A show like Made In L.A. really points out that there is a landscape of artists in Los Angeles. It has some flaws, sure, but it does show that there are artists here working. This LA art celebration along with programming like Pacific Standard Time (remember that??) are like giant highlighters that circle various creative hotbeds, pointing out communities and arenas where people are getting creative. Now bring in a show like BOOM Los Angeles 2012, a Southern California MFA Invitational. How does this fit into the landscape of Los Angeles contemporary art? Well, it cuts out all the crap of bells and whistles and gets to the point: here are over ninety artists who are currently seeking an MFA or recently completed an MFA program in Southern California and these are works produced by them. Simple enough–and to a refreshing degree.
BOOM opened this past Friday at the Pacific Design Center’s Blue Building, where hosts den contemporary secured various PDC suites for work to be exhibited. There were four main venues to see the work: two large Northern spaces and two smaller Southern spaces, which were easily confused for unaffiliated galleries (since they didn’t have a BOOM logo on their doors, unlike the Northern two). To take the show in, you just have to go for it. There’s no contextualization, there’s no setup, and there doesn’t seem to be a specified flow to how the show is laid out: these are ninetysomething MFA students from the area–FEAST.
There was a lot to feast on too, laid out everywhere for you to grab and chomp on. The artists who excelled were the ones who were clever without being clever, the ones who could transport you to a mental space or give a feeling before you walked away shaking your head. Ashley Hagen‘s Painting of a Box Spring Stuffed with Toys and Kathleen Melian‘s Untitled stood as the best testaments to this, their work calling your attention and for further inspection. Kim Ye had a similar affect with her almost engulfing Too Much, which consumed the front of a gallery space with waxy, red, intestinal pillows. Anitra Haendel‘s The Swiffing Sisters and the work of Joe Lloyd were both unafraid to be bright and colorful and complicated. Marten Elder and Joshua Mark Logan brought appropriate cleverness, Elder in his cyclical stone work and Logan in his hysterical and simple visual odes to Academy Supporting Actor nominees. The show shared a few familiar faces–like Ye and Elder, both of UCLA–but also a few that were unexpected because they were so familiar. For example, I believe I shrieked when we got to see Ryan Perez’s B.O.G.O. Vision in person and got to see Janna Ireland’s Altars To Southern California (above) once again in person. It’s moments like these where you feel like your favorite baseball player hit a homerun–and you caught the ball.
As you can tell, this variety in subjects and expression are naturally contemporary and quite exhilarating: you take them in on their own terms. There were corner consuming light and space pieces, there were installations, there were giant paintings, there were pieces that made you laugh, pieces that made you change your point of view, there were pieces that made you shrug, pieces that you loved, and even pieces that you didn’t care for or thought, “Well, I would just change that and then it’d be perfect.” There was a lot! BOOM isn’t very interested in what you think, though: it’s interested in setting up the current artistic landscape by showing you exactly what the landscape is through the artists learning here from artists who live here. You get some CalArts, you get some Otis, some UCI, some Claremont, Art Center, UCLA, Cal State Northridge, UCSB, and Long Beach State.
The show doesn’t necessarily differentiate artists from each other or taxonomize them by schools or medium. This is perhaps the only flaw of the show (that and the fact that the reception ended at 8PM on Friday, which was a shame since people who get out of work at 7PM had to breeze through the spaces) as there is no way to connect intellectual similarities innate to the artists’ MFA programs. This is likely because the PDC spaces are so weird–each of them triangular and long with various cubbies–that it would be impossible to group artists due to the variety of media. What the show excels at is that it’s all in the same location and that everything is incredibly varied and that is okay.
The artists in BOOM are all growing and learning and figuring out their footing. Unlike Made In L.A. and PST, BOOM can afford to be a little rough around the edges as it isn’t seeking to jump on a high horse, spread artwork around miles and miles of Los Angeles, and make you do silly things like attend performances at midnight or vote on who made you smile the most. BOOM is very much like the Tag Team song “Whoomp (There It Is)“: BOOM–here’s art made by current Southern California MFA students. It isn’t an obnoxious show, it won’t overstay its welcome, and it certainly is something to show you exactly what is going on at the core of contemporary art in Southern California. Thank heavens it is as simple as that.
BOOM is open through August 24 at the Pacific Design Center. For more on the show, give them a follow on Twitter.