One curator self-published an art magazine for seven years before founding a venue and library. Another includes sunsets in her gallery program via communal hikes to Griffith Park from Thai Town. And a third curates by the moon’s cycle. Keepers of new art venues across Los Angeles are shape-shifting as their pandemic-born ventures reach people who long for community.
2220 Arts & Archives
Few venue programs in the United States approach the relentless elegance 2220 Arts & Archives puts into the world on a weekly basis. And the avant-garde feels warm here. Follow the sound of a wailing horn into the old Bootleg Theater building and you might find percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani playing a drumhead with his mouth. An afternoon block of short films, New Black Wave, Vol. 2, is followed by a talkback with Darol Olu Kae, who casually drops into conversation with writer and California African American Museum curator Taylor Renee Alridge that he just locked picture on a piece of docufiction about beloved jazz pianist and composer Horace Tapscott and the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra ensemble. The two share a hometown of Watts, in South Los Angeles, and the filmmaker discovered they both attended Jefferson High School. That was a real week in September; soon after, Kae was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film.
Poetic Research Bureau, Acropolis Cinema, Black Editions, and other prominent groups and archives find a home base at 2220. Because those programmers make it part of their mission to uplift emerging curators and artists, 2220 offers many direct lines to the heart of collective reinvention circa this moment.
2220 Arts & Archives (2220arts.org)
2220 Beverly Boulevard, Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles
When this independent comedy theater put out an open call for new shows in May, 400 pitches arrived. From that haul came 10 nights of debuts billed for the inaugural Forget About Spaghetti Festival. “See what sticks” is the mantra for the audience and artist. That spirit of play is what The Elysian theater’s executive director and producing artistic director Kate Banford is trying to draw out of every performer who comes through the venue. And it’s working. Artist Amy Chiao and her collaborators used installation design and poetry in a parody of influencer pyramid schemes in Open For Bone Business. As Bone Business Lady, Chiao boils every last joke out of chicken bones as material and capital and requires audience members to help in the ritual cleaning of the fried bird: all on a poignant bed of tinfoil that collapses for an ending we dare not ruin.
The VIP (Very In Progress) programming series, Open Stage sessions, and clowning workshops offered by the theater are all part of an investment in weirdo process over endgame. Banford seems both proud and amused that Elysian is increasingly visible as an incubator for performance art.
“Comedy is art. It doesn’t have to be pretentious to be meaningful,” she says.
The Elysian (elysiantheater.com)
1944 Riverside Drive, Frogtown, Los Angeles
Some of the best-kept secrets in Los Angeles art were outside in plain view before 2020, like Some Clouds, which put small-scale installation art on the banks of the LA River. A roving sonics project called Floating leads a meditative renaissance in the greater LA area with music and sound art events. Floating brings people out to gather against sweeping panoramas: the Malibu mountains, tree-flocked spots like Debs park, and lush gardens across the city have played host to sessions. Donation-based sound baths by various artists are often dog-friendly. Ticketed events feature virtuosic ambient composers like Laraaji. Co-founder Noah Klein defines these dates as “gatherings with artists.” In the weeks to come, Floating will host Drum & Lace, Modern Biology, Odeya Nini, WATA, and Christopher Royal King of This Will Destroy You. Sites like Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden and the Philosophical Research Society are presented as collaborators in these ephemeral performances. Memberships are available for regulars; text communcations facilitate direct connection.
Locations vary, text 310-421-0869
Heavy Manners Library
Prolific writer Matthew James-Wilson’s devotion to archiving and sharing independent publications lives in the physical at Heavy Manners Library. It’s pure joy for research-oriented art punks. Members can borrow books and zines for six weeks at a time. Anyone can use the scanner. Bands play here. Poets read here. Most of the furniture is mounted on wheels to keep performance scenarios flexible. An exhibition wall leads visitors to the basement stairs. Below the library, people might be gathering for a screening hosted by Echo Park Film Center Collective, which used to inhabit the space next door.
For seven years, James-Wilson, also a musician and photographer, self-published a 300-page art quarterly called FORGE. DIY workshops in a performance space can empower people, the founder says, as visitors find themselves on the same plane as the artists who play there. Expect more education-focused programming into the winter at Heavy Manners thanks to a recently donated risograph printer. See more than 30 new paintings by New York-based artist Paul Windle, whose show is aptly titled Heaven’s Basement and references the possibilities of Heavy Manners itself, until November 20.
Heavy Manners Library (heavymannerslibrary.com)
1200 N Alvarado Street, Echo Park, Los Angeles
Fridays–Saturdays 7-11 pm and Sundays 1-11 pm
Junior High Los Angeles
Want to get a tattoo with your best friend? How about a workout in a place that feels safe? Tools to reparent yourself? Junior High offers all this — and an in-house magazine — while centering the health of female, queer, and nonbinary artists of color. The visual art exhibited in the organization’s year-old Glendale space often mirrors this party planet and makes it bigger: Hadley Rosenbaum wrestles sparkle from Grecian vistas into the strange frames of Pretty Weird, an ode in photographs to the eccentric gaps between exhausting societal rules of beauty. That show is up until November 8. Then, a joint exhibition with Nova Community Arts Center, a new neighbor that offers workshops popular with Junior High’s volunteers, will feature artists connected to both venues at Femme Night.
Junior High Los Angeles (juniorhighlosangeles.com)
603 S Brand Boulevard, Glendale, California 91204
Lauren Powell Projects
Often body-forward, queer, and clever, the artwork shown at Lauren Powell Projects makes friendly neighbors with nearby Jumbo’s Clown Room and its risible performance art moments. Powell is brimming to talk about an embargoed dance collaboration she’s laying plans to host at the gallery this summer; it’s a common key for the curator, who’s become known as a relentless champion of the artists she features.
The gallery’s current show — Powell’s seventh to curate at Lauren Powell Projects since it opened in 2021 — is a first for set designer Andy Harman. And it’s the first white-walled installation in the space: A cheeky re-staging of Harman’s Brooklyn studio offers even the same square footage for oversized scrunchie sculptures to loiter near intentional holes in the wall. “I like to say yes to the things people say no to,” Powell laughs.
Harman’s show, leave this like that over there, is up until November 25. You can find Powell leading hikes to Griffith Park many Monday evenings; check the gallery’s Instagram to be sure.
Lauren Powell Projects (laurenpowellprojects.com)
5225 Hollywood Boulevard, Thai Town, Los Angeles
Thursdays–Saturdays, 11 am-6 pm or by appointment
No Moon LA
Solo shows change over with the new moon at No Moon LA, an artist-run gallery founded by Peter Tomka in 2021. Los Angeles-based photographers find mystical energy in their repertoires for No Moon runs: Malerie Marder suspended enormous prints from the ceiling, back-to-back in a single floating panel, for the recent femme flash opus of magical realism called SNAFU (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up). Peter Holzhauer fixated on the explosive periphery of his subjects and the city for his show Untitled, LA, and drew keen visitors to do the same; that is the effect of these shows, which feel very on the brink. And that’s owed to ritual and instinct. The artists’ sun, moon, and Venus signs are posted on the door of No Moon LA’s gallery space along with an interpretive exhibition statement by astrologer Marty Windahl. Walk-throughs led by artists and special guests mark each closing.
No Moon LA (nomoonla.info)
3137 Glendale Boulevard, Atwater Village, Los Angeles
Thursdays–Sundays, noon until 6pm
Editor’s note, 11/09/22, 1:33pm EST: A previous version of this article misspelled Marty Windahl’s name. It has been corrected.