LOS ANGELES — Scott Marvel Cassidy’s art makes viewers do a double take. Stylistically, his paintings are located somewhere between realism and magical realism, and this sense is only heightened when his work takes on three dimensions.
In his new project “Levitate the White House,” Cassidy installs a small-scale replica of The Broad Museum of Art inside LAMOA (Los Angeles Museum of Art), a stand-alone gallery project space founded by artist Alice Könitz that’s located on the campus of Occidental College. Rather than look only twice though, viewers get to look three times — there are three pairs of holes through which to peer into the miniature version of the Broad, the gigantic museum located in downtown LA founded by megacollector Eli Broad.
Inside the constructed miniature Broad, Cassidy has composed three diorama scenes that are both comically dark and poignant, tongue-in-cheek art-world critique. In one, we peer into the fictional Peter Guzinya Gallery where three savage men devour and worship a carcass. The discarded bloodied bones have been strewn about the gallery floor. One of the men holds up a skull, likely from the body remains. Terrible artwork surrounds them, like a large painting with the stenciled words “CACA” on it. An over-the-top parody of the art world, this delicately created diorama accentuates a certain cut-throat nature of the art world, while also parodying it.
In another scene, figures dwell in a landscape, with a tiny parody version of the magazine DWELL, which is full of desirable lifestyle photographs, leaning against a wall. In the third room, a reflective wall turns a space into a literal house of mirrors. A wooden structure that looks like a half-built shelf from IKEA creates floors, as if it were a building. Ultimately, this suggests an illusion of order. What is this (art) world and how did so many get trapped inside?
When I asked Cassidy at the opening if he had beef with the Broad, he jubilantly replied that he did not. But it’s clear that his project is a response to the many critiques surrounding the museum. Located in downtown LA, the Broad is both an eyesore of modern architecture and housing for Eli Broad’s gigantic collection of art. Constructed right down the street from Walt Disney Hall, the museum, with its sharp silver slabs jutting out into the sky, feels like headquarters for a martian planet. More importantly, it is evidence of rapidly gentrifying downtown LA, where real estate prices keep going up while the city’s huge homeless population looks on from neighboring Skid Row to rising condos. (According to the Los Angeles Times, the Main Museum, a non-collecting institution, is also slated to open in 2020.)
Cassidy’s Broad diorama, on the other hand, is far from downtown LA, in a grassy field between a chapel and library. The location doesn’t escape gentrification, however: The Eagle Rock/Highland Park neighborhoods are also rapidly gentrifying, even without the building of art museums.
Unless the city of LA and many activists intervene, at some point, the homeless of Skid Row will likely be displaced, pushed out of their itinerant homes by someone whose only aim is to build profitable structures. For art makers, it’s a tough order to deal with. While the Broad makes cultural gems public, it comes at the expense of others who have literally no power. Not everyone can simply peer in and enjoy its offerings, like they can with Cassidy’s miniature rendition of it.
Scott Marvel Cassidy’s “Levitate the White House” continues at the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LAMOA) (Occidental College in Eagle Rock, 1600 Campus Road Los Angeles) through July 26.