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Otis in The Wall Street Journal

Artist Sam Falls

Los Angeles: City of Art

By Maura Egan


"NEW YORK CITY IS 0 TO 100,” explains Hannah Hoffman, perched on a long communal table at her Hollywood art gallery. “There’s no middle ground. Here in Los Angeles, it’s a little bit of a free-for-all.” Hoffman had been working at Gavin Brown ’s Enterprise in New York when she pulled up stakes two years ago and decided to head west. She didn’t have any real plans to open a gallery; she was just trying to figure out how to live an easier life. But once she arrived, the idea didn’t seem like such a lofty ambition. “There was no standard, no structure,” she says, “sort of like the strange zoning here.”
Hoffman found her space on a quiet strip in the Highland Avenue neighborhood. Once the domain of prostitutes and junkies, the area was being colonized by artisanal restaurants and designer boutiques. Regen Projects, one of L.A.’s blue-chip stalwarts, had settled into a 20,000-square-foot space around the corner. About the same time, Hoffman met Erin Falls, another New York transplant, who had worked at Deitch Projects and Mary Boone Gallery. Falls, who is married to the artist Sam Falls —he is on the gallery’s roster—became Hoffman’s director. “It’s much smaller here,” Hoffman says, “and there’s not as much outside affirmation, so you can do your own thing.” 

“The pace here is more organic,” says Sam Falls as he walks through his current exhibition at the gallery. His pieces—large negative silhouettes created in part by leaving foliage (ferns, palm fronds) on raw canvas out in the rain—are big, ambitious and all about process. He works on some of the larger-scale projects from several spaces, including a converted knitting factory in Glendale and a parking lot near Pomona. “You can get to the next level of your work in a more fluid way here,” says Falls. “Art needs to be incubative.” 

That can happen here in Los Angeles. While the New York art world’s rapid-fire pace and go-go market attitude can quickly tamp down an artist’s creativity, L.A.’s laid-back vibe lets artists breathe a little more easily. The rents are cheaper, the spaces are bigger and there’s a close-knit community.

In the past year, these friendly factors have brought a migration of artists and gallerists from the East Coast and beyond. Some of today’s most sought-after artists, including David Benjamin Sherry and Jordan Wolfson (New York), Ryan Trecartin (Miami), Gabriel Kuri (Brussels and Mexico City) and Silke Otto-Knapp (Vienna), have moved to L.A. Meanwhile, New York’s Team gallery established a tiny outpost in Venice this fall; Palm Beach dealer Sarah Gavlak opened a space next to the Hannah Hoffman Gallery; Berlin’s Sprüth Magers and New York’s Maccarone recently started renovations on spaces that will open next year; and Hauser & Wirth, the international powerhouse, has joined with beloved curator Paul Schimmel, formerly of the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art, to open a massive multidisciplinary arts center in late 2016.  

In fact, Los Angeles seems to be having a New York moment. But as much as the L.A. arts community seems excited by the current spotlight on its city, it’s also a bit nervous. Artists universally shrink from comparisons to New York—and not because they harbor an inferiority complex. Rather, L.A. is their well-guarded secret—and they’re worried it could be ruined.  

The city has always attracted artists who have been lured by the open environment (see: Light and Space movement here in the ’60s), the rigorous area graduate schools like California Institute of the Arts, Otis College of Art and Design and UCLA and the community of heavyweight artists—Catherine Opie, John Baldessari, the late Mike Kelley—who stayed to work and teach. Still, for graduating artists, it was almost a given that making it in New York was the true test of artistic merit. In the past few years, however, with New York City’s skyrocketing cost of living, it’s become prohibitive for much of the creative class. “To afford New York as an artist, you have to live so far from the creative core,” says Esther Kim Varet, who moved her Various Small Fires gallery from Venice to Hollywood in October this year. Read the full article here.


Source: The Wall Street Journal