L.A. Comes of Age

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One of the best kept secrets of American cultural life, the ascendance of Los Angeles to the enviable position of one of the most important art cities in the world, is not a secret any longer. The recent exhibition devoted to LA art at the Pompidou Center in Paris underscored the prominence of Los Angeles as one of the four major international centers, along with London, Berlin and New York, where cutting edge contemporary art is produced. A decade ago, the New York Times would rarely mention the LA art scene in its art coverage, but this is no longer the case. The November issue of Art in America, one of the most important art publications in the country, focuses on Los Angeles as well, and interviews nineteen sculptors who live and work here. But if all that has not persuaded you, what about the December issue of Vanity Fair, concentrating on the subject of money, power and art, with a profile on LA philanthropist and collector extraordinaire, Eli Broad?

It used to be that upon return from New York, one would experience a slight case of cultural deflation, but these days, the variety and quality of museum and gallery exhibitions in LA is such that no art aficionado can afford to rest. The brilliant exhibition Magritte and Contemporary Art at LACMA which I've seen only once, is so vast and intriguing that it simply begs for another visit. And one definitely doesn't want to miss the guilty pleasure of seeing two exhibitions of contemporary fashion, (one at LACMA, the other at MOCA) which pair the best of fashion design with avant-garde art and architecture. I say guilty because we still have a tendency to see fashion as something rather frivolous. For myself, having grown up as the son of a tailor, playing with pieces of fabric and clothing patterns, I get a kick out of seeing how creative and inspiring fashion can be. The LACMA show, Breaking the Mode, is based on its extensive permanent collection. The undisputed star of the exhibition is Japanese designer, Issey Miyake, whose best work is tour de force architectural fantasies of pleated fabric. The ambitious and intellectually stimulating exhibition at MOCA titled Skin + Bones parallels revolutionary artistic developments in fashion and architecture.

There is also a rich variety of interesting exhibitions in the galleries this season and I'm planning to talk about it in the next few weeks. But today, I want to highlight just one: the Gajin Fujita show at LA Louver Gallery. This native Angeleno's star is rapidly rising and even with prices in the six figures his works are flying off the walls. Fujita's paintings and drawings are inspired by and combine graffiti and traditional Japanese prints with the spicy addition of what the artist refers to as "a sort of West Coast theme: sun, surf and sex."

And now I must get something off my chest. Here we are in the 21st century, America is an undisputed world leader. And yet, fear and distrust of culture still rears its ugly head now and then. An art teacher in Dallas was suspended from her job when an upset parent complained that on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art his child was exposed to nudity while walking through the galleries of ancient Greek art and rooms with sculptures by Rodin and Maillol. During the TV reports of this incident some of these sculptures were shown with their private parts blacked out, so as not to offend the genteel sensibilities of TV viewers. I'm not sure if this story should elicit laughter or tears...but I feel slightly scared by it.

"Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture"
MOCA Grand Avenue
On view until March 05, 2007

"Breaking the Mode: Contemporary Fashion from the Permanent Collection"
On view until January 7, 2007

Gajin Fujita, "Twilight Blush"
LA Louver Gallery
On view until December 30, 2006