This year, L.A.'s renowned nonprofit exhibition space LAXART celebrates 5 years as an influential player in the city's thriving art scene. On the occasion of their anniversary, ForYourArt interviewed Founder and Director Lauri Firstenberg about LAXART's role in the cultural landscape, her favorite projects and what she sees for the future of the space.
Celebrate LAXART with their Board of Directors, collaborating artists and patrons at a Secret Gathering and Garden Party Sunday, July 18th at 3pm at the home of Juliette Hohnen Weber and Steven Weber. For tickets and more information email email@example.com.
What inspired you to start LAXART 5 years ago? Why did you feel the city needed a exhibition space like this?
Having moved back home to Los Angeles from NYC where I was curator of Artists Space at the time, I was adjunct during my transition to L.A., and there was preliminary discussion of my opening up Artists Space West, which contextually wouldn't work because it has a very particular history in NYC. However, we spent a couple of years re-acquainting ourselves with L.A., trying to make sense of why the city didn't have a density of independent nonprofit spaces that were sustained over time and supported by the city. We questioned whether this was a void in the city - was it needed - and we interviewed hundreds of artists, curators, critics and patrons to try to get at what was at stake. What kind of space did artists need? How could we participate in a modest way outside of and between the larger existing institutions? We questioned what a viable model for an independent space in L.A. was at the time.
How has the art landscape changed in L.A. since then?
Artists are here in no uncertain terms. That hasn't changed, so the cultural landscape continues to grow and thrive because artists are here on the ground making work. However, spaces and galleries have come and gone, new ones are launching, there is a great deal of turn over, largely due to the economy. There are dramatic shifts in leadership at the museum level and the city feels like it is in a bit of flux. Some of my favorite curators and people have moved to L.A. recently, like Franklin Sirmans and Christine Y. Kim at LACMA and Douglas Fogle and Anne Ellegood at the Hammer, which is incredible for the city. Perhaps it is times like this that artists, writers and curators organize independently and interesting things occur.
Facade of LAXART by Karl Haendel
What are a couple of your favorite projects that you have worked on over the years?
The most challenging have been LAXART public art initiatives with Jedediah Caesar - a sculpture entitled Gleaners Stone on a street corner in Culver City and Piero Golia's Luminous Sphere on the top of The Standard hotel in the city of West Hollywood. Working in the public realm is a dynamic, ongoing process and series of negotiations. We love expanding our audiences by bringing artwork out of the gallery into the street, which we have been doing since we were founded in 2005.
Some of the most rewarding exhibitions have been with Daniel Joseph Martinez, Walead Beshty, Mark Bradford, Ruben Ochoa, Kori Newkirk, Leslie Hewitt, Charlies Gaines, Thomas Lawson, Yunhee Min....there are far too many as we have produced over 100 projects in 5 years. But we always learn incredible lessons from each artist-curator collaboration.
How would you describe LAXART's program?
LAXART produces experimental exhibitions and public art initiatives. Artists produce site-specific proposals for our space in Culver City on La Cienega Boulevard and work intimately with our curatorial team to realize their projects according to the artists' visions. We focus on newly commissioned works such as producing an artist's first experimental film or first monographic publication. Forthcoming projects include Charlie White's all-day performance on September 11th, where he will convert the gallery into a casting agency for audiences to witness the casting of teens for a public art billboard project and Glenn Kaino's exhibition, which opens September 18th and reflects the artist learning how to believe in the art world again and in ideas through the study of magic.
Where do you see LAXART 5 years from now?
LAXART was always meant to be flexible and responsive to the cultural climate and needs and demands of artists. It is interesting, as we approached the 5 year point, we imagined that potentially we could reinvent ourselves, but were told by the community that we played a vital role in the city and that artists needed a space now more than ever.
During the benefit, artist Glenn Kaino will be gathering secrets for his upcoming project at LAXART - what's your secret?
My secret is where LAXART will be in 5 years from now. But I can't stop telling Glenn all of my secrets. Thankfully, they are harbored in a safe that will be a sculpture featured at LAXART in September.
Glenn Kaino, Secret Dinner, Magic Castle, May 2010