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Ruby Neri, Untitled (standing figure), 2012, courtesy David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
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"Made in L.A."


by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp
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This summer, Los Angeles gets its first biennial, “Made in L.A. 2012: New Art Now,” June 2-Sept. 2, 2012, featuring works by 60 artists spread between three institutions, the Hammer Museum in Westwood, LAX Art in Culver City and the Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park in Hollywood. The show is also laying claims to some billboards, has a presence at Venice Beach, and is accompanied by an iPhone app boasting commentary by artists and tunes by the local collective Dublab.

Organized by a team of five curators -- Anne Ellegood and Ali Subotnick from the Hammer with LAX Art curators Lauri Firstenberg, Cesar Garcia and Malik Gaines -- the show should be quite a mind-bending gathering. At the Hammer, where I got a preview, the rewarding mix of established and younger artists begins at the lobby with a vast pseudo-advertisement for California by Meg Cranston and Fiona Connor’s faux-white marble stairs leading to a window facing Wilshire Boulevard. Otis art prof. Roy Dowell shows his new sculptures, which have all the charm and verve of his better-known collages, while an adjacent gallery features Analia Saban’s deconstructed paintings in neutral tones.

Other high points: Kathryn Andrews’ sculptural installation with clown costumes; Meleko Mokgosi’s cycle of African history painting; Mark Hagen’s decorative screen made of recycled but weirdly elegant materials; Dan Finsel’s disturbing and funny accumulation, which includes raw clay sculptures, video of himself as Farrah Fawcett and rugs woven from Hanes underwear.

Much more is at LAX Art, notably a celebration of ten years of Slanguage (Mario Ybarra Jr. and Karla Diaz), plus lots of performance art.

There is more at stake here than critical praise for the artists. Five of these artists will be selected by a panel of jurors on June 28, when there is a Hammer Bash with music by Jason Bentley. And one of those artists will receive a $100,000 award from philanthropists Jarl and Pamela Mohn. That award, however, represents a new twist on an old system. Instead of being conveyed from on high, this award will be given by the public. Voters must register at an I-pad kiosk at any one of the three biennial locations. After June 28, they can vote online or at any of the institutions for one of the five semi-finalists. The winner will be chosen by those who have had enough interest to go see the shows.

HUNTER DROHOJOWSKA-PHILP is the author of Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s (Henry Holt, 2011). For more information, go to MADEINLA2012.ORG.

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