Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013


LA><ART’s public art initiatives take contemporary art to the streets L.A.P.D. (LA Public Domain)

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by LAXART

As the leading independent nonprofit contemporary art space in Los Angeles, LAXART is linking contemporary art and community—a vital coalition in an international city bursting with creative innovators. Dedicated to artistic and curatorial freedom, LAXART supports ambitious and experimental exhibitions and public art projects with emerging and mid-career artists that respond to the cultural climate of the city. In collaboration, we produce new artwork that takes conceptual and material risks; work that is unlikely to be realized within the traditional museum setting, but is an important part of the story of L.A.’s dynamic art scene. A key component of our artist-centered programming, LA Public Domain (L.A.P.D.) art initiatives literally bring art out of the gallery space and to the streets. The program provides a platform and support for aspiring and critical public interventions that engage diverse audiences and respond directly to urban spaces. Aligned with the LA2050 approach, L.A.P.D. shares the innovations of the next generation in new and exciting frameworks; this year, two sculptural installations in public parks, five billboards across the city, and a commissioned mural on our own building façade. The 2013 L.A.P.D. showcases LAXART’s unique programming model and continues our record of success in the public domain. Los Angeles-based artist Anna Sew Hoy has proposed a site-specific sculptural public art installation at Kings Road Park in West Hollywood. Responding to the park’s constellation-like design with a water fountain, waterfall, jungle gym, and seating, Hoy will create a dimensional work made of glazed stoneware, painted hoops, and an embedded mirror to highlight the act of seeing, offering passersby a viewfinder, a mirror reflection, and an opaque silhouette. Visitors will be able to see something new every time they visit by reflecting different views as they navigate the natural surroundings. LAXART will also produce the first public artwork with L.A. artist Sam Falls. Inspired by the history of minimalist sculpture and an interest in photography, he is creating a post-minimalist aluminum sculpture with paint that fades in the sunlight over time. A site-specific work weighing approximately 250 pounds, the piece will have colored panels that could shift from dark to light over the course of a day. The work will be installed in conjunction with a major exhibition, billboard project, and publication at LAXART in November, and may remain on-site for as long as two years. Billboard art has been a signature of LAXART since 2006. Whether an element of an artist’s first solo exhibition or as part of a major regional survey, billboards allow artists to break from tradition and share their ideas in large-scale. In 2013, five L.A.P.D. artists will be added to a list that includes Raymond Pettibon, Walead Beshty, Mungo Thomson, Doug Aitken, Mark Bradford, Charlie White, Kate Costello, Roy Dowell, Fay Ray, Meg Cranston, Harrell Fletcher, and more. LAXART’s Culver City site has always had a direct relationship with the street and that expressive presence connects community members with the work. The first painting on the façade, by Daniel Joseph Martinez, presented a composed text that read, “beauty… it rubs against one’s tongue it hangs there hurting one insisting on its own existence finally it gets so one cannot stand the pain then one must have beauty extracted.” This project became a part of the identity of the space, as an emblem for the organization that creates dialogue inside and out. Since then, artists such as Karl Haendel, Sanya Kantarovsky, Dianna Molzan, and the renowned L.A. collective Slanguage, have used the façade as their canvas. In 2013, a new L.A.P.D. wall mural on our La Cienega building will be viewed by thousands of drivers and pedestrians traversing on the iconic L.A. thoroughfare. The L.A.P.D. program impacts L.A.’s arts and cultural vitality in the long-term, as it explores the myriad ways that artists speak to audiences and expands the field of how they make work. Each new project gives new perspective on current practices and reveals how city audiences are engaging with the work. LAXART continues to question of the validity of given contexts for the exhibition of contemporary art, architecture, and design. As the forum evolves, we can work toward a new, progressive exhibition modeled after L.A.P.D., with a range of work that lives in the L.A. cityscape with vast accessibility—instead of entering a formal institution to find art, locals walk out their front door and encounter art as they go about their day. This momentum is building toward our most significant exhibition to date, The Occasional, a citywide initiative based on international artist residencies and newly commissioned work in experimental contexts throughout the city that give the public opportunities for interaction with artists from around the world.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Since its founding in 2005, LAXART has realized over 200 projects with artists such as Walead Beshty, Glenn Kaino, William Leavitt, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Yunhee Min, Ruben Ochoa, Mark Bradford, Nicole Miller, Thomas Lawson, Kori Newkirk, Michael Queenland, Wade Guyton & Kelley Walker, Charles Gaines, Lisa Tan, Harrell Fletcher, Torolab, Leslie Hewitt, Vishal Jugdeo, and Kamrooz Aram. LAXART continues to support creative pioneers by anchoring programming around commissions of work that takes conceptual and material risks and inspires community dialogue. LAXART is dedicated to giving emerging art-makers their first solo exhibition and works in tandem with them to realize interventions in the public domain.

The organization’s landmark project was the 2012 Performance and Public Art Festival, co-organized with the Getty Foundation under the umbrella of the major regionwide initiative, Pacific Standard Time: L.A. Art 1945-80. The 11-day festival featured new public artworks throughout the city; a dramatic sampling of the large-scale spectacles, expansive performances, and small-scale interventions that punctuated the history of postwar art in Los Angeles. In addition, new performances premiered each day, including outdoor visual spectacles, experimental theater and sound art, social and political interventions, and media art. A nightly after-party, Black Box, provided a space for socializing, and included surprise performances each evening.

LAXART welcomes the community to interact with contemporary art as part of the everyday through L.A.P.D. initiatives. Our programming is central to the history of public art in L.A. Highlights include: Ruben Ocha’s 2006 Extracted Freeway Wall Intervention, a photographic image of a Los Angeles landscape stretched on and interrupting a freeway wall; Jedediah Cesar’s Gleaner’s Stone, a resin sculpture temporarily sited at the NE corner of Washington Blvd. and Marcasel Avenue in Culver City as part of the 2008 California Biennial; Doug Aitken’s Migration, the acclaimed artist’s first monumental public project in L.A. seen from Santa Monica Boulevard at Almont Drive in 2009; Joel Kyack’s Superclogger, a mobile theatre mounted in the back of a pick-up truck, which traveled all around Los Angeles to the surprise of other motorists in summer 2010; and Piero Golia’s Luminous Sphere, a blue globe mounted on the top of the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood in 2010-11.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

L.A.P.D.—LA Public Domain encompasses LAXART’s public art initiatives with support from ForYourArt.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Our approach to evaluation is through a self-study process. LAXART measures the success of its exhibitions and education efforts via regularly scheduled curatorial meetings and evaluation sessions amongst staff, advisory board members, and executive board members. We gather press reviews, attendance figures, and comments from the general public, participating artists, curators, and scholars. The director and curators assemble a summary evaluation plan that includes each year’s accomplishments and activities and submits the document to the governance committee for review.

LAXART will evaluate L.A.P.D. in quantitative and qualitative terms. Beyond our ability to realize the planned number of works at the proposed sites with the purpose and quality intended, we will track attendance at interactive events with artists and invite feedback from participants. As attendance figures aren’t plausible for public projects, we will gather critical press and analyze online traffic to determine public opinion and impact. Comments from LAXART visitors will also help us to determine the relevance and viability of the work on our building and billboard, and give us direction for their improvement of the overall program moving forward.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Many major cities have flourishing public art programs that help define the urban landscape and build awareness of contemporary art and culture, yet Los Angeles is lacking in this arena. Through L.A.P.D., LAXART is filling this gap by bringing art to the streets, and inspiring residents to engage with the work. Public artworks can change misconceptions about contemporary art and grow new and diverse audiences, as the art experience changes from a static gallery visit to an organic encounter that is meaningful and inspires dialogue. We are developing a larger audience for the arts in L.A. outside the traditional viewing context, and with repeated exposure, a public that feels ownership of and embraces artwork that emerges locally.

L.A.P.D. benefits Los Angeles artists and audiences. The program gives working artists the opportunity to experiment with new methods and media and to consider their work as part of their home environment. Such projects will help L.A. to sustain its position as a hub for art and culture, and allow us to train and retain the next generation of visual artists, knowing that there are possibilities for their creative practice that await beyond the norm. The LA2050 public projects, including two sculptural installations, five billboards, and a painted building façade are part of an ongoing effort to enhance open spaces. Commissions will add to the character of the city, and we hope that local residents will more readily welcome art in their lives with increased exposure in the public sphere. The city will enjoy a larger audience for contemporary art, as the expansion of L.A.P.D will prepare residents to receive the extensive body of work that LAXART will present in The Occasional in 2015.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

A thriving artist community would be evidence of a healthy Los Angeles in 2050. The culture is at its best when bolstered by the influx of young artists eager to train at our world-class schools and technical centers, launch their careers amidst a diverse fraternity of creative contemporaries, and define our living landscape with distinctive public artworks. We want to create sustainable program for a new generation of artists and curators living and working in our city. As the Foundation reported, L.A. is currently home to the largest concentration of working artists in the nation, and we hope to establish an infrastructure that can encourage and support their work and allow for a steady growth in the artist population. The arts sector needs to multiply in tandem, with a contingent of professionals and organizations as resources for the diverse art-makers who will come to our city from around the world, seeking the freedom to share their ideas in a form that represents their vision and skill.

Our overarching goal for initiatives like L.A.P.D. is to firm a foundation for a community of future Angelenos with an appreciation for contemporary art and a strong commitment to its presence around the city. We foresee a revitalized Los Angeles with public art that enriches cultural life and reflects our position as one of the world’s premier contemporary art destinations. We would have a resident public that is financially and passionately invested in cultural organizations, recognizing the benefit of today’s art to the community. With a patronage that rivals that of New York, Los Angeles can flourish as the cultural hub that its artists deserve.

In terms of our own organization, LAXART is working now to strengthen its future position in the artistic ecosystem. We are dedicated to building our internal capacity so that we can cultivate an expert contingent of curators and serve as many artists as possible; those working locally, nationally, and internationally. A successful LAXART in 2050 is an entity that remains independent and works outside the bureaucracy. Keeping pace with artistic growth, we aim to expand and transform our space into a laboratory for working residencies, with studio space, performance space, and gallery space, as well as a library and archive.

Knowing LAXART’s value to artists as an autonomous entity, we hope that the 2050 L.A. is home to a network of independent organizations that can match the demands of our city’s arts community. Like LAXART, these organizations would be willing to take risks alongside artists and produce cutting-edge work that redefines the art of the time. Our work cannot be replicated by major art institutions; it requires close collaboration in an intimate setting and an open forum free of institutional restraints. Our community would experience a diversity of offerings that matches the vast ethnicity of the regional population, as new voices and cultures would be integrated into the mix.