Beyond Hollywood
Made in L.A. at Hammer Museum

Every other year, Made in L.A. takes stock of the current art scene in the greater Los Angeles area. The biennial, initiated by the Hammer Museum in 2012, reflects the pioneering spirit of a city that is steadily managing to establish itself as the second-biggest art metropolis in the USA after New York. Los Angeles is not only home to many important artists, including John Baldessari and Laura Owens. A young generation is flocking to the city on account of the relatively inexpensive rents. In recent years, two large contemporary art museums opened in LA, The Broad and the Marciano Art Foundation, and major international galleries such as Sprueth Magers and Hauser & Wirth have branches in the city. And the Frieze art fair announced that after London and New York it will soon also have a presence in Los Angeles. In February 2019 Frieze L.A., which like all Frieze fairs is supported by Deutsche Bank as the main sponsor, will have its premiere on the grounds of legendary Paramount Studios, where classic movies such as The Godfather and Titanic were filmed.

Far removed from Hollywood’s glamour, Made in L.A. relies on art that critically engages with the present, for example with environmental destruction. Two works deal with the massive forest fires that have wreaked havoc on California in the last few years. While James Benning’s installation Found Fragments combines shocking footage of burnt forests with historical film material of carpet bombings during the Vietnam War, the choreographer Flora Wiegmann implements fears triggered by these catastrophes in the dance performance Reduction Burn.

California’s landscape and the history of the region also inspired artists featured in Made in L.A.. Mercedes Dorame has a very personal relationship to the area where Los Angeles was founded in 1781. She belongs to the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe, which was expelled from the region by force. Dorame photographed assemblages installed outdoors. Here ephemeral objects made from feathers, stones, and herbs are akin to a poetic repossession of the land of her ancestors. By contrast, Gelare Khoshgozaran’s video installation Medina Wasl, Connecting Town, which draws parallels between the countryside in the Middle East and California, is decidedly political. At the center of the installation is Medina Wasl, a replica of an Iraqi village in a military camp in the middle of the Californian desert where the U.S. Army trains for operations in the Middle East.

With artists such as Khoshgozaran, who was born in Teheran, and Naotaka Hiro from Japan, the exhibition showcases the cultural diversity of the Los Angeles art scene. The ages of the participants also vary widely, ranging from 29 to 97. The oldest participant, Luchita Hurtado, is one of the biennial’s most exciting artists. The Venezuelan comes from a circle of Surrealists that includes Leonora Carrington and Frida Kahlo and was active in the women’s movement in the 1970s. The paintings on view in Made in L.A. were executed during this period. They address an issue that also preoccupies younger painters such as Christina Quarles: the female body. While in Hurtado’s self-portraits it transforms into a kind of landscape, in Quarles’ work it seems to dissolve and defies categorization. Both are absolutely up to date, and both demonstrate that the medium of painting, declared dead by so many, is still fresh as a daisy – just like the Los Angeles art scene.

Made in L.A. 2018
Until 9/2/2018
Hammer Museum