05/21/2013 07:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Art Adventures This Side of the 405


Now, with summer upon us, are you ready for a little bit of adventure? Art adventure, that is? I heard good things about a group exhibition at Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design. And I became rather intrigued by the exhibition's quirky name, This Side of the 405.


By nature, the job of an art curator is not particularly democratic, considering that organizers of any exhibition must select the most interesting and original artwork and as a result, a number of artists simply don't make the cut. The two curators of this exhibition, Meg Linton and Jeseca Dawson, spent six months visiting more than 100 artists in 85 studios, all of which are located west of the 405 Freeway.


Only 33 artists were finally chosen for this exhibition--an appealing mixture of both well established and lesser-known artists. (In the future, Otis plans to have more exhibitions mapping the Los Angeles art scene in various neighborhoods.) This Side of the 405 is closing June 1 with a special bus tour scheduled for this day. Participants will be taken by a curator to a dozen studios of featured artists, which is a great chance for LA art aficionados to learn what is hiding in their neighborhood.


Every time I visit an exhibition at Otis, I like to wander through the nooks and crannies of the Bronya and Andy Galef Center for Fine Arts. This attractive two-story structure, clad in aluminum, was designed by well-known LA architect Frederick Fisher. As a lucky coincidence, last weekend when I was there Otis's sophomore students had an opening of their exhibition, titled 74. The name comes from the simple fact that there are 74 paintings on display.


Through the years I have been to a number of various art school exhibitions, and most of the time I think that the boys and girls have a long way to go. But this time, I was surprised by the maturity of a number of the works and cleverness of the overall presentation. If I didn't know for sure that I was in a college sophomore show, I would have believed that I was in an exhibition at a well-established gallery or even in a museum.


And now, ladies and gentlemen, let me ask you, how many of you have been to El Segundo, a small town located immediately south of LAX? And I mean going there for pleasure, not for business. Over the last few months I have been there half a dozen times, primarily because the adventurous collectors Brian and Eva Sweeney introduced me to their new private museum, the El Segundo Museum of Art, whose construction was then near completion. Squeezed between two buildings on Main Street, this two-story museum--which opened only in January--has a rather low-key façade, but the moment one enters the adventure begins.


The current exhibition, Truth, deals with human sexuality and is comprised of several dozen artworks spanning 600 years -- from Albrecht Durer engravings to Eadweard Muybridge photos to Gustav Klimt drawings -- most of the works from the Sweeneys' rapidly growing private collection. The narrow, two-story high main gallery space asks for rather inventive presentation, and the hot red vinyl floor along with white lacy curtains, hanging floor to ceiling, give the current exhibition space an alluring sense of adventure.


The museum is open to the public, free of charge, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 5pm. And you definitely want to give yourself extra time to stroll through the nearby streets, with their charming 1950's atmosphere of a well-preserved provincial American town. So, if you are ready to discover a city hidden in plain sight, El Segundo, with its new art museum, could be your place.


Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.