Made in L.A.

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The Whitney Biennial, Venice Biennale, these historic exhibitions of modern and contemporary art happen every two years. Works by emerging, mid-career and established artists are gathered together by a group of curators with mixed results and mixed reviews. This summer, L.A. gets its first biennial, Made in L.A. 2012, and it takes place at three different institutions: the Hammer Museum in Westwood, LAX Art in Culver City and the Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park in Hollywood. It will also take place on billboards and at Venice Beach. In short, it is as geographically diverse as the city itself and there is an iPhone app to accompany you as your drive there with hot spots where artists talk about various aspects of the city and tunes by the local collective "dublab."


Dan Finsel
The Space between You and Me: To Have and to Hold, 2012
Clay, wood, tank tops
Courtesy of the artist and Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles

The 60 artists featured in Made in L.A. 2012 were selected by Hammer curators Anne Ellegood and Ali Subotnick with LAX Art curators Lauri Firstenberg, Cesar Garcia, and Malik Gaines. The show officially opens on Saturday, June 2, but I was able to see the exhibition being installed at the Hammer and can say that it is quite a mind-bending gathering. A balance between established and younger artists is often rewarding and in this case it begins at the lobby with a vast pseudo-advertisement for California by Meg Cranston and the installation of faux-white marble stairs to a window facing Wilshire Boulevard by Fiona Connor.


Kathryn Andrews, Rainbow Successor, 2012
Stainless steel, rented costume
Ringier Collection, Switzerland

Roy Dowell, who heads the graduate program at Otis, shows his new sculptures, which have all the charm and verve of his better known collages while an adjacent gallery features Analia Saban's deconstructed paintings in neutral tones. Other high points: Kathryn Andrew's sculptural installation with clown costumes, Meleko Mokgosi's cycle of African history painting, Mark Hagen's decorative screen made of recycled but weirdly elegant materials, Dan Finsel's disturbing and funny accumulation of raw clay sculpture, video of himself as Farrah Fawcett and rugs woven from Hanes underwear. And there is so much more including the celebration of ten years of Slanguage at LAX Art and a lot of performance art.


Ruby Neri: Untitled (standing figure), 2012
Ruby Neri: Untitled (standing woman), 2012
Plaster steel, ceramic
Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles


There is more at stake here than critical praise for the artists. Five of these artists will be selected by a panel of jurors on June 28, when there is a Hammer Bash with music by Jason Bentley. And one of those artists will receive a $100,000 award from philanthropists Jarl and Pamela Mohn. That award, however, represents a new twist on an old system. Instead of being conveyed from on high, this award will be given by the public. Voters must register at an I-pad kiosk at any one of the three biennial locations. After June 28, they can vote online or at any of the institutions for one of the five semi-finalists. The winner will be chosen by those who have had enough interest to go see the shows.

Banner image: Roy Dowell's Untitled #1007, Untitled #1016 and Untitled #1015; (paper, cardboard, acrylic paint), 2012; Courtesy of the artist and Margo Leavin Gallery