
The artists represented are a survey of everything from Made In L.A. to Pacific Standard Time. What do you think this group of artist represents? What do they (and their work) say about Los Angeles?
We wouldn’t want to make too grand declarations about art in Los Angeles; this is only a tiny swathe of the artists we think are significant here. We did attempt to choose artists who are inspired by the space and potential of our city. Some artists, like those from William Leavitt and Raymond Pettibon, were invited because of their narrative potential and their powerful inspiration as artists working from and in this particular place.
A story that takes place between reality and fiction is dreamy: strange and familiar, containing both the haze of the narcotic and the clarity of an epiphany, not without desire and suffering but all made more meaningful with focus. We wanted works that did that.
This is just one vision of a place dancing with them.
Beyond a great art show, what do you think Milan will take from Set Pieces? What image of Los Angeles do you think the show will leave on the city?
We hope Milan will share in our love affair with LA.
Aside from its opening and the work presented, what can people expect from the show? Will it travel or manifest itself locally? Are there any pieces or programs associated with the show that you guys are particularly excited about?
We’re authors with bodies of work as curators, Lauren as a designer, Andrew as a writer, and this is just a singular chapter in a much longer story for each us alone but also as collaborators. One we’re grateful to add to here. Neither of us see our works as one offs, but as longer stories. Andrew has a dream of collaborating on a set with an artists where a kind of play would be developed that would be performed intermittently throughout the course of an installation. Lauren’s space here in LA, Public Fiction, always functions as a set that artists are invited to install and perform in, in order to investigate a changing topic.
Set Pieces is currently on display at Milan’s Cardi Black Box and will be open through April 15. If you are in Milan or have a friend in Milan, have them visit this show. It looks so wonderful and certainly gives a look inside what is happening inside of the brain of Los Angeles art. You can get more on the show here and here.
Photos by Mauro Impalà, courtesy of Cardi Black Box.