I've been wanting to say how much I loved Bring The War Home at QED in LA and Elizabeth Dee in NYC. Killer shows on both coasts with one small difference that symbolically distinguishes LA from NY right now. I thought that the eve of the artgasm that will be Chelsea tomorrow night would be as good a time to talk about it as any.
Bring The War Home was an overwhelming, heart-lifting experience on both coasts. It was both a gentle attack and a vicious caress. It was a commentary on the ills and the thrills of the art world. Koyannisquatsi is what it is, but it also brings historic opportunity. The shows felt like a war in the Battle for Babylon.
From the moment I walked into QED I was confused. I knew that I liked everything I was seeing but who made it, and what was its price? Hell, did it have a price? Whatever. I joyfully settled into a state that the Amish refer to as "ferhootzed." There was eventually a pull to really find out what was going on, but before it appeared I realized that I was feeling something that I almost never feel in a gallery: innocence. Finally, when the innocence morphed into vulnerability I broke down and spoke to the woman behind the desk. What was going on here? Were things for sale? Were they free? Who made them? She pulled out a map and eventually a price list. She wasn't even sure what was for sale. Beautiful.
Press REPEAT on that last paragraph to reflect my experience at Elizabeth Dee save one minute, revealing detail. I mean that literally. At Elizabeth Dee there were tiny reference numbers tacked beside each piece. It brought the market into the room almost immediately. There was no delay. There was no time for innocence.
This brings me--admittedly, a little sideways--to my point about the difference between LA and NY right now. The most exciting thing in the NY art world is the market. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that there isn't amazing art being made in NY. There is. I'm saying that the most insane out-of-control thing about the scene here is the money. In LA it's the art.
Simply put: LA is on fire in a way that NY is not. Something's missing here, and it begins with how unlivable the city's becoming for young artists. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had in the last year with young artists who were thinking about moving to Philly or Baltimore or Chicago or Houston or Pittsburgh. Why work 50 hours a week at a day job here to scrape by with a small apartment and studio when you can live somewhere else, work 15-20 hours at a record shop and land a spacious studio and apartment. The problem of livability is not limited to the young though. I often wonder about how more time and space would free the hearts and hands of older artists living here. (And just for the record: When I say "older" I just mean "not younger.")
Again, don't get me wrong. I love the art scene here. I feel downright privileged to see as much excellent new art as I see every year. I'm not saying the art is crap or that NYC is in danger of being knocked from its lofty perch. That's prediction and I'll leave that dead game to the pros. I'm just saying that something's missing right now, and it was keenly felt when I visited Los Angeles. I fully expect Chelsea to have its swollen tongue down my throat tomorrow night, but in the back of that intoxicated moment I know I'm going to be thinking about what we've lost.