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My LA2050: Crowdsourcing for the greater good (and the bottom line)

[via la2050.org/]

[via la2050.org]

It used to be that the moneyed classes would dispense their endowments with scant input from the hoi polloi. The latest trend in philanthropy, however, is asking the public to vote on who is most deserving from amongst a group of competing applicants. First there was the Hammer Museum’s $25,000 Public Recognition Award, which was donated by the Mohn Family Foundation and went to Jennifer Moon this year, and now comes the million-dollar My LA2050 grant challenge.

Created by the Goldhirsh Foundation, My LA2050 began last year as “an initiative to create a shared vision for the future of Los Angeles.” They gave out $100,000 each to ten organizations, based on their ability to contribute to the future of LA along eight metrics, from education to housing to arts & cultural vitality. They received 279 submissions and over 70,000 people voted, however the results were not purely populist. Ultimately the Foundation itself selected the winners from among the top ten vote recipients in each category. Two “Wild Card” slots were picked solely by the Foundation. The Arts award was given to the Hammer Museum, an undoubtedly worthy institution, but not exactly a struggling arts non-profit.

This year they’ve switched things up a bit, with two $100,000 awards given in each of five categories: Play, Connect, Live, Create, and Learn. One winner from each category will be selected based on public votes, while the other will be picked by a panel of judges. There are 63 projects in the Create category including a muralist apprentice program for at risk youth, a mobile opera that takes place in cars, and arts and music studio L.A. Fort, not to be confused with FORT, a community workshop that makes functional goods out of reclaimed materials. (Full disclosure: The Los Angeles Review of Books, which I am Arts Editor of, is also in the running.)

Voting began September 2nd and runs through next Tuesday, September 16th. The only catch is that you need to create a GOOD account in order to vote, GOOD being the Upworthy-esque magazine founded by Ben Goldhirsh of the Goldhirsh Foundation. GOOD’s consulting branch, GOOD/Corps, combines philanthropy with corporate branding,  working on the Pepsi Refresh Project, “an innovative attempt both to strengthen the Pepsi brand for meaning-seeking millennials and to benefit communities across America,” as well as Vote. Give. Grow, “an online platform to deepen customer loyalty by creating opportunities for My Starbucks Rewards member to help direct Starbucks Foundation grants to local nonprofits.” Donating generously to bolster arts, education and social services is never a bad thing, but it’s important to consider who’s giving the money, why they’re giving it, and what sort of corporate interests are being served.

 

 

Art Apps: LACMA’s Snapchat and Miranda July’s Somebody

via LACMA's snapchat

via LACMA’s snapchat

via LACMA's snapchat

via LACMA’s snapchat

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art made cyber-news recently when Hyperallergic announced that they were the first museum to join Snapchat. A handful of other museums chimed in that they were also using the mobile image-sharing app popular with millennials, however with 40,000 Snapchat views, LACMA is clearly “killing it,” as LAist noted.

Since images or videos sent to other users disappear immediately after viewing, Snapchat has become associated, perhaps unfairly, with content that demands discretion (dick pics in common parlance). Users can, however, post “stories” that remain viewable for 24 hours, which is how most art institutions are using the app.

“The majority of people don’t use it as a sex app,” says Maritza Yoes, LACMA’s social media manager. “They’re using it as a platform for play, from the mundane to the cool. It’s a little less narcissistic than Instagram, it’s ephemeral, it’s quick.” In addition to sharing artwork from LACMA’s collection that she pairs with captions from pop culture, Yoes uses Snapchat to share content not available on other platforms, such as images of her visits to artists’ studios. There is also a new LACMA geofilter with which users can tag their museum snaps to properly brand their experience.

via the Blanton Museum's snapchat

via the Blanton Museum’s snapchat

via the Blanton Museum's snapchat

via the Blanton Museum’s snapchat

The Blanton Museum in Austin has followed LACMA’s lead, captioning old masterworks from their collection with lyrics from pop music, including Beyonce and, unfortunately, LMFAO.

 

Miranda July's Somebody [via http://unframed.lacma.org/node/1424]
Miranda July’s Somebody [via http://unframed.lacma.org/node/1424]

If you’re looking for a more analog way to communicate via smartphone, Miranda July has just released Somebody, a messaging app she created in collaboration with fashion brand Miu Miu. The basic gist is that you send a message to a friend, which, instead of showing up on their phone, is delivered in person by another app user in their general vicinity. You can specify inflections or actions such as “longingly,” “fist bump” or “ask her what she’s worried about and reassure her that everything will be OK.” A short film (with Miu Miu wardrobe) produced in conjunction with the app is equal parts sincere and cringe-worthy, so typical July fare.

LACMA's social media manager Maritza Yoes with Somebody sandwich board

LACMA’s social media manager Maritza Yoes with Somebody sandwich board

The app works best with a critical mass of users in one place, so official hot spots have been designated, including LACMA, the New Museum and the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. To promote the hot spot, Yoes recently spent a day walking around the LACMA grounds sporting seriously old-school messaging technology – a sandwich board.

It’s unclear if the hot spots will actually enhance the social aspects of museum-going, or if users will simply race past great works of art in attempts to deliver quirky messages to strangers. Concerns have also been raised regarding privacy issues, since the deliverer of the message is given GPS tracking information about the recipient to help locate them. This seems fine in a public space during the day, not so much if the message is delivered when one is home alone at night. Even less so if the message involves pooping back and forth forever.

Deborah Sussman, Iconic Designer of Supergraphics, Dies at 83

Deborah Sussman [photo: Lauren Joliet for the New York Times]

Deborah Sussman [photo: Lauren Joliet for the New York Times]

The design world lost one of its leading lights on Monday August 18th when Deborah Sussman passed away at her Los Angeles home. She was 83. The cause was breast cancer, according to her husband and partner Paul Prejza.

Sussman was a pioneer in the field of environmental graphics – often called supergraphics – that leapt off the page and onto architecture. Her brightly colored “designs could turn buildings into urban events,” noted Joseph Giovannini in the obituary he penned for the New York Times. The urban event that garnered her wide recognition was the system of graphic signage that her firm designed in collaboration with Jerde Partnership for the 1984 Olympics set in Los Angeles. “With intensely colored banners, bunting, kiosks, streamers and graphic confetti, like free-standing stars,” writes Giovannini, “the designers created an instant landscape on light poles, lawns and sidewalks that gave pockets of the city the air of a carnival.” The colors she chose reflected the panoply of cultures represented in L.A. — magenta, yellow and vermillion from Mexico, saffron from Asia, and aqua “representing the Mediterranean spiritual climate of Los Angeles,” as she said in a 1986 L.A. Times interview. Although her Olympic designs were not universally lauded at the time, Frank Gehry, who collaborated with Sussman in the 1960s, praised their impact. “That’s what the Olympics were about — to put Los Angeles at the center of attention,” he told the L.A. Times. “Deborah put that into a visual.”

Deborah Sussman's designs for the 1984 LA Olympics.
Deborah Sussman’s designs for the 1984 L.A. Olympics.

Before founding her own design practice in 1968, Sussman got her start working for Charles and Ray Eames from 1961-67. She marred Mr. Prejza, an architect in 1972, and started a firm with him, Sussman/Prejza in 1980. In addition to designing corporate identities for clients like Apple and Southern California Gas, she contributed graphics for the traffic systems at Disney World and created visual identities for the City of Santa Monica and Culver City, where she had a studio. In 2012, she designed signage for L.A.’s newly opened Grand Park featuring 16-foot tall posts that said “the park for all” in 26 languages.

Sussman’s work was recently included in California’s Designing Women at the Autry Museum and her Olympic Designs were prominently featured in Overdrive at the Getty. Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles, an exhibition focusing on her work from 1953 to 1984, was held at the Wuho Gallery at the end of last year. In his review of that show, the Los Angeles Times’ Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne pinpoints what made her such a pivotal figure in Los Angeles’ design landscape: her expansive vision of design, and the longevity of her contributions: “Sussman’s work, in that sense, provided a bridge between two definitions of graphic design — one about text and the other about the city — as well as between two eras in L.A. design history.”

For a better look at just a fraction of her work, visit Curbed L.A.

 

 

The Duck Has Landed

The Rubber Ducks floats into LA [Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times]

The Rubber Duck floats into LA [Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times]

After touring the world’s waterways for the past seven years, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck has finally arrived in California, pulling into the Port of Los Angeles on Wednesday. There it sits alongside battleships and other vessels, anchored to a barge and illuminated until 11pm each night, as part of the Tall Ships Festival LA. Although the oversized bathtub toy has previously visited Pittsburgh and Norfolk, VA, this marks its West Coast debut.

Originally created by Hofman in 2007, various versions of the sculpture ranging from 16 – 59 feet high (LA’s tops them all at 61 feet!) have graced the ports of Australia, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, Belgium, Brazil, Japan, and elsewhere as a kind of goodwill art ambassador. According to the artist’s website, “the Rubber Duck knows no frontiers, it doesn’t discriminate people and doesn’t have a political connotation.”

Despite the Duck’s unifying lack of meaning or purpose, it has had its fair share of controversy. In 2009, when it was stationed in the Belgian city of Hasselt, locals stabbed it 42 times. Last summer its Hong Kong visit coincided with the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, inspiring a mashup of the iconic “Tank Man” image with a row of feel-good rubber ducks. Chinese sensors promptly added “big yellow duck” to their list of banned words on social media platform Weibo, alongside “June 4” and “Tiananmen Square.” Earlier in its Hong Kong stay, the Duck proved so popular that Chinese knock-offs popped up online and unscrupulous realtors began placing unauthorized replicas in front of their properties. Even Mother Nature unleashed her wrath on the inoffensive inflatable, deflating the Duck twice – in Hong Kong it was blamed on a storm, while eagles were the likely culprits in Taiwan. Earlier this summer while stationed in China, heavy flooding swept the 1-ton floater down the Nanming River, never to be seen again.

Barring similar acts of God, the Duck will be on view through Sunday. Tickets are $15-$19.

Micro-Museum, Potters, and Revolutionary Artist win Made in L.A. 2014 Mohn Awards

Los Angeles Museum of Art at the Hammer Museum [via latimes.com]

Los Angeles Museum of Art at the Hammer Museum [via latimes.com]

The votes are in and the recipients of the Made in L.A. 2014 Mohn Awards have been announced! Three awards were presented in conjunction with the Hammer Museum’s L.A. biennial, all funded by philanthropists and collectors Jarl and Pamela Mohn: the $100,000 Mohn Award chosen by a jury; the $25,000 Career Achievement Award, also picked by a jury; and the $25,000 Public Recognition Award chosen solely by votes from the public. This year there were 6,604 votes, more than tripling the amount cast in 2012.

The big prize was awarded to Alice Könitz and her Los Angeles Museum of Art, described as “a micro-gallery and art installation” by the Los Angeles Times. The size of a large closet, it had lived outside of the artist’s Eagle Rock studio before being brought to the museum. Könitz exhibits the work of other artists through this experimental venue, which “represents a significant trend among artists in Los Angeles and beyond that bucks an increasingly market-driven art world in favor of collaborative, critically engaged work,” according to the press release. LAMOA was just one of a number of collectives or collaborative projects featured in the biennial this year, alongside KChung, Public Fiction and James Kidd Studio.

 

Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Michael Frimkess, Throwing Standing-Up Teapot c. 1972, Glazed stoneware. 8 x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Joshua White. [via hammer.ucla.edu]
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Michael Frimkess, Throwing Standing-Up Teapot
c. 1972, Glazed stoneware. 8 x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Joshua White. [via hammer.ucla.edu]

The Career Achievement Award “honoring brilliance and resilience” was given to Magdalena Suarez Frimkess and Michael Frimkess, a couple who have been making imaginative art pottery together for over fifty years. He throws the pots and she paints them, with the resulting vessels drawing on influences as disparate as Greek vases and comic strips. Their inclusion in the exhibition was part of the Hammer’s attempt to highlight the work of under-recognized artists, in the same way that 2012’s Made in L.A. refocused attention on the late serial geometric artist Channa Horwitz.

Jennifer Moon, There Is Nothing Left but Freedom, detail of You Can Kill My Body, but You Can’t Kill My Soul, 2013, Photograph. 56 x 53 ¾ in. Courtesy of Transmission Gallery, Glasgow. [via hammer.ucla.edu]
Jennifer Moon, There Is Nothing Left but Freedom, detail of You Can Kill My Body, but You Can’t Kill My Soul, 2013, Photograph. 56 x 53 ¾ in. Courtesy of Transmission Gallery, Glasgow. [via hammer.ucla.edu]

Jennifer Moon was “the hands-down crowd favorite,” according to Hammer director Annie Philbin, securing her the Public Recognition Award from among the 35 participating artists. Moon’s autobiographical sculpture, photography and text-based work blend elements of fantasy and revolutionary ideology with a deadpan sense of humor. Take for instance, her photo “You can kill my body, but you can’t kill my soul” which features Moon emulating the famous image of Black Panther Huey Newton seated in a peacock chair. Her dog Mr. Snuggles sits at her feet, wearing a matching red beret. In “The Book of Eros,” a massive tome resembling something from “The Hobbit,” Moon chronicles every person she’s been romantically or physically entangled with since 1993. It is this mix of the personal and political, presented as an engrossing narrative, that proved so appealing to the public. Or perhaps as Moon told the L.A. Times, “the fact that the public engaged with my work might mean that they are actually ready for revolution.”

 

Baldessari, McCarthy on View at France’s Oldest Mint

John Baldessari, Your Name in Lights [via http://www.monnaiedeparis.fr/]
John Baldessari, Your Name in Lights [via the Monnaie de Paris]

When the oldest institution in France, the Monnaie de Paris, re-opens next month as a center dedicated to culture and commerce, it will showcase work by two of contemporary art’s biggest names. They are not Parisians, however, but Angelenos.

John Baldessari’s Your Name in Lights will inaugurate the space, running for a month beginning on September 13. Thousands of people will receive their 15 seconds of fame when their illuminated names are displayed on the 18th century building’s façade. The artist has put out an open call, and organizers expect 100,000 participants.

Paul McCarthy, Santa with Tree. Photograph: Svetlana Bachevanova, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hauser & Wirth [via Claudine Colin Communication]
Paul McCarthy, Santa with Tree. Photograph: Svetlana Bachevanova, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Hauser & Wirth [via Claudine Colin Communication]

The Monnaie was founded in 864 to mint coins, so it is fitting that Paul McCarthy’s sprawling Chocolate Factory installation pays homage to this commercial legacy. From October 25th to January 4th, visitors will be greeted by an actual chocolate workshop staffed by confectioners. They will be churning out chocolate sculptures of Santa Claus and a Christmas Tree that bears a striking resemblance to a sex toy. For those who have always dreamed of owning a McCarthy but have lacked the means, “the consumable and perishable artworks produced by “Chocolate Factory” are available for purchase there and then, in unlimited quantities,” according to the press release. (Unlimited quantities, people!) Hopefully R. Kelly will be providing the soundtrack.

Beyond the main hall, a series of salons have been transformed into McCarthy’s “own personal dreamworld.” The artist’s bed will also be on site for the duration of show, giving Tracey Emin a run for her money.

 

KChung Tells the Hammer to Get Better Rules

KChung TV [via https://vimeo.com/101079727]
KChung TV [via https://vimeo.com/101079727]

When the Hammer Museum introduced the $100,000 Mohn Award as part of its first Made in L.A. biennial two years ago, it generated quite a bit of controversy. A jury of experts narrowed the field down to five artists, whom the public then voted on to select the winner. Populists were outraged that they were not allowed to choose from among all 60 participating artists, while others viewed it as a vulgar popularity contest, an artsy “American Idol,” where, as we all know, the best singer doesn’t always win.

In response to this criticism, they’ve split the award into three – a $100,000 Mohn Award, now selected solely by a jury, a $25,000 career achievement award, also jury selected, and a $25,000 Public Recognition Award, which the public selects from among all 35 artists in the exhibition. More than 3000 votes have already been cast, surpassing 2012’s total.

With nearly three dozen artists to choose from, how does one stand out from the crowd? LA Weekly recently profiled KChung DJ Johnnie JungleGuts and his campaign to win the award for the radio station. For Made in L.A., KChung has set up a make-shift studio in the museum’s lobby where they are broadcasting an experimental TV program, KChung TV, every weekend during the exhibition. JungleGuts’ lobbying effort includes pleas on his Tumblr, Instagram and Vine, as well as a June 26th Masturbate-a-thon, for which 81 people pledged to pleasure themselves while thinking about KChung.

KChung is one of a handful of collectives participating in this year’s Made in L.A. (alongside artspace/publisher Public Fiction, and James Kidd Studio), creating potential new controversies for the competition. “KChung has far more members than any other single artist or collective in Made in L.A.,” notes Jennifer Swann. “More people could translate to more votes.” To which JungleGuts replied, “If we win, it’s like, ‘Sorry, get better rules.’ ”

It also highlights the challenges inherent in comparing artforms that are always on view like painting, sculpture and video, with KChung’s performative broadcasts, which only take place on weekends. Instead of a live taping, weekday visitors are greeted by an empty, if evocative, studio.

Another wrinkle is that at least ten artists in Made in L.A. (Max Maslansky, Luke Fischbeck, Harsh Patel, Jennifer Moon…) are affiliated with KChung. It is possible that fans of multiple artists could throw their lot in with the collective, thereby spreading the wealth in a sense among a number of Made in L.A. participants, instead of singling one out for recognition. Which would be fine with many artists, who perhaps see it as tacky to promote themselves for a monetary prize. “It’s almost shameful to want it,” says Moon.

The public will see whether JungleGuts’ grassroots campaign is successful at the end of the month when all three award recipients are named. Voting for the Public Recognition Award ends this Sunday, August 17th.

LA’s MOCA Faces Upcoming Exhibition Gaps

[Cameron, Aleister Crowley's Guardian Angel,  Photo by Alan Shaffer. via Moca.org]
Cameron, Aleister Crowley’s Guardian Angel, Photo by Alan Shaffer. Opens at MOCA PDC October 11. [via Moca.org]

LA’s MOCA has had a rocky road over the past few years, but with the appointment of new director Philippe Vergne and new chief curator Helen Molesworth earlier this year, not to mention an endowment topping $100 million and counting, the museum seems to be back on track. One hurdle it will need to overcome, however, is the spotty upcoming exhibition schedule.

As Christopher Knight reported in the LA Times on Monday, it’s unclear what will be on view at MOCA’s three locations after current exhibitions close. The Mike Kelley retrospective has just wrapped at the Geffen Contemporary, which will remain closed for roof repairs. No word on when it will re-open or what will be on view when it does.

At MOCA Grand, Cinema Vezzoli closes August 11th, followed in September by a mid-career exhibition on the work of Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernandez, as well as Andy Warhol’s massive Shadows series, on loan from the Dia Art Foundation (Vergne’s previous employer). After these shows close in early 2015, nothing is on the books.

And at MOCA’s outpost at the Pacific Design Center, the current video installation by “12 Years a Slave” director Steven McQueen will be followed in October by an exhibition focusing on eccentric L.A. occultist Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel, a devotee of Aleister Crowley, whose work influenced Ferus Gallery artists like Wallace Berman and George Herms. When that show closes in January, nothing is scheduled for the space until next September.

Knight notes that these scheduling holes are largely the result of the shortsightedness of Vergne’s predecessor, Jeffrey Deitch, under whose tenure longtime chief curator Paul Schimmel left the museum. Deitch chose not to replace Schimmel, relying instead on freelance curators “who have little investment in the institution’s future,” according to Knight. This situation leaves Vergne and Molesworth scrambling to book exhibitions that normally take years to arrange. MOCA has said they will make an announcement about future plans by the end of the summer.

Instead of viewing this as a setback however, Knight suggests it could be an opportunity for MOCA to showcase some of the 6,000 works in its permanent collection that rarely get seen. To this end, Carolina Miranda recommends three creative ways to explore the collection: artist choice shows, guest curators, and unconventional approaches like showing works grouped by color. These most likely wouldn’t be hard-hitting, scholarly exhibitions, but they could be fun and experimental ways to show off one of Southern California’s great collections of contemporary art. And they could buy the museum time until its new leaders are able to mount the more ambitious shows that MOCA has been known for in the past.

 

Los Angeles Street Art Gallery Expands into Dallas

Eric-Rosiak-Iskander-Lemseffer-Adam-Persiani-fromLAB-ART_103211

Lab Art’s Eric Rosiak, Iskander Lemseffer and Adam Persiani

Three-year-old Lab Art, a Los Angeles gallery dedicated to street art and graffiti, is opening a second space in the Dallas Design District in September. Founder Iskander Lemseffer, whose background is in fashion, opened the original space in 2011 in the mid-Wilshire neighborhood of L.A. to showcase and sell the work of street artists (and here we won’t get into the pros and cons of domesticating urban art or the long and mixed history of commercializing it). The gallery’s list of artists—many who use only their tag names—can be found here.

While Lemseffer was looking to expand Lab Art into other markets, the gallery’s Instagram caught the eye of Dallas-based investment guys Eric Rosiak and Adam Persiani, who have since partnered with Lemseffer; they’ll open the 4500 square foot space at 315 Cole Street in Dallas with a group show from the gallery’s L.A. stable on September 18. The second show, opening in October, will be a solo show by a Lab Art mainstay who goes by Alec Monopoly, whose bio on the Lab Art website reads: “‘Alec Monopoly’ is the alias of an unidentified graffiti artist, originally from New York City. The artist primarily works in the urban environments of New York, Los Angeles, and London using varied materials… to subversively depict the mascot of the board game, Monopoly.” And there you have it.

Says Lemseffer (via CultureMap Dallas): “The Dallas Design District is booming right now, and I ship so much to Dallas it’s not even funny.”

 

(photo: CultureMap Dallas and Lab Art)

 

 

Hans Ulrich Obrist to Moderate Instagram Talk

[Hans Ulrich Obrist on the left, via Style.com]
[Hans Ulrich Obrist on the left, via Style.com]

If you have an Instagram account – there are currently over 200 million users - you may have noticed the recent proliferation of artists using the image-sharing app. Everyone’s got their list of the top ten, fifteen or 134 artists to follow. (Ai Wei Wei, Richard Prince, and Vik Muniz are among the most popular.) Art website Hyperallergic just wrapped a year’s worth of columns on the selfie – arguably the most common image type on Instagram. Which all begs the question: “But is it Art?”

Ai Wei Wei's "leg gun" which went viral on Instagram earlier this year
Ai Wei Wei’s “leg gun” which went viral on Instagram earlier this year

This is just one of the avenues of inquiry that tireless curator Hans Ulrich Obrist will be exploring at an Instagram Mini-Marathon this Saturday evening in downtown LA. HUO (whose own Instagram boasts 41,000 followers) has teamed up with local blog/artspace/publisher ForYourArt to present the panel discussion that will include artists Meg Cranston, Frances Stark, and Alex Israel, among others. Topics will include how Instagram “functions within their individual practices,” “whether Instagram is a personal, social, or artistic space,” and also who to follow (in case you need more reasons to be staring at your phone all day), according to ForYourArt’s founder Bettina Korek. No word on whether they will cover whether Valencia or Nashville is the best filter for getting your art noticed.

Ulrich Obrist originally conceived of the Mini-Marathon concept in 2005 as a way to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue on the ways in which the visual arts intersect with science, technology and other artforms, like music, theater and architecture.

Fittingly, the Mini-Marathon will take place at the historic Million Dollar Theatre, which was opened by Sid Grauman almost 100 years ago, as a home for the last century’s most popular form of image consumption. The event begins at 7:30, doors at 6:30 and tickets can be obtained here.