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L.A. CONFIDENTIAL
by Emma Gray
 
Celebrity gawkers have got their knickers in a supreme twist over the arrival of Posh and Becks, who touched down at LAX earlier this month just ahead of David Beckhamís first day of practice for the L.A. Galaxy soccer team. Maybe itís a coincidence, or perhaps a reaction to the recent spate of feminist shows, but of late I have seen no shortage of art that emphasizes sport, soccer and boyís gone scouting. Add to that the runaway bestseller success of The Dangerous Book for Boys, and I feel like I am ready to climb a tree. To that end, a show titled "Milieu" at Lizabeth Oliveria Gallery, June 30-Aug. 11, 2007, includes some nifty sculptures by Los Angeles-based artist Chris Beas that pay homage to the sport we Europeans like to call football.

Several sculptures feature a scrum of toy-sized figurines both tackling each other and duking it out for a conspicuously absent ball. Entitled "Pitch Invasion," the installation also features a work with a video by the British rock group Stone Roses and a sculpture of immortal U.K. footballer George Best titled No That Really Is Jesus, He Only Looks Like George Best. As author Bill Buford testifies in his 1990 taxonomy of soccer hooliganism, Among the Thugs, the football stadium and its enthused, oft-marauding fans can be likened to a modern-day Roman amphitheater -- albeit with the bloodshed taking place in the stands -- displaying the very best and worst of human behavior. Regardless, any one of these sculptures might be a superlative addition to the Beckhamsí new $22-million Beverly Hills mansion.

Over in Venice at the L.A. Louverís "Rogue Wave Ď07" show, June 28-Aug. 18, 2007, a number of male artists delve into techno-wizardry and boyish pursuits. Though the slightly disconnected display in the downstairs gallery felt more like choppy seas than a rogue wave, the majority of the exhibition is worth seeing. Amir H. Fallah, who is also the editor and founder of Beautiful Decay Magazine, exhibits photographs of "forts" that he created with other male L.A. artists.

Fallah and his conspirators got handy, dipping back into their childhood fantasies of making dens out of old blankets and available furniture. Not only do the photographs reveal cool little hangouts, they also dot the iís and cross art teachersí tís with pleasing formal qualities. The outside sculpture, Sheltered, may be the best work here. Made out of found wood and featuring a camouflage potting shed, its Day-Glo interior houses cacti and succulents that donít require watering. The reverse is true upstairs in Dan Hoís Green Dream, a mossy island in a sea of green water displayed in a giant white cup and saucer -- it is perfectly placed in the outdoor gallery.

Also noteworthy is techno artist Osman Khanís artwork, Networth, which riffs on the internet as an aggregator of information and how it is used -- the video projection displays a wall-sized screen of names ranging from Jesus and Paris Hilton to regular mortals like you and me. A card swiping machine (as seen in any shop checkout) stands in front of the screen, and once a viewer runs his or her ATM or credit card through the slot, the machine reads the userís name off the magnetic strip and googles the number of hits that the name produces, placing it in hierarchical order on the screen -- hence Paris near the top, as it happens, just beneath the Son of God.

Khan says that his artwork reads only the name off the card, but still, here a modern fear of identity theft is overridden by a more timeless sense of exhibitionism and vanity. Khan is one of few artists who are successfully throwing light on the technological advances taken for granted by the MySpace generation -- not to mention government agencies -- finding a sinister potential underneath the fun and convenience of the Information Age.

Precursors to Khanís themes of digital identity are explored at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in a show titled "Identity Theft," May 19-Aug. 11, 2007, which is organized by art journalist Jori Finkel, who freelances for the New York Times, among other outlets. A reporter who time and again manages to trump the Los Angeles Times in its own backyard, Finkel can now confidently add "curator" to her resume. "Identity Theft," featuring works by a triumvirate of women artists -- Lynn Hershman, Eleanor Antin and Suzy Lake -- is a riveting examination of borrowed or forged identities, alter egos and role play with Jungian-esque archetypes. These artists first emerged in the 1970s, and their ideas are as apropos today as they were back then.

Especially interesting is San Francisco-based artist Hershmanís alter ego, "Roberta Bretiman," or the Roberta Project, as it has become known. Cutting no corners, "Roberta" acquired a Social Security number and bank accounts, in addition to going on dates with strangers she met through personal ads, and meeting with a shrink while in persona to discuss her new "self." The exhibition documents such forays with letters and photographs and even Robertaís garments. Hershman has now brought Roberta into the digital era as an avatar character, fit perhaps for the much-ballyhooed community website Second Life.

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A year or so ago, Culver City was thronging with new galleries. Although things have been quiet more recently (with the notable exception of the arrival of dealer Honor Fraser, who joins the La Cienega strip in the late fall), the recent split of L.A. dealer Niels Kantor and New York dealer Zach Feuer, who had together operated Kantor / Feuer Gallery since late 2005, serves as a kind of a cautionary tale for those attempting dual-coast galleries. After an almost two-year run, the two nixed their partnership this month rather than proceed with a planned move from the Melrose corridor to Culver City.

What happened? Hard to say from the outside, but Kantor / Feuer was located off the beaten path, and Feuerís attentions were divided. Indeed, Feuer said he wanted to focus his energy on the New York gallery -- though he expects to continue to work with Kantor on projects and sales.

Iíd say for now the action is back in Chinatown, with nearly every ex-Chinese storefront on Chung King Road housing an art gallery. Peres Projects has two spaces, as does Black Dragon Society, and four new galleries have recently moved to the area: Bonelli Contemporary from Italy; Sam Lee Gallery, founded by a veteran of Peter Fetterman Gallery; The Box LA, an alternative space directed by Mara McCarthy (daughter of Paul); and the strangely titled enterprise, Art for Humans Gallery (artforhumans.com). This last, founded by Paul McLean, only has its space through September, but has nevertheless built a strong multidisciplinary multimedia collective, using as a primary source the MySpace, YouTube and Flickr communities.

Another gallery in Chinatown, Telic Arts Exchange, shows a lot of exciting but unwieldy techno installations (read: art that is hard to sell) and has recently received grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation and the Peter Norton Family Foundation, funds that are being used to raise still more funds to support their enterprise. Loosely basing themselves on a record label, Telic sells sound pieces by artists on CDs at $15 to $20 a pop.

On the media front in Los Angeles, changes are afoot. Angeleno magazine has a new editor-in-chief, Degen Pener, and for his suite of city pubs (under the Modern Luxury moniker) is presenting an article about the young movers and shakers of the Los Angeles art scene. And art PR guru Bettina Korek is working with Ovation TV on a documentary titled Art or Not, featuring a range of artists from Shepherd Fairey to Erik Parker, with commentary from yours truly.

Finally, to bring things full circle -- some more artwork for the Beckhamsí pad that puts the capital "B" back in bling. At "Ultrasonic International," the current group show at Mark Moore Gallery in Bergamot station, July 14-Aug. 25, 2007, an untitled work by the UK-based artist Susan Collis consists of nothing but a pair of screws that stand out proudly in the wall, upon which a painting or other work of art may be hung. The ruse is that these two screws are the art itself. Manufactured in white gold with diamonds in the center, they sell for $3,600 -- and are cheap at the price!


EMMA GRAY writes on art from Los Angeles and is the L.A. correspondent for the Saatchi online magazine.