Make Something of Yourself. Made in L.A. 2014

“If you are committed to love, courage, magic, fearless adventuring into the unknown, and continuous expansion for all on this earth and beyond, please take a booklet.”  The invitation from artist Jennifer Moon is written on the wall of the Hammer museum next to a framed self-portrait.  She’s one of over 35 LA based artists represented here in the Made in LA 2014 show, up now through September 7th.

Her visual work includes a rainbow colored wall mural with text, a dream-like manipulated digital image, and a sculptural egg diorama, inside which one can see a kind of other-planetary world, the inhabitants of which are waiting for our arrival.  Many of the artists here use a variety of mediums to explore their chosen themes, giving the whole show a sense of urgency where message over material reigns. Instead of becoming known for one discipline, these underrepresented artists seem to want to be known for their defiance.

I went to the show for the first time last week and am already planning a second visit.  Seeing the survey reminds me of when I saw the early Whitney Biennials; like a curtain had been pulled from the mundane world, only to reveal a display of inventiveness and creativity beneath.  Where the New Museum proves it difficult to show exciting work in a traditional setting, the Hammer shows how an institution can amplify the intimate and personal questions that arise from the artists’ studio.

Samara Golden, Hammer Museum,

Samara Golden, Thank You, Made in L.A. 2014, Hammer Museum,

The stand out piece is “Thank You,” an experiential installation by Samara Golden.  Her world is a painted room with teal and mirrored walls where an audience of dolls heads await.  There they sit and watch as you put on your 3D glasses after which their faces will pop into space and urge you to stay and look around a while.  Then you’re lost in mess of unfurling ribbon, Casio watch collages and blue jeans that only make sense if you drop your need to interpret anything at all.

Channing Hansen,  Hammer Museum,

Channing Hansen, Polytope Soap. Handspun and dyed Merino, Corriedale, Cheviot,
holographic polymers Romney, and Teeswater Locks, yak down, silk noils, commercial thread,
cotton, viscose, polyamide, and cedar, Made in L.A. 2014, Hammer Museum

Channing Hansen would probably challenge you to spin-off if you said his knit-bombed wooden frames weren’t paintings.  As one onlooker noted – the intentional holes in the flat surface remind one “not to forget a sweater,” and yet, the drips of yarn look like color that’s come off a brush.  And if you want to wind a web of narrative around the steam-of-consciousness like canvas, he might remind you that a computer program dictated his aesthetic decisions.

James Kidd Studio, Hammer Museum,

James Kidd Studio, Gold Space, Made in L.A. 2014, Hammer Museum,

Unique to the Hammer is the courtyard, where visitors can see outdoor works, watch a dance rehearsal and eat lunch at the same time.  A balcony overlooks the enclosed outdoor space so you have can watch the activity above.  And there’s plenty that’s happening on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, when the James Kidd Studio presents Gold Stage, an experimental practice in a public yet protected rehearsal space.

On the morning I am there, Nick Duran is practicing for “every time you are near,” a performance that will show more formally on the same stage on August 15th, 16th and 17th at 2pm. I’ve seen Nick before, in the privacy of a Home LA performance and was mesmerized by his moves right away.  His quiet self-comforting dance in a low lit shed turned to more a self-satisfied drama one might like to do across from a mirror.

Today’s choreography also holds meditative and performative qualities together.  His peaceful sitting and samurai-like forms fit together with broader sweeping motions, both of which blend well with the bamboo behind him.  Some of his props, a record player and the covers of albums from the 60s, are also familiar to me from the first time I saw him dance, although this time there’s a big oriental rug that lies halfway between the stage and the floor.  Later, he’ll tumble down to floor, following the shape of the rug, as if he’s responding to the space, albeit setup with intention.

On the side of the stage is Juan Capistrán’s subversive message written in rocks: “I Am Hoping To See The Day.”  Again, the work is reflective of the space, as if it were written by the walls rather than by a heavy curatorial hand.  As a result, we’re left with the echo of the artist’ confrontational voice to contend with.

Made in L.A. 2014
Hammer Museum
Los Angeles through September 7th.  

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by Emily Kramer
in Focus on the West Coast

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