Los Angeles

Around the Counties: Engaging in L.A. County Arts with Sharon Mizota

Orpheus Crawling by Juli Crockett.jpg

Artbound columnist Sharon Mizota discusses the art scene of Los Angeles County this week.

The art critic lists her favorite art spaces and examines the two art trends she see's occurring right now.

Lastly, Mizota recommends that you check out the opening day of a retrospective exhibit at LACMA on Sunday.

What makes Los Angeles County so attractive?

There's just so much to do. It's such a diverse place. That's kind of a big question but I think that's the main thing. L.A. has so many different parts. I've only lived here for about six years and I'm still discovering whole neighborhoods and areas that I've never been to or knew nothing about. I think that there's this richness and just incredible diversity that make it interesting.

It's just always changing. There's always new groups of people coming in and the character of the neighborhoods change.

Sharon Mizota.

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

I really like what's going on at the Hammer [Museum]. They do a lot of really interesting public programs and most of them are free. They're really reaching into new areas of things that most people don't necessarily associate with art. They have these Mindful Awareness sessions where you can go, and I don't know if its meditation or there's yoga. There's some kind of extending purview of the museum moving in this direction that's a little more broad. They have music events there, rock concerts and DJs. One of the more interesting things that I recall from a few years ago was they had a plant vacation program. So you could bring your houseplants to the museum and they installed them on these risers and it was kind of like a vacation for your plants. I can't remember who did that project, it might have been Machine Project, who had a residency there. But they're just doing these interesting things and they have great evening talks. They invite really interesting speakers in conjunction with UCLA. There's always an interesting contemporary artist who's giving a talk about their work.

A Cultural Retreat for Plants. | Photo: Machine Project/Flickr/Creative Commons License

I like the stuff that's going on at REDCAT. They have consistently interesting and provocative shows and they bring in very international [artists.] They bring in people from Asia, from Latin America. That's been a really engaging space. Also, in combination with their performance series and music and theater and dance, it's just a really vibrant space.

Haruko of the Degenerate Art Ensemble performing at the REDCAT. | Photo: Life As Art/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Which art event did you last attend?

Family Sunday at LACMA.

I have a 7-year-old daughter and she hates going to museums because I'm always sort of dragging her to what I want to see. We hadn't seen Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass," the big rock, and I wanted to see that installed and so I thought, well it's outdoors and she could run around the courtyard and it would be fine. And they were having this Family Sunday where they had all these booths with arts and crafts and the place was just swarming with kids. I felt like for the first time we actually both had an enjoyable time at the museum. It was a really good event. I thought it was well organized. I really like the new space there with a courtyard, the new buildings, the amount of outdoor space and the accessibility of the space.

LACMA has recently started to do some things that are engaging with different groups of people. It's definitely something that's become more important to me since becoming a parent. A lot of the time when I go to look at art I'm just going by myself because I'm working. It's really refreshing to have a venue that's so open and welcoming to kids and that has things for them to do and ways for them to engage with the artwork, where they don't just have to stand there and stare at it.

Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass. | Photo: Asim Bharwani/Flickr/Creative Commons License

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

A lot of the things that I'm seeing, art trends or art things that are happening in L.A., are things that are happening on a broader scale other places, so it's hard to differentiate, what makes this specific to L.A.

  • One of the things is maybe an aftereffect of the Pacific Standard Time initiative that The Getty [Museum] funded. There were like seventy some museums and then hundreds of galleries who put on historical shows about art in L.A. I think there is this focus on history and looking at the past and reevaluating. Even in contemporary art. I'm working on [an article] now for Artbound about artists who are purposely either drawing from the past and reevaluating the past and looking at how there are parallels between now and specific moments in history. Also, how the past lives on in the present, the sort of evidence of the past or the lack of evidence of the past. In L.A. that's a lot of the architecture and the structures. Of course the history of L.A. is not as old as many, many, cities in the world but I do feel like younger artists have been looking at history as a source of subject matter for their work or inspiration for their work.
  • Also, a move toward performance and community engagement. MOCA has their Engagement Party series where they invite artists to do a series of works that involve the public or that are public performances and that are sort of in material works. It's not about creating an object, it's a performance or it's a time based project. And then the Hammer [Museum] with all of their programming. I feel like things are moving more in a interactive direction then maybe they had previously. It's a long, long, trend that's been happening for a while.

Little Pharma Physic Garden Installation at Fringe Exhibitions. Tours and related workshops were presented during a three-month residency at MOCA and presented as an Engagement Party. | Photo: Finishing School/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Can you recommend an art event to the Artbound audience that's taking place this weekend?

I'm excited about the opening of ceramicist Ken Price's retrospective at LACMA on Sunday. He passed away earlier this year, but since the 1960s was a true L.A. original, pushing ceramics into new abstract and "Pop" directions that are still startling in their inventiveness, humor, and sheer joy. We saw a lot more of his work during Pacific Standard Time, but this is his first comprehensive retrospective, and I'm looking forward to getting a much better sense of his life and career and how it fits in, not only with L.A. art history and ceramics history, but in the larger context of American sculpture. It's great to see ceramics getting the full museum treatment.

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Top Image: "Orpheus Crawling" performed at REDCAT. 2006. | Photo: Juli Crockett/Flickr/Creative Commons License.

About the Author

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