While our group might have a global footprint, our members are hyper-local. Since I am based in L.A., I’m taking this opportunity to look at artists, events and activities that truly represent innovation in the arts in my city. From key exhibits, to live performances, to hybrid events, to artists and art collectives, we have compiled our Top 10 list of things that were creatively defining in the City of Angeles in 2014.
1. Ryoji Ikeda – live at Royce Hall at UCLA
Ryoji Ikeda, the Japanese sound artist who’s been recording and performing since the mid-nineties, toured with his multimedia project “superposition” in 2014 and performed at UCLA’s Royce Hall on November 7th.
His performance was a sensory-overload of sound, video and performance that explored nature on an atomic scale, looking at the beauty and chaos of our environment through the lens of mathematical notions of quantum mechanics. The end result was a beautifully-executed immersive experience that attempted to look at the granularity of the very foundation of our world.
You can learn more about the piece here.
2. Andy Warhol “Shadows” at the MOCA Grand
Having a Warhol exhibit in Los Angeles wouldn’t normally be considered a “top” cultural experience, but there’s something very unique about this particular series that makes it something special. The piece is an monumental painting, made of of 102 individual pieces, that is a somber reflection of life’s minutia.
Andy Warhol’s Shadows are the line between the American dream and the American death. They are as dark as they are glamorous; they are as meditative as they are explosively hallucinatory; they are mourning mirrors with no reflections; they are a long film strip of serial images that evoke experimental film and the drones of the Velvet Underground. They are visual music. – MOCA Director Philippe Vergne
These paintings are a unique part of Warhol’s body of work in that they move away from the surface experience and really drill-down into a place that’s more reflective and existential.
3. Hybrid Art Events:
One of the more exciting things that’s been happening in Los Angeles over the past year has been the continued series of events that combine art, music and performance. While some of these events have been happening for years (in the case of Freewaves, 20+ years), it seems like the combination of creative output, DIY thinking and the will to develop a multi-disciplinary experience has propelled these kind of events into something that more is reflective of our culture.
Here are just a few of the events that stood out for us in 2014.
U.R. Art Festival
This event was originally conceived of as a day party on the Westside of Los Angeles by DJ’s and producers Rob Garza (Thievery Corporation), Philipp Jung (M.A.N.D.Y. / Get Physical Music) and John Wander (Roam Music).
The events were held on Sunday’s at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station Arts Center, this summer series focused on music, delicious food, innovative fashion, and interactive art activities and included an all-ages focused environment with a designated area for kids. The music included international and local musical talents including the event producers themselves along with friends like Andhim, Mightykat, Guillaume and the Coutu Dumonts.
This highly unique event has gone international, launching an event in Playa del Carmen, Mexico as of January 2015. We can look forward to the 2015 season of events beginning in the Summer of 2015 back on the Westside of Los Angeles.
We Open Art Houses
While WOAH’s official mission statement claims that they are “A Los Angeles based creative agency and idea hub, WOAH connects visionary projects with new terrain,” they are in essence much more than this. One must experience one of their events to really get it.
With a series of “pop-up” events in L.A. over the past year (and a 7,000 ft. space in Houston, TX) their stand-out event of the year was B.Y.O.B. – Bring Your Own Beamer which was part of a worldwide series of one-night-exhibitions curated around the world, that was conceived by artist Rafaël Rozendaal, with the first iteration popping-up in Berlin 2010.
For 20+ years Freewaves has created public media art events at a variety of venues in and around Los Angeles. By using public spaces and collaborations to show video and new media art, they have established themselves as the preeminent new media art group in Los Angeles.
Their mission of presenting works that are “multiple, scalable, online, at established and nontraditional venues” gives them a unique and challenging environment in which to operate. Their curatorial process dictates a forced symbiosis with other artists, institutions and organizations. It’s this core principle that makes the such a special group.
4. Miller Rodriguez – aka “Prettypuke”
This talented LA photographer has risen to fame on Social Media over the past few years, propelling him from local music/art scene tastemaker to international art star. The very medium he chooses, the photograph, in his hands and through the digital ecosystem in which he inhabits, becomes an ephemeral moment only slightly slowed-down by the retina-burning imagery of his subjects.
You may see a cryptic message of “4  E V E R \\\ H U S T L I N” or something similar with his photos. He’s developed an other-worldly hip-hop vernacular that’s at once insider to a community, while at the same time totally alien to even the most switched-on street art kid. His captivating images have been used by Alife revival campaign and Boy London, and he’s been featured in Vice, done press photos for SIA, Krayshawn and the list goes on and on.
It’s not just the fact that Miller’s star is on the rise, it’s that his work is so singular and his style so specific that you instantly know when you see a Prettypuke photo. It’s a rare thing to have a unique style in photography, and even rarer still at such a young artist. Watch Mr. Rodriguez in 2015, there are big things in his future.
5. The Date Farmers
Armando Lerma and Carlos Ramirez, The Date Farmers, began working together in the late nineties. Their work, including paintings, collages, sculptures, effigies, installations, and videos are rooted in Mexican and California culture and is influenced by street art, tattoo art, traditional revolutionary posters, prison art and lowrider art. These elements all come together to form a completely unique and distinctively Mexico/Southern California visual vocabulary.
In addition to their ACE Gallery exhibit in 2014, they have been featured on KCET’s Artbound and have done art and video work for N.A.S.A. This year was a big year for the Date Farmers. Here at our camp, we’ll be keeping an eye out for them in 2015.
6. Human Resources Gallery
Human Resources has been instrumental in the Chinatown emerging arts scene, but unlike it’s contemporaries on Chung King Road, it has kept the content of it’s gallery firmly focused on nontraditional, conceptual, performance and more “underexposed modes of expression.”
7. Top Records by L.A. Bands / Producers
Here are records by LA artists that have been in wide-rotation in our camp for the past year.
Gangs – Gangs E.P.
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
Sun Araw – Belomancie
Ras G – Down to Earth
Ariel Pink – pom pom
Matthewdavid – In my world
The Koreatown Oddity – 200 Tree Rings
Deru – 1979
Steve Roden – Flower & Water
Nels Cline and Julian Lage – Room
8. 2014 LA Biennial
“Made in LA” serves as the most comprehensive display of Los Angeles-based artist’s work. The 2014 the event was curated Karin Higa and Michael Ned Holte and featured some of LA’s biggest, as well as up-and-coming artists.
9. James Turrell – “Breathing Light” at LACMA
Much has been said and written about the James Turrell retrospective exhibit at LACMA, so I won’t delve too far into the details here. Sufficed to say, “Breathing Light” is an amazing and immersive exhibit and really takes time to fully appreciate.
Turrell emerged from the so-called “Light and Space” group of artists (which included Robert Irwin, Mary Corse and Doug Wheeler) in the late sixties and undertook some of the most expansive and ambitious projects in this space. His “Roden Crater” project, for example, is a cinder cone type of volcanic cone from an extinct volcano, with a remaining interior volcanic crater. This 3-mile-wide crater has been altered, with the inner cone of the crater being transformed into a massive naked-eye observatory, designed specifically for the viewing and experiencing sky-light, solar, and celestial phenomena.
Since “Breathing Light” was commissioned for the museum and acquired for the permanent collection, the exhibit is will be up and running for the duration of 2015.
10. KCHUNG RADIO
For the past few years KCHUNG radio has emerged as a truly underground radio outlet for Los Angeles. The programming is radically diverse. You can hear everything from new age guided meditation, to social activist information to death metal and everything in between. The volunteer-run station is organized almost like a public access station, if that public access station were run by the coolest and most dialed-in music scene people you know.