The 2013 L.A. Art Show was a spectacular event, from the Patron Reception with special Guest of Honor James Franco, the Premier Party, hosted by actress Ali Larter and comedian Hayes McArthur, to the weekend finalé, closing on Sunday, January 27. Hors d’oeuvres circulated, champagne flowed and the finest of art abounded.
Galleries from London to L.A. elegantly displayed representative art works that ranged from classical to contemporary. The frames alone in the L.A. Art Show were masterpieces enough, but to stand centimeters away from original paintings, etchings and drawings by Rembrandt, Renoir, Cassatt, Chagall, Picasso, Degas, Dali and more being showcased by the likes of Galerie Michael (Beverly Hills), George Stern Fine Arts (West Hollywood), and Schiller & Bodo European Paintings (New York City), left me devoid of breath. It took hours to venture over to the modern and contemporary side of the Los Angeles Convention Center, which again motivated pure excitement and inspiration. Each piece was nothing less than exquisite.
One of the fantastic things about the show was that celebrities walking the red carpet and common folk alike had access to the gallery owners and visiting artists. Many of the galleries hosted one or more of their artists throughout the week. What an amazing experience it was to walk into the S.R. Brennen Galleries (Palm Desert, Santa Fe and Scottsdale) on opening night, instantly fall in love with the incredible realist work of Nelson Shanks, only to turn around and find a warm welcoming gallery host, Martha Goetz, who quickly introduced me to this living legend right on the spot. Neil Shanks’ work is painterly, seamless in technique, and seemingly confrontational, as his figures gaze directly at the viewer, or rather Shanks’ scrutinizing eye, while bathing in light and shadows. I returned again and again to S.R. Brennen to view his work, along with paintings by Liu Yuan-Shou, referred to as “Red” in China, as his sumptuous figurative paintings embody red in color and in nature.
Upon venturing over to the modern and contemporary section of the show, I stepped into The McLoughlin Gallery (San Francisco), intrigued by the streamline installations of their featured works. One installation that captivated me in particular was the photography of multimedia artist Cristobal Valecillos. Cristobal creates environments made from re-used paper products, complete with model perfect figures costumed with high fashioned fibers which he proceeds to photograph, culminating in large format prints that verily catch and draw in the eye. I later found out that the McLaughlin Gallery gives back by giving a percentage of their net sales to Stanford Cancer Center to aid efforts to prevent and treat breast cancer – very Ask Miss A, I must say. After speaking with gallerist Antonio Cortez about the artist, he sent me down the hall to an even larger installation of Cristobal’s work, co-hosted by the McLaughlin and the Timothy Yarger Fine Arts (Beverly Hills and Bangkok) galleries.
There, I found Elizabeth Yochim, the Director of International Exhibitions for Timothy Yarger, dressed in a flowing gown, streaming paper color, and clutching a dramatic fan. She appeared as if she walked right out of one of the photographic scenes, beautifully popping the photographic installation into a 3-dimensional experience.
When I visited their main gallery booth on Saturday, Elizabeth, along with Timothy Yarger himself, talked with me at length about yet another artist that I fell in love with, Udo Noger. They were warm, knowledgeable and so very easy to converse with. Elizabeth spoke to me about the artist’s intent of creating and expressing light and his layered multidimensional process.
Rehs Galleries, Inc. from New York City first caught my attention because of their exquisite gold museum frames and stunning classical art, but soon held my heart when I began to speak with the 2nd and newly 3rd generation gallery owners, Howard L. Rehs and his daughter Alyssa T. Rehs, who just graduated from the University of Rhode Island. Howard’s father and Alyssa’s grandfather began the family art business selling crate loads of art to the people of New York, full crate at a time. With the grandmother’s push to establish a place of business, he began to break open the carts and sell the works individually, until they finally opened their gallery on 57th Street. Now their stunning traditional and contemporary pieces are acquired mostly through private collectors and auction houses. It was so fun to stand in the midst of such a history and at the same time stand beside the present and future of the gallery, run by a gracious and lovely father and daughter team.
One of the other highlights of the show was meeting visual artist and actor Alexander Yulish, along with his beautiful friend and creative uncle, while they were shooting pictures of Alexander and his expressive self portrait at The Art of Elysium booth. They were warm and inviting creative souls, and were genuinely excited about Alexi’s part in the show as well as the magnitude and beauty of the entire event.
Their joy may have also come out of knowing that Alexander’s expressive portrait will be going to a wonderful cause. The Art of Elysium, a major beneficiary of the proceeds from The L.A. Art Show, will be holding an auction on February 20 which is being curated by Andrea Fiuczynski, President of Christie’s L.A., one of the biggest auction houses in the country. Alexi’s painting, along with the sampling of drawings and paintings donated and displayed at The Art of Elysium’s booth this year, will be auctioned off either live during the event or on-line to raise funds for The Art of Elysium. The non-profit organization, founded in 1997, affords an incredible opportunity for hospitalized youth suffering from debilitating health issues to be comforted and inspired by the arts via a wide range of talented artists in our LA community. Through workshops in Fashion Design, Fine Arts, Music, Theatre, Media Arts and Arts Based Self-Esteem, artists are enabled to warm these kids’ hearts and inspire their creativity. It’s a wonderful organization that brings a lot of happiness to kids and families in unfortunate situations, while also helping to advance the work of emerging artists.
China Fusion, a special gathering of galleries from Shanghai and Beijing, unveiled a range of contemporary art works from the continent of Asia. Displayed were traditional landscape panels, sumi ink drawings of panda bears, and my favorite: a spectacularly colorful painting of two horses by a young painter from Tibet named Deng Yonggang, which caught a never ending stream of admirers.
The L.A. Art Show also provided a number of lectures and panel discussions. “Rebuilding Our Heritage: Ordinance Reform and the Impending Mural Resurgence in L.A.” was hosted by Isabel Rojos-Williams of the Mural Conservatory of Los Angeles on Saturday evening. The panel afforded a great contrast to the rest of the show, as they spoke about issues and opportunities surrounding public works, namely mural and graffiti art. The panel, ranging from artists, conservationists and policy makers, brought forth an intelligent and thoughtful dialogue about the importance of creating and preserving public artworks that communicate our history as a people, all of our people. Glenna Avila, Tanner Blackman, Chris Espinosa, Judith Hernandez, and Man One spoke from their varied perspectives of how the walls upon which powerful images are caste are unifiers of communities, opening up the very walls that disenfranchise some of us from one another. The art is what allows for the “walls to sing,” as muralist Mr. Espinosa put it, and gives us the opportunity to teach our youth about our past and empower them for their futures.
I ended my L.A. Art Fair experience by witnessing, and in some way participating in, a performance art piece by Alexey Steele. He set a dramatic scene for drawing his realist portrait, which involved a fellow artist as his subject, a cellist, and two moving female figures who took slow, methodical, artful steps, as they circled through the scene over and over again. At the close of the performance, Alexey boldly and exuberantly relayed his vision with words and laughter, that it was a symbiotic experience, not just a display, that we could all be part of, artist and audience alike.
And this is how I felt about the whole fair. I was not just an observer or witness of great art, but a participant – through dialogue with gallery owners, curators, hosts, and artists, through the ability to step a mere eyelash away from fine works of art, so that I might feel and see the layers and sensibility of the artworks within a beautiful, artful, bustling setting – The L.A. Art Show, 2013. Mark your calendars for January 15-19, 2014 to experience it yourself when it comes back around next year.