The Broad Effect

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Untitled," 1981
Acrylic and oilstick on canvas, 81 x 69 1/4 in.
© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris / ARS New York 2015
Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio, LA

At the risk of engaging in Broad-fatigue, here are a few thoughts after spending quite a bit of time in the largely successful new Diller Scofido + Renfro building. For one thing, I disagree with my pickier colleagues who dispute the impact of the new Broad museum. Now that it is open, it is clearly the culmination of a vision that has been roughly honed ever since Eli and Edythe Broad started collecting contemporary art seriously in the early 80's. The domineering manner that has alienated Eli Broad from his fellow patrons and art collectors on various boards has nonetheless contributed to his fixed idea about reviving the downtown area as a cultural mecca.

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Cindy Sherman, "Untitled Film Still #43," 1979
Gelatin silver print, 8 x 10 in.
© Cindy Sherman, courtesy of the Artist and Metro Pictures

In fact, the decision to open MOCA in what was then a failing downtown district was a source of criticism from the beginning. Why not put it in Beverly Hills or Hancock Park or somewhere more accessible to its largely Westside supporters, including the Broads? Yet Broad would not be swayed from his belief in the potential of the downtown district. He has contributed millions to MOCA over the years, on and off of its board, but it turns out that his greatest act of support was to open his own museum across the street. In fact, there is right now a generous arrangement. For the next week, if you take your ticket from the Broad over to MOCA, you will be given a free one-year membership. (Tickets to the Broad are free in perpetuity and can be booked online, a model other museums should follow, but MOCA memberships start at $85 and individual tickets go up to $12.)

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Ragnar Kjartansson, "The Visitors," 2012 (Stills)
Nine channel HD video projection
© Ragnar Kjartansson
Courtesy of the aritst, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavik

Broad has been lambasted for opening his own private museum instead of giving his 2,000 piece collection to one or more existing museums. (Though I can think of several collectors who, having made their fortunes in Southern California, donated their art to New York City museums.) With this new museum, some thought that he would be somehow undermining the role of MOCA. Instead, the two collections, available in such close proximity, now offer an overview of modern and contemporary art unprecedented in Southern California.

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Robert Therrien, "Under the Table," 1994
Wood, metal and enamel, 117 x 312 x 216 in.
© 2015 Robert Therrien / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY

Angelenos who have watched the evolution of Broad's collection over the years at his Foundation building in Santa Monica and then at the mislabeled Broad Contemporary Art Museum at LACMA may have become jaded to its impact. That was not the case with any number of collectors and curators from Europe and New York who were seeing it as an entity for the first time.

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Roy Lichtenstein, "Live Ammo (Blang)," 1962
Oil and Magna on canvas, 68 x 80 in.
© Estate of Roy Lichtenstein
Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio, LA

Meanwhile, downtown LA has never seemed such a viable cultural center so Broad's long-standing faith in that destiny is being fulfilled at last. (It would be better still if he could succeed in buying the Los Angeles Times.) Apart from the pleasure of being able to walk through two very special art collections, have a decent meal and, if inclined, stay on for a concert, play or ballet without leaving Grand Avenue, there is the boom in contemporary art galleries.

In addition to home-grown spaces like Grice Bench, Little Big Man, Night Gallery, Francois Ghebaly, Chatteau Shatto, The Box, CB1, Rosamund Felsen, The Mistake Room, Mama, Harmony Murphy, 356 S. Mission Road, Eva Chimento, all the Chinatown galleries and others, the big New York galleries are starting to arrive (along with coverage in the New York Times). Venus over Manhattan, the gallery of writer, collector, dealer Adam Lindemann, does inventive and historically informed shows at their the Upper East Side location. The program is racier in their 14,000-square-foot downtown location, Venus over Los Angeles, with a Katherine Bernhardt fruit salad mural on its hot-pink exterior walls. The current show features Dan McCarthy's goofy ceramics with an emphasis on happy faces and being stoned. Perhaps someone thinks this is great for an LA audience. We have to wait until spring for the opening of the 100,000 square foot gallery of Hauser Wirth and Schimmel, a venture by the respected former chief curator of MOCA.

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Alex Hubbard, "[To be titled]," 2015
Acrylic paint, epoxy resin,fiberglass, pigmented urethane,steel
91.5 x 88.75 x 4 inches /232.41 x 225.425 x 10.16 cm
Photo: Adam Fratus, courtesy of the artist and Maccarone, New York and Los Angeles

More encouraging is the arrival of Maccarone, 330 South Mission Road, a 50,000-square-foot space opened in part to show the work of Alex Hubbard, an artist who relocated to LA from New York two years ago. After working in video for many years, he has returned to painting in a way that is informed by the LA Light and Space movement as well as his own past as a surfer growing up on the coast of Oregon.

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Alex Hubbard, "[To be titled]," 2015
Acrylic paint, epoxy resin,fiberglass, pigmented urethane,steel
122.5 x 72.5 x 12.5 inches /311.15 x 184.15 x 31.75 cm
Photo: Joshua White, courtesy of the artist and Maccarone, New York and Los Angeles

Basic Perversions, on view through December 20, features 11 translucent abstractions made by pouring resins (and other industrial substances) into rectangular molds and then using brushes to paint strokes of various colored resins. Because the materials dry quickly, he has to be both improvisational and controlled. His structural presentation of the finished works is integral. Some are mounted on the wall with a gap that allows light to be reflected through them, others are mounted on supports that are bolted onto the floor. You look at them and through them so they operate simultaneously in the spheres of sculpture and painting, even as screens. Informed by a range of historical precedents, they are nonetheless redolent of a wonder and weirdness that is so much a part of the ethos of LA.