Los Angeles

Around the Counties: Discussing L.A. County Arts with Shana Nys Dambrot

View from Barnsdall Park by Jose Wolff.jpg

Columnist Shana Nys Dambrot participates in this installment of Around the Counties.

The art critic and curator shares the three trends she sees occurring in the art scene of Los Angeles County.

If you don't have plans for Saturday night, Dambrot recommends that you attend a benefit, the opening night of two shows at a gallery, or the creation of an ongoing, interactive video installation project, you can be part of.


What makes Los Angeles County so attractive?

Shana Nys Dambrot

I think that there are so many different answers.

From an art, or let's say, visual-culture point of view it's just a very surprising place.

If you contrast New York or Paris they're, you know, gorgeous cities but you kind of know what they look like. I mean, they're really fascinating big cities that have looked the way that they look for hundreds of years, and that's part of the appeal but I think with Los Angeles you get constant change, constant innovation, architectural experiments on this big scale and all of this outdoor art, in crazy locations. You've got people working in the landscape. All those different things.

There's all this willingness to just experiment. I think that's what makes L.A. County special.


What are some of your favorite art venues in Los Angeles County? Why do you particularly enjoy them?

The museums and galleries that are my personal favorites are because of their programs. Right now the Hammer [Museum] and LACMA are at the top of their cycle.

But the things that I really love here, are again, the sort of unusual things, the things that combine interesting architecture or when they have a really progressive program.

Right now I love the [Los Angeles Municipal Art] Gallery at Barnsdall [Art Park]. I've been going there a lot lately and they're renovating the Frank Lloyd Wright house. I like the location and the views and the history of Barnsdall Hill, and then the fact that the gallery, is involved with the Hammer biennial and it allows these shows there. The contemporary art programming has been really exceptional. You have this perfect combination of all the different things that make Los Angeles special in terms of being outside, being in the grounds of the park, having this crazy little gem of architecture and then the city investing in three contemporary art programing, sort of all in one place. It's incredibly special for that reason.

The Aline Barnsdall Hollyhock House roofline. | Photo: Kara Brugman/Flickr/Creative Commons License


Which art event did you last attend?

On Friday the 13, I went to Gordy Grundy's show at Coagula Curatorial gallery in Chinatown. It was pretty spectacular. Gordy is a painter and a writer. It was one night only, a whole career retrospective survey. It was a very incredible, very eclectic magical event that went really late. There were a couple hundred people there. Many of them friends over the years, and people hadn't seen each other in a while. It was this real kind of, "We're all here, what's going on, Downtown L.A., how've you been?" So that was a really great show visually. Also, it had all the things an art show should: be dynamic and selling well, sparking conversation but then also, this sort of mini-reunion aspect to it was really special too.

Do you see any art trends in L.A. County?

  • One, is that a lot more people are experimenting with performance and video. Even people who are not performance artists or video artists by nature, by trade, until now. Technology is kind of changing that. It's not necessarily specific to Los Angeles but I think it's an interesting thing that definitely were taking part in. Film is kind of a familiar medium around town. And I think performance, there's such a desire for people to kind of get, you know, three or four dimensional cause so much of our lives are two dimensional. You know the screen of the t.v., the screen of the theaters, the screen of laptops, the screen of your phone. A lot of people are finding themselves presently curious and inspired about doing performance art or a kind of video that involves you taking a physical action that's documented.
  • I also see a lot of people using recycled or upcycled materials. So I think it might be a similar idea of consciousness. What you're doing and how it's affecting the world, the ecology and the economy and it's kind of plugged in to this idea in general where people are looking at that as an element of their daily lives. I see a lot of sculptures and other people, instillation artists for example, doing things with found and reclaimed objects. I think there's probably something there.
  • And then from the venue side of it, I see that the pop-up has become a fully legitimate feature of the L.A. art world landscape. Its getting revered. They're being taken seriously by critics in a way that five years ago, you couldn't even get a gallery listing. "A pop-up, a what?" Now, the best galleries in town are doing pop-up projects. That's the thing.

Can you recommend any art events to the Artbound audience taking place this weekend?

Yes. I picked three and they're all very different from each other. So I thought that might be nice.

  • Two painters [are] showing paintings in the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot [Station Arts Center]. It's going to be gorgeous. It's Greg Miller and Alejandro Gehry, who is Frank Gehry's son, who's an incredibly talented painter. The two of them are having simultaneous solo shows. It should be a really good west side crowd in terms of the scene but also their work is really graphically strong and [has a] very pop, kind of narrative. Alejandro's is a little bit more broken down but they're both great painters. It's worth hitting the opening if you can.
  • In West Hollywood it's the Gallery 825/Los Angeles Art Association benefit on Saturday night. And that's such a great organization. It's been around for decades in support of independent, local artists. They get really, really good stuff for their benefits. They have outside trailers come in. You know just a great cause and very popular.
  • Gina Osterloh has a sculpture installation at LACE on Hollywood Blvd. which opened a couple of weeks ago but part of the project is she's inviting viewers to participate in making video elements within the installation as though it were a kind of stage set. You have to make a reservation at the Lace website but they're like 5 or 10 minute slots for four hours so you should be able to get in there if you want. You'd be participating in the actual creation of a piece of contemporary art that will be debuted in a few months. She's a really talented young woman. If you have some time that's definitely worth being a part of.

Sculptures at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2010. | Photo: uuddlrlrba/Flickr/Creative Commons License


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Top Image: View from Barnsdall Park. | Photo: Jose Wolff/Flickr/Creative Commons License

About the Author

Melody Soto is a journalist living in the San Fernando Valley.
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