The 2014 L.A. Art Show came and went without a hitch. It was great to see so many people interested and appreciating art as Los Angeles sits on the cusp of becoming a world-class cosmopolitan metropolis due to its creativity and sphere of influence around the globe.
At different periods in history, Los Angeles has been compared to Mediterranean cities like Toulouse, Nice, and Rome, but perhaps a more fitting connection will now be made with its sister city Athens, vis-à-vis it being a center for the arts, learning, philosophy, and its economic, cultural, political, and cultural life and achievements dominated by progressive values.
On the opening night, I had the opportunity to befriend Marcello Bardi, gallery owner of Plaia & Bardi and art collector from New York City. His art collection dates back to the 1920s, when his grandfather purchased rare pieces he enjoyed, and one of the most interesting he had during the art show was from Wang Guangyi, a Chinese artist who is known for his Great Criticism series.
This propaganda piece behind me and Marcello represents a serious critique on the Chinese cultural revolution and its relationship to Western popular branding and imagery. It was appropriate to see that piece since the art show also highlighted emerging Chinese artists and their current interpretation of society, politics, and culture. I also enjoyed work from two great painters from Mexico City, Saner and Apolo Cacho, represented by the Fifty 24MX Gallery; Peter Ferguson, represented by Roq La Rue from Seattle; Kenji Tsutsumi from Japan; Dave McKean from England; Aaron Smith from San Francisco; the Arcadia gallery in New York; the phenomenal John Whipple; and Moscow artist Alexei Bobrusov, who does a lot of work on newspapers.
A gallery in the traditional section had a piece from one of my favorite artists, Bernard Buffet, a French expressionist painter, and I discovered a great Chicano expressionist painter in Cheech Marin's collection, Roberto Gutierrez from East Los Angeles, with a beautiful rendition of a barrio rooftop.
I went on a mural tour in the Arts District with Cindy Schwarzstein of Cartwheel and renowned author of Graffiti L.A. Street Styles and Art Steve Grody, who provided an overview of some of the works done by Zes, Miss Van, Retna, David Choe, Roa, Ron English, Risk, and others.
There we met up with Nuke from famed graffiti crew UTI, and he spoke about one of the first commissioned murals in the city, done in 1992, that depicted the indigenous peoples' struggle from the Patagonia to Alaska. My favorite section of the art show was the MCLA's collection, with work by Mear One, Pablo Christi, Kent Twitchell, Willie Herron, Kofie, and others, and my preferred piece was a wall done in the show by Defer and Big Sleeps from K2S that illustrated the clear perspective of dark progressivism that takes from the bleak content of street influences combined with forward-thinking regional values that accurately reflects the city of Los Angeles.
The art show ended with a phenomenal discussion moderated by MCLA's executive director Isabel Rojas-Williams, and a panel of artists, a lawyer, and public officials, to understand if Los Angeles will once again become the mural capital of the world. I think we are headed on that path.
Photos courtesy of Rodrigo Ribera D'Ebre