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Marissa Gluck, Franklin Melendez and Elizabeth Varnell | Photo: Jill Paider | November 27, 2012
It’s been a buzz-worthy year in the art world, and not just because of a certain museum director. As its inaugural biennial, Made in L.A. 2012, made amply clear, the Southland’s art scene is no longer on the make. It has arrived.
Growing up in what he calls the “gloom and doom” of the Pacific Northwest, punk rebellion and creative expression were one and the same for Joel Morrison. “It was all about killing pop,” he says. “The idea of commodity was sacrilegious, so coming to L.A. to study art at Claremont Graduate University was the complete opposite. It was liberating.” Now the Seattle native’s sculptures—beautiful assemblages of urban detritus recast in high-polish stainless steel or fiberglass—are a hot ticket for international powerhouse Gagosian Gallery and he regularly makes the international circuits (he returned from a recent touring solo show at the gallery’s Hong Kong outpost just as his new work was unveiled at the relaunched Dior boutique on Rodeo Drive). But don’t be fooled by the gloss. Morrison remains an outsider (though his studio has been in the West Adams district for 10 years) and his practice taps into the shifting landscape of the city, its unstable history and the ever-changing aesthetic of the urban experience.
Prior to his newest post as director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Dr. Timothy Potts had been crisscrossing continents for decades. He was born and educated in Australia, where he dreamed of being an archeologist. After receiving his Ph.D. in ancient Near Eastern art and archeology, he shifted gears to curate a successful exhibition for The British Museum. Potts also ran the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, U.K. and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. His move to the Getty combines his academic rigor with his business savvy, a welcome addition to the museum’s already prodigious staff. The museum “is one of the few places that offers a great collection and intellectual environment,” he says. Potts also plans to extend the type of programming the Getty Foundation underwrote for last year’s Pacific Standard Time, a collaboration of more than 60 cultural institutions.
L.A.’s street art scene is mostly a man’s world dominated by brash, oversized murals by international stars like Shepard Fairey and JR. So it’s easy to overlook the unassuming art of Paige Smith. Bringing a more refined sensibility to L.A.’s testosterone-fueled urban art, she creates 3-D handmade paper “geodes.” The small, crystalline sculptures are inserted into the crevices of the city’s decaying infrastructure, including holes in brick walls, an abandoned phone booth and an unused water pipe. “They’re hiding in plain sight,” says Smith, 30, who operates under the design business moniker A Common Name. She says her work triggers a “geological hunt.” Placed mostly on the Eastside and the downtown Arts District, the delicate geodes are designed to deteriorate over time. While the project began as a creative outlet for Smith, who works as a graphic designer, others have quickly taken notice. In June, Smith was commissioned to design a geode for the display box behind The Standard Hotel’s front desk in West Hollywood. Now she’s working on enabling international explorers to replicate these unexpected treasures all over the world.
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