From 2009 to 2012 you couldn’t pick up an issue of Flaunt without seeing Maxwell Williams’ name. He was the driving voice behind the editorial content and curated many of the magazine’s stunning covers. Currently, Williams is the West Coast editor of Wilder Quarterly and contributes to AnOther Magazine, Interview, Bulletin Media, and Good. Writing poolside, Williams tells Installation how he came to love art in LA and embrace the Dodgers as his new home team.
Someone asked me recently if I had a favorite museum in the world. My first instinct was to say, “No.” Each museum is different, and each has its own unique, creative programming. It would be unfair to slight the Moderna Museet in Stockholm or the UCCA in Beijing simply because I didn’t visit them enough.
Then, I thought of the New York Mets. I was a die-hard Mets fan for 22 years; I followed them religiously (except for a few years in college when I pretended I didn’t like sports.) But in 2008 I moved away from New York to Echo Park in Los Angeles: walking distance from Dodger Stadium. It’s a sacrilegious move to trade baseball teams, but I found myself more and more interested in the exploits of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw than David Wright and Johan Santana.
So of course I pay more attention to the programming at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art than any other museums in the world. To wit: I keep an eye on the Mets, and I will still have a place in my heart for them, but I’m not constantly checking what’s going on at PS1 or MoMA or the Met or the New Museum. I have had the same personal shift with galleries. Whereas I used to attend every Team, 11 Rivington, Paula Cooper, and David Zwirner opening, I hardly even know what they’re up to aside from getting an email blast about a show, which I file away, because I know I cannot attend. I’m acutely aware of the signings at OHWOW, the openings at Blum & Poe, Regen Projects, Perry Rubenstein, Pepin Moore, Kayne Griffin Corcoran and the dinners at the Chateau Marmont. Instead of Creative Time, I perk my ears up for LAND, ForYourArt and West of Rome events.
As I leaned towards New York artists when I lived in New York, I now place my faith in L.A. artists.
I learned about George Herms, who is criminally underappreciated, by attending his show at MOCA’s Pacific Design Center outpost. I first saw works from another underrated artist (though he’s getting some recognition these days), Richard Jackson, at David Kordansky Gallery. And my love for Betye Saar has increased with the ability to see her work regularly at Roberts & Tilton. I’ve fallen in love with the works of Zoe Crosher, Katie Grinnan, and Emilie Halpern because of shows here. Two of my best dudes in the world, Ry Rocklen and Bert Rodriguez, are also two of my favorite artists in the world. Even if Rodriguez just moved from Miami, they both have that L.A. sensibility that breeds a warm and contiguous community of support and excitement. This isn’t to say that fun and excitement should be the only ends to engaging with art, but it is more fun and exciting out here. I find myself in old mansions and beautiful Modernist homes, each more stunning and outrageous than the next. It is as if local curators and producers are trying to one-up each other by finding the most unique spaces to host events exhibitions.
It may seem obvious that I would feel this way, but I find myself less and less drawn to New York happenings. I can’t dwell on the things I can’t see. I don’t have a fear of missing out. I just accept what Los Angeles has to offer. I love the little galleries in odd places dotted throughout the city. I love the treks out to Venice for shows at L&M Arts. I love walking through Chris Burden’s Urban Light outside LACMA.
Pacific Standard Time, last year’s initiative set forth by the Getty Museum to celebrate the birth of the L.A. art scene reminded us that there is indeed a great history here— a very serious past that rivals anywhere in the world. The Light and Space artists, the Black Arts Movement, the Finish Fetish-ists— these groups produced work that is still relevant today.
It’s not as if I am entirely uncritical, however. There are terrible things about being an art lover in L.A. If you’ve ever tried attending openings in more than one art zone (Chinatown, Culver City, Venice, Hollywood,) you know the frustration of driving across a traffic-logged city only to show up ten minutes after the last glass of wine has been poured. And there’s a tendency for museums and galleries to err on the side of “entertainment” to please the casual L.A. viewer. Oh, and James Franco. It’s not perfect, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. Case in point: I’m still a struggling writer in L.A., but it’s hot outside in mid-February and my apartment complex has a pool. It doesn’t really get better.
So, I’ll admit it: I’m a Dodgers fan. I love that team, and I will probably go to a dozen or so games this year. And I will root them on, much in the way I root on the L.A. art scene. I want it to succeed, because I selfishly want more exhibitions to attend, young artists to emerge, and old artists to get the respect they deserve. I want to stay proud of this city’s art. Los Angeles is contradictory, infuriating, hilarious, surprisingly intellectual and I love every second of it.
Featured image: Eric Fisher, See something or say something: Los Angeles (detail), digital composition. Red dots are locations of Flickr pictures. Blue dots are locations of Twitter tweets. White dots are locations that have been posted to both.
Image courtesy of Flickr
Creative Commons License