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UNUSUAL ART SPACES IN LOS ANGELES

posted by Christopher Howard — Dec 22, 2008

FarmLab/Under Spring

The sun sets behind a water tower located inside the Farmlab Agbin Garden (F.L.A.G.) (photograph © Joshua White and provided by Farmlab)

The seed of Farmlab/Under Spring was planted in the summer of 2005 when the artist Lauren Bon began transforming a thirty-two acre industrial brownfield in the historic center of Los Angeles into a cornfield. Over the course of one agricultural cycle, Bon cleared the industrial debris, brought in 1,500 truckloads of earth, planted one million seeds, and programmed community events throughout the growing and harvesting phases. After handing back the keys to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Bon and the “Not a Cornfield” team moved into a warehouse across the street to continue their investigation of the nature of public space, urban ecology, civic engagement, contemporary visual art, and proactive philanthropy.

In their current location, just north of Chinatown, Farmlab/Under Spring functions as think tank, art-production studio, and cultural-performance venue, hosting weekly salons, lectures, and discussions, as well as periodic exhibitions and art actions around the downtown area and beyond.

Visit http://farmlab.org for activities and projects and to join the Farmlab cause of sustainable cultural practices and community mobilization.

Museum of Jurassic Technology

“The Museum of Jurassic Technology,” says this organization’s website, “is an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic.” Rather than displaying dinosaur bones or leaf-imprinted fossils, this Culver City space showcases strange, diverse collections of objects that could be found in a cabinet of curiosities. Recent exhibitions have included incredibly tiny sculptures, called microminiatures, by the virtuoso musician Hagop Sandaldjian, and a collection of “Napoleana”—relics of the late French emperor (e.g., a piece of fabric, wood from a bookcase, rocks from the Invalides)—that the American civil engineer Charles Evans Fowler (1867–1937) amassed during his lifetime. Neither art nor cultural history, exhibitions at this space will make you rethink what museums are all about.

Lawrence Weschler profiled the Museum of Jurassic Technology in his book Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology (New York: Pantheon Books, 1995). Visit the museum’s quizzical website to learn more.

LAXART

Lauri Firstenberg is a former curator at Artists Space in New York and pulls off her Culver City space, LAXART (or LA><ART), with the same savoir-faire as any venerable “alt space” in New York and beyond. Firstenberg pushes a program focusing on emerging artists and large-scale projects that bring out the art set and the glitterati for festive openings and events. LAXART has truly led the pack in making Culver City a place for art. Neighboring galleries like Blum and Poe and Anna Helwing lend market gravitas, while the funky and strange Museum of Jurassic Technology also makes a cozy neighbor. Billboard projects—apt for a city of freeway stop and go—are often part of the exhibition, so keep an eye out if you’re in the area. See www.laxart.org for the current schedule.

Ooga Booga

Located in Chinatown in the midst of Los Angeles’ leading contemporary art galleries, Ooga Booga displays and sells limited-edition multiples, artist’s books, and more (photograph provided by Ooga Booga)

Located in Chinatown, close to a handful of hip contemporary-art galleries, is Ooga Booga. Opened in 2004 by Lucy Yao, the space is a uniquely curated commercial enterprise that sells books on art and by artists, as well as prints, posters, and ephemera. You can find zines by Raymond Pettibon and Laura Owen and limited-edition artworks such as Mike Kelley’s talking Little Friend plush toy, Tauba Auerbach’s 50/50 buttons, and postcard sets by Ryan McGinley. Clothing by the avant-garde fashion designers and artist-designed totes are also available, in addition to hard-to-find DVDs, CDs, and records by musicians and noisemakers both in and outside the art world.

Ooga Booga also hosts gallery exhibitions and special events, including a recent show on the Zurich-based zine publisher Nieves, which was reviewed in caa.reviews earlier this year.

Wende Museum

The Wende Museum acquires, preserves, and presents cultural and political objects, personal histories, and documentary materials of cold war–era Eastern Europe: household products, clothing, folk art, diaries and scrapbooks, political iconography, photograph albums, posters, films, textbooks, paintings, sports awards and certificates, and children’s toys. Items were salvaged after the end of Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a time when monuments were toppled, documents destroyed, and consumer products discontinued.

See a 2.6 ton piece of the Berlin Wall painted by the muralist Thierry Noir; the complete run of Neues Deutschland, the official East German daily newspaper; and artifacts from the recently demolished Palast der Republik in East Berlin. A recent donation from a former East German border guard includes official documentation that describes the construction and maintenance of the Berlin Wall, as well as the logbooks, stamps, and facial-recognition systems used on the eastern side of Checkpoint Charlie.

The Wende is host two events during the conference. An open house and tour take place on Friday, February 27, 12:30–2:00 PM and 5:30–7:00 PM, where participants can get a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s extensive collections and see the exhibition Facing the Wall: Living with the Berlin Wall. On Saturday night, attend Wende Flicks, a film screening and reception at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, where The Tango Player (1991) will be shown. For full details, visit the CAA conference website.

Institute for Figuring

The Institute for Figuring is the brainchild of Margaret and Christine Wertheim. Twin sisters hailing from Australia, the two offer staggeringly cerebral and stimulating programs and projects that meld their areas of expertise in science and art. Recent lecture series have included “On Seeing and Being: A discussion series about neuroscience and the perception of space” and presentations with Shea Zellweger, a former hotel switchboard operator who developed a “Logic Alphabet” that maps the underlying geometry of formal logic.

The Wertheim sisters and the IFF have gained attention with their traveling Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, a project that explores the intersection of higher geometry, feminine handicraft, and the effects of climate change on the marine world. As itinerant programmers, the IFF organizes collaborations with museums, galleries and spaces all over the world.

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