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LOS ANGELES — High above Los Angeles on a hill near Silverlake and Los Feliz, Barnsdall Art Park has played an important role for many emerging artists in the city as a site for both education and exhibition. Its Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery is a fitting locale for Made in LA, the Hammer Museum–led biennial of contemporary Los Angeles artists that’s following close on the heels of the multi-venue Pacific Standard Time, which celebrated postwar art in the area from 1945 to 1980.
“Los Angeles is home to some of the most original and innovative artists working today,” the biennial’s About page notes. “Spread out across varied neighborhoods, the region can be seen as a microcosm of the nation — and even of the world — with all its diversity, complexity, and vibrancy.” But since the city is so large, we need biennial shows like these to put all the art in one place.
The Municipal Art Gallery portion, which I saw recently, doesn’t disappoint. There’s an installation by The Propeller Group, a collective that includes artists in Vietnam, as they gather at the creative studio of marketing company TBWA\Vietnam to talk about rebranding communism. It’s a familiar practice for anyone who’s sat in on marketing meetings or seen Mad Men, but it’s striking to see the tools of capitalism used in the context of communism. Manila-born artist Miljohn Ruperto plays with replicas and duplication with an installation of copies of Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea produced in Dafen Village in Shenzhen, China. Beneath these paintings are multiple screens of Ruperto’s own remake of an episode of an Alfred Hitchcock TV show.
Other works that caught my eye include an installation by Honolulu-born artist Cayetano Ferrer, who re-created casino culture in carpets and flashing lights. It’s a mashup of many different casino tropes, but mesmerizing and addictive, a world deliberately designed to feel separate from most daily life. Artist Michele O’Marah, hailing from Vallejo, CA, looks at the glamour of fashionista Isabella Blow in a series of sculptural objects, along with a video depicting Blow in a Devil Wears Prada–esque wonderland. The dry seduction of both of these installations got me thinking about the dry seduction of the art world, and its participants’ quests for glamor, truth and a touch of fame.
The Barnsdall Park section of Made in LA 2012 is on view at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (4800 Hollywood Boulevard) until September 2.