LA Art Show inspires and provokes thought

This year, the annual Los Angeles Art Show broke a lot of barriers. For the first time in its 22-year history, the five-day long art show, starting on opening night on Jan. 27 and lasting until Jan. 31, focused on contemporary galleries with a sub-section for historic pieces. In addition, 120 galleries displayed modern art from 22 different countries.

It was easy to get lost in the 200,000 square feet space. It was even easier to get lost in the waves of people — a record 65,000 — that attended this year. A gallery map was nowhere in sight, and few staff members were present.

Despite the diversity present in the art show, it was still surrounded by an air of elitism. Many of its attendees were visibly wealthy and — based on the reactions they garnered — influential. Curators and artists acted eager to greet those dressed in suits but were cold toward other spectators, which was understandable yet still discouraging. Seeing paintings and sculptures with price tags higher than the cost of my college education was just as impressive as it was frustrating. These prices took away from the multitude of pieces which satirized the consumerism of modern society yet were on sale for thousands of dollars.

Each exhibit was manned by either gallery curators or the artists themselves. For any art enthusiasts, the show was a great opportunity to get a peek into the art industry. However, many of the artists and curators were busy targeting potential clients for their works, and some spoke very limited English. A small handbook of all the galleries and select works offered a helpful guide. It sold for about $20, and a PDF version is available online.

The National Exhibition of China, a collection of galleries from all across mainland China, reveals the deeply-rooted artistic techniques behind modern Chinese art. Pieces such as Li Gang’s
“Ink Elements NO20130614” are a direct reflection of the modernization of Chinese culture and art. The piece which features small, uniform ink blots in a grid represents a shift from traditional subject matter such as landscapes or portraiture, to a more abstract approach.

The beauty of contemporary art is that it is so largely influenced by current human experiences. Artists who live in our day and age are creating pieces that reflect a common perspective. Part of what makes some of these paintings so successful is their outlandish qualities juxtaposed with relatable themes.

Robert Williams’ “Decline of Sophistication” does just that. The piece depicts a stately building — or rather a stately cardboard cutout of a building — backed by a tent out of which flows a cacophony of distorted figures and a tombstone marked “R.I.P Urbane Sophistication.” The painting attempts to shatter the inflated value society puts on sophistication in the arts. It reflects that sophistication and educational institutions, which give students of the humanities or the arts an algorithm for achievement, are a hinderance to the growth of creativity and innovation.

In addition to paintings and sculptures, the show also included various performance pieces and lectures. In “Millie Brown,” performed by the artist herself, Brown meditated for five days while showgoers photographed and observed her. She subsisted solely on water to enter a deeper state of mind in which material luxuries no longer existed. All the while, she was surrounded by blooming flowers and lay on a patch of grass. This piece forces viewers to contemplate the worldly comforts they immerse themselves in and the restrictions of being dependent on these distracting comforts.

While the LA Art Show largely represents an elitist luxury art industry, it is still a great opportunity to get inspired. The thing about art is that everyone has his or her own interpretation of it. For art enthusiasts, wandering through the seemingly endless number of galleries will introduce you to hundreds of new, talented artists. For people just looking for a way to kill time, this will be an indelible learning experience in which you can observe the ever-changing contemporary art scene and witness culture being shaped by novel representations of modern society.

By Angela Zhang, Staff writer