Art Insider: A new pool gallery provides an immersive experience

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Angelenos can swim with art in a new exhibit, layered photographs playfully portray the stay-at-home experience, and menacing paintings send messages about tricksters. 

Amelia Lockwood at Maia’s Pool

Amelia Lockwood at Maia’s Pool. Image courtesy of the artist and Maia’s Pool. 

It’s not every day that you get to see some new art while taking a refreshing dip in a beautiful pool. Maia’s Pool allows viewers to do just that. It’s a new swimming pool gallery (literally!) in the Hollywood Dell. 

Last week, I booked an appointment to swim amidst Amelia Lockwood’s solo exhibition of ceramic sculptures. With a swimsuit and pre-sanitized goggles on, and a laminated press release in hand, I set about to explore the exhibition by swimming around Lockwood’s textured objects. 

The ceramic works sit on the bottom of the pool like sunken artifacts. Some pieces are large enough to kiss the water’s surface, while others (installed in the deep end) require a big breath and an exploratory underwater dive to see up close. The exhibition is surely viewable from a dry out-of-pool vantage point, but like snorkeling around a coral reef, the works unfold and offer new intimate details for the brave swimmer. Each vessel is coded with symbols and swirling interiors that reward a deep-dive. 

The experience of wearing goggles, holding my breath, and diving down to look at these works for a few seconds before kicking off the bottom of the pool to catch my breath provided a novel and interactive mode of art viewing. I was constantly reapproaching the same object to get a better look at a different angle. At Maia’s Pool, the viewer is gleefully activated into the role of explorer or curious child. 

There are only a few more days to make an appointment to swim with Lockwood’s work, and a new exhibition, “Deep End” is slated to open October 31.

Amelia Lockwood at Maia’s Pool. Image courtesy of the artist and Maia’s Pool. 

Starting a gallery in a pool may seem like a strange idea, but gallerist Maia Schall has been conceiving the idea for years. “ I grew up a swimmer. Competitive, year round, from an early age. I was a total pool rat. Lifeguard, private swim instructor. I even dabbled in synchronized swimming. The pool was my second home.” From this lens, Schall explains that showing art in a pool wasn’t that much of a stretch. “I’m interested in site specificity, alternative spaces, aesthetic histories and letting art live in the world. One of the main themes that propels me is the thrill of finding ways to merge the things I love. To challenge expectations and experiment with bodies in space.” Schall explain sthat her pool is “particularily moody,” surrounded by shade, lush plants, and cypress trees. “I am thinking of it as a sort of secondary space, non-dominant, feminine, regenerative, spiritual maybe… It is a space that emphasizes the vulnerable bodily experience of proximity to artwork in the context of light, shade, and water. ”

On view: September 19 – October 9, 2020

Evan Whale at Tyler Park Presents

Evan Whale, “In My Room” at Tyler Park Presents. Image courtesy of the artist and Tyler Park Presents. 

Tucked into a modest space on Sunset, Tyler Park Presents opened last month with its inaugural exhibition: a solo show by Evan Whale of mixed-media photographs that were all made during the pandemic. The works in the show, titled “In My Room,” were photographed from the quarantined space of the artist’s own bedroom. 

There are shots of a neighbor’s roof, an abstract representation of the peacock that regularly strolls the neighborhood, and a large orange tree in the artist’s front yard. These images are then double-exposed or layered with obscuring shadows or metal grates, furthering the vantage point of someone being inside and looking out. 

In some, Whale carves the delicate silhouette of decorative security bars onto the photographic surface while developing his prints, a process which flattens his hash marks into decorative gold streaks. The final touch is an application of oil pastel directly onto the surface of the photographs, imbuing each work with bright patterns and colors that belie the banality of their subject matter. These works become fantastical collaged paintings that move beyond photography’s documentary properties. 

Perhaps in response to the longing for open spaces and distant travels that many of us have felt as we quarantine in our homes, Whale presents a gateway out — a colorful invented world which ironically was created from the confines of his bedroom. 

On view: September 12 – November 7, 2020

Adam Alessi at Smart Objects

Adam Alessi, “MIDDAY” at Smart Objects. Image courtesy of the artist and Smart Objects. 

It was somewhat unnerving stepping into “MIDDAY,” a solo show by Adam Alessi. In his oil paintings, eerie figures float against jet black backgrounds, each skewed to an uncanny angle as if hovering in a harrowing netherworld. By denying the viewer the ability to see these subjects head-on, Alessi builds a suspenseful tension into the act of viewing. 

Elsewhere, the symbol of the mask (“Finger Puppet” and “Quiet Comedy”) enters to take the exhibition on a devilish turn. This tension builds across the show, leading into the back gallery where a masked and menacing character (“Trickster”) juggles two balls as if about to determine your fate. The works are delicately and expertly painted, furthering the strangeness of their spooky subject matter. 

That the subject of the menacing trickster coincides with the chaotic political landscape — a heated presidential election, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump contracting COVID-19 — and the coming of Halloween, adds an ominous layer to the work on view. 

On view: September 12 – October 31, 2020