Preview the Best of the PULSE LA Art Fair


Los Angeles – long known as a hyper-insular scene where it has been notoriously difficult for art fairs to survive – is about to become the center of attention of the institutionalized art world this month. In addition to PST, the Getty Research Institute’s massively ambitious city-wide exhibit of post-war art in LA, three art fairs will be opening this weekend downtown. It’s such a massive opening weekend, in fact, that artLA, one of the major anchor fairs, recently postponed its opening until January, citing a fear of getting “lost in the cacophony of so much activity.” In addition to blue-chip Art Platform at LA Mart, the self-described “renegade” fringe-y Fountain Fair will set up in the loft district by the LA River, and young but solid fair PULSE finds a new incarnation at the LA Live event deck.

PULSE LA easily has the coolest venue — PULSE director Cornell Dewitt notes, “Why would we come to LA and not use a venue with tons of outdoor space?” — and the fair has always been noteworthy for hitting a sweet spot of user-friendly but interesting, relatively affordable contemporary art. They’re also working particularly hard to integrate the paradigm of the international art fair, which so often feels like it could be anywhere, with the art community in the city.

Your best bet for taking in PULSE? Focus on showings by LA galleries you might not see elsewhere and the various PULSE Projects focusing on collaboration with local artists, institutions, nonprofits, and publications. Below, find our guide to PULSE art happenings that are worth checking out.

Image: Martin Durazo, THE ROMANCE OF ENIGMATIC ESCAPE, Nada Hudson, July 30 – 31, 2011. Courtesy Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

PULSE pairs with Luis De Jesus Los Angeles gallery to commission a new work by Durazo: Max-Nigmatix, a mixed media exploration of nightlife, reverie, and the quantification of joy through his trademark fluorescent painting and digital images of celebrities, along with magnifying lenses, lasers – and a MacBook pro — to get you into the LA ethos.

Image: William Powhida, LA Makeover Chart, 2009, graphite, water color, and colored pencil on paper. Courtesy of the artist

In addition to the PULSE project collaboration, Charlie James Gallery will exhibit paintings by Nery G Lemus, sculptural pieces by Andrew Lewicki, and — in a paeon to Los Angeles culture — William Powhida’s new LA Makeover Chart edition.

Image: the artist at work. Courtesy of LeBasse Projects, Los Angeles

LeBasse Projects commissioned one of Mike Skilkey’s near-eponymous installation of recycled books, whose surface the artist paints like a canvas, which are somehow always striking, no matter how many of them you’ve seen. (Insert joke about nobody reading in LA here.)

Image: Flock, 2010. Courtesy Luis De Jesus Los Angeles

Another PULSE project, David Adey’s iconography of sheep borrows from cloning as well as Christian theology; this uncanny installation of ceramic lambs with neon halos plays with forms from network culture, replication, and kitsch aesthetics.

Image courtesy of Charlie James Gallery

Charlie James Gallery shows work by Daniela Comani – who just returned from the 54th Venice Biennale this summer — a monumental piece entitled It Was Me: Diary 1900-1999, which retells the entire history of the 20th century in the first-person form of a diary, with one entry per day.

Image: Screen shot from Heaven and Earth Magic, 1962, courtesy Harry Smith Archives

In conjunction with nonprofit ARTIST CURATED PROJECTS in Los Angeles, PULSE’s curated video exhibition comprises a series of challenging long-form videos from artists Kevin Jerome Everson, General Idea collective, Linda Montano, Harry Smith, and Stanya Kahn. The grouping is curated by Kahn, inspired by a line from Fischli and Weiss’ 1983 film The Right Way, though these films, all of which challenge the way we perceive film itself, range from Smith’s 1962 Heaven and Earth Magic to Kahn’s 2011 OK OK OK OK.

Image: Ali Smith, Terrains Vagues, 2008, courtesy of Mark Moore Gallery

Mark Moore Gallery will present new work that riffs on expression of the unconscious: uncanny colored-pencil drawings by Christopher Davison, deconstructed abstracts by Ali Smith, and obsessive mixed-media drawings on canvas Feodor Voronov.

Image: Michael Salvatore Tierney, Los Angeles County Health Building, 2008, pigment print. Courtesy Blythe Projects

Blythe Projects is presenting plenty of interesting work from Mark Schoening, David Kimball Anderson, and Larry Mullins, but we’re most excited about the photographic work of Michael Salvatore Tierney, whose pigment prints of airplanes and institutionalized spaces are somehow both scientifically-inclined and light-drenched, spiritual studies.

Japanese-American sculptor Mineo Mizuno’s human-sized ceramic teardrops are part of the artist’s lifelong study of drops of water in various forms. PULSE teams up with Samuel Freeman gallery to place a number of these disarmingly simple pieces in the fair’s public spaces.

Image: Fernando Rascon, El Peladito A, 2011, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy La Estación, Arte Contemporáneo, Chihuahua

Finally, a trip to PULSE isn’t complete without a swing through the IMPULSE section, where one of the artists presented will win the PULSE prize. Seven galleries, representing various cities in Japan and Mexico as well as New York and Toronto, will take part—the underdog seems to be La Estación, Arte Contemporáneo, from the Mexican border state of Chihuahua. And with visions from Mexico, the LA art experience is complete!