CAA News Today


posted by Christopher Howard — Dec 18, 2008

Since the mid-1950s, Los Angeles has been a hotbed of new art and groundbreaking galleries, museums, and other art spaces and institutions. Throughout the greater LA area are many pockets of art-world panache, from Malibu to Culver City to Chinatown. With the 2009 conference headquartered at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown LA, we thought we would start with a focus on the robust gallery culture there and in its subdistricts.


Claudia Parducci, Shatter-5, 2007, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72 in. (artwork © Claudia Parducci)

A short walk or cab ride from the conference, Chinatown has a long history of culture and commerce dating back to the late nineteenth century. In the 1930s, Chinatown’s central plaza saw development as a tourist attraction with the creative help of Hollywood set designers. The cinematic simulacrum of Chung King Road is now the high street of the area’s gallery scene. While the art that is shown is cutting-edge contemporary, the galleries still pay tribute to the culture and history of Chinatown, often repurposing the original storefront names to give us spaces called China Art Objects, Black Dragon Society, and the Happy Lion.

Recommended Galleries

A nonprofit organization since 2003, Telic Arts Exchange serves as a platform for exhibitions, performances, screenings, lectures, and discussions on art, architecture, and media, with an emphasis on social exchange, interactivity, and public participation. From its basement location, Betalevel similarly operates as a studio, club, stage, and screening space. Its members are artists, programmers, writers, designers, agitprop specialists, filmmakers, and reverse engineers.

The bad-boy scenesters of contemporary art, including Dash Snow, Dan Colen, Bruce Labruce, and Terence Koh, are represented by Peres Projects. Here you’ll find edgy, trendy, abrasive, and provocative art, often collaged from detritus and other nonart materials—the stuff recent biennials are made of.

Installation view of Christopher Michlig’s exhibition Negations at Jail in 2008 (artworks © Christopher Michlig; photograph by Peter Lograsso and provided by Jail)

Black Dragon Society is another uber-hip gallery that focuses largely on painting, such as the faux-naïve, Mad magazine–inspired work of Steve Canaday and the informal portraiture of Raffi Kalenderian. China Art Objects features artists such as Walead Beshty, Pae White, and Bjorn Copeland, who also performs in the noise band Black Dice.

Presenting installation, video, new media, and technology-minded work, Fringe Exhibitions opened in 2006 with work by Survival Research Laboratories. The gallery’s website features a Net art project each month.

Kontainer has a painting-heavy roster, and Acuna-Hansen Gallery presents a number of drawing specialists, such as Eric Beltz and Tracy Nakayama, in addition to artists who work in photography and sculpture. The Fifth Floor Gallery and David Salow Gallery were two of nine Chinatown venues that hosted CalArts’ MFA exhibition, We Want a New Object, in May 2008. Both feature artists working in diverse mediums.

Mesler and Hug Gallery is big on multimedia installation, and Bonelli Contemporary maintains an Italian presence in Chinatown, showing mostly painting and drawing. High Energy Constructs is an exhibition and performance venue, and the Mountain Bar, a nightclub and gallery space, is a central hangout spot for artists and anchors the area.

Other recommended spaces include Farmlab/Under Spring Gallery; Mandarin; Happy Lion Gallery; LMAN Gallery; and Sister. Cottage Home is a unique venue run by Sister, China Art Objects, and Tom Solomon Gallery, with monthly solo and group shows alternately staged by each gallery.


Another area downtown, located just a short walk or bus ride from the convention-center complex, is Gallery Row. A seven-block concentration of galleries in the very center of downtown, Gallery Row was designated by city council in 2003 as a thriving, pedestrian-friendly, culturally abundant, urban locus of art and nightlife. In a few short years, this experiment in urban planning has changed these blocks into a spontaneous laboratory of street art and creative culture, with fashion shows, live music, spoken word, and traditional art exhibitions. The following galleries are located in or near this area.

Recommended Galleries

Pharmaka is a nonprofit gallery in downtown Los Angeles

Located in the main lobby of the Banco Popular Building, *BANK has developed a distinctive curatorial platform showcasing emerging and midcareer artists, such as the work of Paul Butler, known not only for his own work but also for his Collage Parties. MATERIAL, a critical arts journal, is a creation of the *BANK artist Kim Schoen and Ginny Cook. Similarly, a new nonprofit organization called Phantom Galleries LA places temporary art installations in vacant storefront windows throughout Los Angeles County; its call for proposals is open ended.

Established in spring 2007, Morono Kiang Gallery promotes contemporary art by both recognized and emerging artists, focusing on Chinese art from the last decade. Recently shown artists include Xu Bing, Ai Weiwei, Li Jin, and Liu Qinghe.

Jail presents solid curated group shows, including Hef, dedicated to the founder of Playboy magazine, as well as solo exhibitions by emerging artists such as Christopher Michlig. Bert Green Fine Art focuses on contemporary painting and work on paper. Recently shown were works by the underground fanzine legend Dame Darcy and the horror novelist Clive Barker.

Founded in 1979, LA Artcore is an established nonprofit with two gallery spaces for solo, two-person, and thematic group shows. The space also hosts international and regional exchange shows. The newer Pharmaka, another nonprofit space, stages curated exhibitions while also programming lectures, panel discussions, podcasts, and accessible community events.

Other neighborhood highlights include Compact Space, which recently moved to the area, and De Soto, which is strong on photography. The work of gallery artist Connie Samaras appeared on the cover of the Summer 2008 issue of X-TRA, a Los Angeles–based quarterly art magazine.

Rounding out the recommended downtown galleries is the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, which in addition to staging group exhibitions offers large-format printing from artists’ and photographers’ digital files with an Epson 9800 archival printer.


There’s lots more to downtown Los Angeles, with the Museum of Contemporary Art, the REDCAT Galleries and Theater, and the Frank Gehry–designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. Keep an eye out in upcoming issues of CAA News and at to see the growing list of galleries, previews, and highlights of the Los Angeles scene, a West Coast bastion of culture and cool.

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