Fair  January 25, 2022  Jordan Riefe

LA Art Show: Vellum LA & DIVERSEartLA Make a Splash

Immersive Experience Presented by Museum of Nature of Cantabria, Spain, Done in Antarctica by Andrea Juan and Gabriel Penedo Diego

After only six months the annual LA Art Show returned to the LA Convention Center, (Jan. 19–23), touting the latest modern and contemporary works from over eighty international galleries. Last year’s edition was the first major show to highlight NFT’s when it was postponed to July, just four months after Christie’s auctioned off a collage of images by NFT artist Beeple for $69.3 million, the first major sale of its kind.

This year, the show again highlights Vellum LA, the city’s first gallery to spotlight NFTs. Their show, Elsewhere is a Negative Mirror features architectural designs conjured by artists Saks Afridi, Kirk Finkel (aka untitled, xyz), Petecia Le Fawnhawk x Deep Light Labs, Vince Fraser, Mari. K (aka MadMaraca), Nicolas Sassoon, Kristen Roos, Nate Mohler, Sabrina Ratté, and Thato Tatai.

Inspired by author Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, in which Marco Polo tells of fantastical cities that defy the laws of physics, the show was co-curated by Vellum LA’s Sinziana Velicescu, an award-winning photographer, and Jesse Damiani, a writer/entrepreneur.

Le Fawnhawk × DeepLight Labs, Luminous Depths, 2022. Featured in Elsewhere is a Negative Mirror at LA Art Show 2022.

“As we’ve been exploring spaces over the course of COVID, I was thinking about how artists are exploring these imaginative spaces, escaping reality, and the tools they’re using to create these spaces and how things like the metaverse and the digital world inform the imagination,” Velicescu tells Art & Object. “The show is ten different artists, their tools are different, a photographer, animator, generative artist, all working with different tools to interpret this.”

In November, another NFT by Beeple sold for $28.9 million, and works by CryptoPunk 4156 have sold in the $7-10 million range. “The idea that something like that could sell for that amount of money definitely shook the traditional art world and forced them to pay attention to something that they had brushed off previously,” notes Velicescu, whose buyers tend to be from the tech world. “Artworks that are compelling and have something to say will stand the test of time and will persevere in this process.”

Technology is a principal component in the show’s other showcase, DIVERSEartLA, a program of immersive experiences spotlighting environmental issues. “I think of the whole project as a way to start rethinking how we connect to our planet, to save our planet and our future in different ways,” says DIVERSEartLA curator Marisa Caichiolo who paired art museums with their scientific counterparts for the program. “The partnerships bring a lot of dimension to the curatorial statement and to the work itself.”

Photo by Jordan Riefe.

Installation view of The Sign by Swen Leer at LA Art Show 2022.

Interspersed throughout the convention hall’s entryway, The Sign is a site-specific installation by Swen Leer, a series of freeway signs made by the people who make the real thing. It addresses those who are idle in the face of global catastrophe with slogans like “Your children WILL hate you – eventually” and “Your Lifestyle Fucked the Others.”

In an enclosed room with a mirrored floor, Our Turn to Change by Andrea Juan and Gabriel Penedo Diego is a video installation that surrounds the viewer. Its subject is the slow dissolution of the poles amid climate change, massive glaciers disintegrating drop by drop. Portions of the footage were shot by the artists during interventions carried out in the region.

Recognizing Skid Row As A Neighborhood: Skid Row Cooling Resources offers a cooling system for itinerants, some of whom succumb to heat during LA’s brutal summers. Curated by Max Presneill, Memorial to the Future is a large-scale brutalist structure housing monitors showing images related to environmental issues.

In the state of Jalisco, Mexico, rivers are drying up, putting local communities and tribes at risk. The Other Waterfall & Chapala Also Drops Itself by Claudia Rodriguez is a video and textile installation addressing the environmental crisis using drought imagery and a large suspended fishing net. For The Earth's Fruits, Guillermo Anselmo Vezzosi curated a sculptural tree made from discarded cans, a subtle metaphor for reuse and recycling.

Presented by MUMBAT Museum of Fine Arts of Tandil and the Museum of Nature and Science Antonio Serrano of Entre Rios Argentina.

Installation view of THE EARTH'S FRUITS by Guillermo Anselmo Vezzosi, curated by Indiana Gnocchini at The LA Art Show 2022.

“Each of the museums and institutions involved here bring a lot of dimension to the curatorial statement of the work itself,” says Caichiolo about teaming with organizations that are new to the artworld like Museum of Environmental Science, Museum of Nature and Science Antonio Serrano of Entre Rios Argentina and The Museum of Nature of Cantabria Spain.

Vellum LA and DIVERSEartLA share the goal of broadening the conversation around art, redefining what has value and who gets to call themselves artists. “At the end of the day, art is subjective,” offers Velicescu. “What did naysayers say when contemporary art came around? ‘I can do that.’ Well, do it then. A lot of people are scared by change, and are threatened by the fact that someone can make money off something like this. People were shocked when the dadaist came around, the surrealists. I see this as something that’s disrupting the space and a lot of people won’t like that. We’ll see what the history books have to say about this movement.”

About the Author

Jordan Riefe

Jordan Riefe has been covering the film business since the late 90s for outlets like Reuters, THR.com, and The Wrap. He wrote a movie that was produced in China in 2007. Riefe currently serves as West Coast theatre critic for The Hollywood Reporter, while also covering art and culture for The Guardian, Cultured Magazine, LA Weekly and KCET Artbound.

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