Between the impact that COVID-19 has had on travel and gatherings, the continued rise of NFT-backed art and the looming threat of climate change, the future of art and culture is worth considering. How can artists engage with environmental issues? How will audiences interact with art? These are all questions that permeate this year's L.A. Art Show, which opened on Wednesday, Jan. 19 and runs through Sunday, Jan. 23 at Los Angeles Convention Center. With a show floor packed with mini-exhibitions that cross disciplines, L.A. Art Show participants are looking towards the future, whether that's in the production and distribution of art or the role of artists have in building a better world.
"We're under threat of the rising sea," says artist Taiji Terasaki of Hawaii, where he's lived for 16 years. "So it's really an important statement that we're trying to make because it's happening."
Terasaki uses a mix of processes in speaking about environmental issues. He has a "mist media player," where a cloud of mist acts as a screen for projections. Some of his pieces are photos of those projections, with the mist adding an ethereal effect to the final image. In other pieces, he prints photos on sheets of metal that are then cut up and woven together. The photos include images of protected, yet environmentally-fragile, places both in Hawaii and Palmyra Atoll. At the L.A. Art Show, where the Honolulu-based artist is exhibiting with Kelly Sueda Fine Arts, Terasaki's work was unified by a theme: our oceans and coasts need protection.
The future of our planet in light of the impact of climate change and environmental degradation was one of the themes running through the 2022 edition of L.A. Art Show. The festival's DIVERSEartLA programming, curated by Marisa Caichiolo, spotlighted collaborations between arts and science and/or environmental institutions that spoke to these pressing issues. MUMBAT Museum of Fine Arts of Tandil and Museum of Nature and Science Antonio Serrano of Entre Rios Argentina joined forces in presenting "The Earth's Fruits," an installation from Argentinian artist Guillermo Anselmo Vezzosi, with music by Maria Emilia Peralta. Here, Vezzosi transforms waste into trees that gently sway as the sounds of nature permeate Peralta's ambient score.
A cooler future for Angelenos was at the center of "Recognizing Skid Row As A Neighborhood:Skid Row Cooling Resources." The installation, curated by Tom Grode, documents efforts to provide cooling stations and necessities like cold water to Skid Row locals during the summer of 2021. The neighborhood is what's known as an "urban heat island," meaning that its lack of shade combined with heat-absorbing surfaces causes temperatures to rise. With signs and fans that people could decorate, the cooling station project became an example of art activism.
"The Other Waterfall," presented by MUSA, Museum of the Arts of the University of Guadalajara and MCA Museum of Environmental Science, is artist Claudia Rodriguez's reflection on the pollution of the Santiago River in Mexico. A massive, white net hangs at the center of the installation. It was the result of a collaboration between Rodriguez, social psychologist Ana Joaquina Ramirez, artist Rosina Santana and many activists called "Redes," where the 2153 square foot net made of recycled plastic was displayed in protest of government inaction that led to the contamination of the river. The net, made by over 400 people using a crotchet-style technique, represented the foam in the contaminated Santiago River.
Elsewhere inside L.A. Art Show, artists and galleries look at the future of art. For over 120 years, family-run Judson Studios has been designing and making stained glass in Los Angeles. Their work can be seen at Forest Lawn in Glendale, Los Angeles' Central Library and the Natural History Museum as well as a number of Southern California churches and homes. Today, they employ both traditional and modern techniques in making glass art.
In recent years, the local studio has collaborated with artists like James Jean, Shay Bredimus and El Mac on projects that use stained and/or fused glass processes. "Pagoda Umbrella," displayed at L.A. Art Show, brings together James Jean's colorful, illustrative style with Judson Studio's glass work and is part of a larger installation called "Pagoda."