Dressed to Kill For
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For us, Angelinos, intrigued by the city's ever-changing art scene, this week will test our endurance to its very limits. There are major exhibitions opening at four different museums plus two new ambitious commercial art fairs coming to town with dealers from around the world eager to gain a foothold in the local market. In anticipation of this Artmageddon, I've been searching for exhibitions that might help us to meditate, to slow down and, hopefully, to fortify ourselves for the upcoming marathon.
In West Hollywood, at Manny Silverman Gallery, I was greeted by seductive, colorful paintings by Edward Dugmore (1915-1996), an abstract expressionist who started his career in California but later moved to the East Coast. The exhibition concentrates on thirty years of his career. And his earliest paintings -- from the 1950's -- made me linger in front of them the most. One can feel in them the burst of American optimism that permeated our culture then, in the years following the victory in World War II.
Nearby, at Regen Projects, is an exhibition of works by Andrea Zittel, a California sculptor with an amusing range of interests, from fashion to environmental installations. She explores her far-out ideas through a series of ordinary as well as extraordinary gestures, resulting in amazingly inventive artworks. The newest -- called "Lay of my Land" -- is a sprawling sculpture that gives a bird's eye view of the 35-acre compound in the Mojave Desert where the artist has lived for more than a decade. This occupies the largest of two gallery spaces, while the smaller space looks like a boutique where most of us cannot afford to shop.
Twenty years ago, still penniless, Andrea got a job as a receptionist at a high-profile Manhattan gallery. The job came with unspoken expectations to dress elegantly and to wear something different every day. So what do you do if you don't have two pennies to rub together but plenty of imagination? Talk about necessity being the mother of invention!
Looking at the small army of mannequins in the exhibition displaying the artist's quirky yet proper outfits, one can hardly suppress a giggle at discovering the cheap materials often held together with giant safety pins. These dresses are a joke. They're a labor of love. They're an artistic and philosophical statement.
In preparation for the upcoming avalanche of art events, I also want to recommend to you a highly readable book by Richard Hertz, The Beat and the Buzz (2009), which provides an indispensible glimpse "Inside the Los Angeles Art World." It consists of several dozen essays by artists, among others, Tony Berlant, Alexis Smith and — my favorite and the most hilarious — by Ed Moses. Plus, there are essays by various dealers and collectors, including, yours truly, Edward Goldman, talking about my fears of being in front of a microphone. Laurie Anderson, the great performance artist, famously said, "Talking about art is like dancing about architecture." And for twenty years, on this radio program, I've been doing just that, "dancing about architecture," in hopes of persuading my audience that art can be, and should be, a fundamental part of their lives.
To see images discussed in Art Talk, go to KCRW.com/ArtTalk.
Banner image: Andrea Zittel, Installation view, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, September 16-October 29, 2011. Courtesy of Regen Projects