The Los Angeles art scene is invigorating. I’ve had a particular fondness for the Bergamot Art Station because it’s filled with so many galleries; all within immediate distance from each other. A former train station converted into not one but thirty galleries, make up this center in Santa Monica on Michigan Ave. Not only was there a line to get a parking spot but the area outside was packed with people. It thrills me that Angelenos wait in line to see new art.
I headed straight for William Turner’s Gallery as I was excited to see Suzan Woodruff’s new exhibit; Luminous Matters.
William Turner has been discovering emerging artists since he was the intermittent art editor for Venice Magazine in 1993. His gallery; with a grand floor space of 5,000 square feet, is known for emerging artists and high quality work from artists such as Woodruff.
Last year I was transfixed by Woodruff’s paintings at her opening and this year was no exception. As I stood in front of Dragon’s Tail; a painting of reds and whites, I found my emotions begin to stir again, just like in 2010. Her paintings have an intoxicating way of stirring my emotions while instilling calmness and quietude. Woodruff says to paint is to embrace chaos and it’s clear that her touchstone is nature. She makes you see through new eyes by provocation and is inspired by O’Keeffe, Rothko,Pollack and even the Hubble Space Telescope launched by the space shuttle in 1990.
Anak Rabanal; a cohort of William Turner, noticed me staring at the painting and we began to chat. She shared that Los Angeles has the highest concentration of millionaires in the U.S. per capita yet most high caliber art is exported to China, South America and New York. Three of the top 25 art schools in the country are in Los Angeles; UCLA, Art Center in Pasadena and Otis College of Art and Design in LA. She was passionately explaining how collectors buying art now will most likely end up donating it decades later.
Here are some of Woodruff’s new pieces:
Next I headed to Robert Berman’s Gallery. Berman’s art gallery has been in Santa Monica since 1979. He was one of the first galleries to be located at Bergamot Station Arts Center and is clearly a passionate art lover who prefers edginess to his selection of art. His show The Street’ N Low has a mixture of new surrealists, LowBrow art, and graffiti or taggers art.
LowBrow art began in Los Angeles in the 70’s. Also known by the name pop surrealism; this art can often contain a sense of humor. A celebration of being white and American. What immediately caught my eye was Britt Ehringer’s Don’t Mess With Texas, 2008. Ehringer gets his source imagery from the internet, personal photos, old girlie magazines, art books, dreams. His work is meant to operate as triggers; near-archetypes that open onto a whole sphere of imagery firmly entrenched in the collective subconscious. An American; he spent time in Asia in a marble quarry designing giant carved fireplace mantles, bathtubs, and columns. Don’t Mess with Texas is a woman from a nudist camp playing golf with mountains in the background and colorful cats.
Luke Chueh’s Untitled, 2010. Chueh brings a bit of brute to cute with his paintings straddling comedy and tragedy. Some of his paintings have been made into vinyl toys and his work has been shown around the world. His art is like a nightmare and fun best friend all rolled into one. Or someone who’s got some serious issues but you just don’t mind.
Last but not least; I am a huge fan of Mark Ryden’s work. He was commissioned by Michael Jackson to paint his 1991 Dangerous album cover. I have spent nights reading about the symbolism in that album. We see Michael’s kohl rimmed eyes under Bubbles, his chimpanzee. Glittering lights, cherubim, fairies, bones, insects, and animals all within a rococo design scheme. There were even references to Botticell’s The Birth of Venus, the coronation of King George VI, and Ingres’ Napoleon I On His Imperial Throne. Okay, I’m going to state something for the record here. The bald man on the cover is not Alistair Crowley; a well known freemason. It’s B.T. Barnum. Any MJ fan knows about Michael’s obsession with B.T. Barnum and his desire to create the greatest show on earth; which was Michael’s goal. Okay, I won’t go off on an MJ tangent. The dangerous cover is a separate subject on it’s own but no, it wasn’t full of occult symbolism. Have fun if you want to decode this art work by Ryden.
Mark Ryden’s Fur Girl caught my eye. What can I say about Ryden that hasn’t been said. He chooses subjects filled with cultural connotation which transcends the Surrealists’ strategies of working on the subconscious & collective memories. Always leaving the audience challenged by unnerving us.
I leave you with a picture or two of Robert’s dog Sophie. She was hanging out in the back of the gallery keeping an eye on things.