Art news to keep our spirits high

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MOCA's exhibition space at Pacific Design Center, in the heart of West Hollywood, is one of the most challenging places to organize an exhibition. The ground floor entrance feels cramped and the staircase leading upstairs makes you feel as if you are in a corporate office rather than in a museum. But then, after stepping into the sprawling main gallery, with its high ceilings, one discovers the large and commanding stage for exhibitions which on occasion get overwhelmed by the space. But definitely not this time. Not with the current exhibition of works by Peter Shire, one of the best-known Los Angeles artists.

Installation view of "Peter Shire: Naked Is the Best Disguise"
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

Shire came into prominence 30 years ago, thanks to high-profile public artworks commissioned to him during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. But even before that, he got international recognition as one of the founding members of the Memphis Group, a Postmodernist design collective based in Milan. He was the only American artist of the group. Seeing this new exhibition at MOCA, I could hardly keep myself from touching his bold, dynamic, colorful, and visually seductive tables, chairs, streetlamps, and of course, his ceramic teapots, his most recognizable and iconic artworks.

Installation view of "Peter Shire: Naked Is the Best Disguise"
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

But I'm lucky to have friends who collected Peter Shire's art. When visiting them, I would sit in his chairs around the dining tables also designed by him. And, of course, we would eat and drink from his ceramic plates and cups. At the first encounter, one might describe his art as angular, sharp, geometric, and even slightly aggressive. But after seeing it more than once, you start to feel a sense of humor and even giddiness exuding from his art, as if each object is an actor performing on stage.

Installation view of "Peter Shire: Naked Is the Best Disguise"
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

The exhibition was curated by Anna Katz, who eloquently writes about Shire's art and its "exuberant colors, absurd proportions, improbable angles, and outlandish appendages…" The exhibition's bold design, with the gallery walls painted in a variety of pastel colors is the rare case when this challenging museum space turns itself into a friendly stage to experience the art at its best.

(T) Simon Birch and KplusK associates, "The Barmecide Feast (The Inner Cave)," 2016
(B) Simon Birch, Lily Kwong, and KplusK associates, "Garlands (The New World)," 2016-2017
Both images courtesy of the 14th Factory

A month ago, I talked about the 14th Factory, a multi-national, phantasmagorical project in Downtown LA, in Lincoln Heights, where dilapidated industrial buildings were transformed into a series of sprawling, dramatic installations of paintings, videos, sculptures with a scale and energy matching major international art fairs. Initially, the 14th Factory was scheduled to close at the end of April, but thanks to the enthusiastic public response, it will remain open through the end of May. Be sure to see it and get a good kick out of this experience.

(T) Exterior view of Marciano Art Foundation
Courtesy of wHY Architecture
(B) Ballroom Gallery at Marciano Art Foundation
Courtesy of Marciano Art Foundation
Photo by Yoshihiro Makino

And here's more good news –– and boy, we do need good news these days. In a few weeks, yet another private museum will open its doors to welcome us to enjoy contemporary art and performances. The Maurice and Paul Marciano Art Foundation is behind the dramatic transformation of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Blvd into an ambitious contemporary art museum. LA architect Kulapat Yantrasast and his firm wHY, known for gallery and museum designs here and abroad, were chosen to transform the Temple into a new center for the display, research, and making of contemporary art. Can you think of any other American city where new museums pop up one after another, like they do here in LA?



Benjamin Gottlieb