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October 3 - 6, 2002 at Barker Hangar, Santa Monica Airport, Santa Monica

by Bill Lasarow

John Koch, “Nude (Eating Peach),”
o/c, 20 x 18”, presented by John
Pence Gallery at the L.A. Art Show.

Guy Dill, “C.C. Angel (small),” 1999, bronze,
29 x 9 x 9”, presented by Bobbie Greenfield
Gallery at the L.A. Art Show. Photo: Brian Forrest.

In the decade since the Los Angeles International Contemporary Art Fair crashed to an end with the onslaught of the worst recession in post-War California history, a series of smaller and more specialized fairs have established audience and market beacheads here. Driven by organizer Kim Martindale of K.R. Martindale Show Management, the Fine Art Dealers Association (FADA) has been staging a respectable annual event since 1995 which has reflected its approximately thirty members’ emphasis on pre-War art. Solid but unquestionably conservative, the achievement of both FADA and its L.A. Art Show has been to ensure that the Old Master to plein air offerings were of consistently good quality and established provenance.

Indeed, the effort was made during a respectable run of shows at UCLA’s John Wooden Center that the FADA member dealers such as Spanierman from New York, Thomas Nygard from Montana, Nedra Matteucci from New Mexico, or local members such as George Stern were rounded by a limited group of well established modern and contemporary dealers such as Jack Rutberg, Linda Durham and John Natsoulas.

The understated but clearly emerging effect here was to harbor peace between what for decades has been commonly regarded as contentious, even overtly warring camps within the art world. Of course, this is hardly the product of academic or curatorial discourse, but an effort to market to a Southern California audience whose own history is still very much in the formative stage. The appearance of, say, Robert Arneson and Lorser Feitelson alongside, say, Wiliam Wendt and Rembrandt has in this context been about comforting an audience wary of art that is not first and foremost lovely in order to lend a greater sense of weight and relevance to art that is.

Whether or not this approach could be successful in more deeply rooted art capitals in the eastern U.S. or Europe, it leads us to this year’s eighth L.A. Art Show, which sees it relocating to the Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport. The larger space also reads in a powerful contemporary angle. And sure enough a new contingent of L.A. area galleries include dealers such as Chac-Mool, Manny Silverman, Tasende, Michael Kohn, Paul Kopeikin, whose roots are in the avant garde.

The press tag line reads “Old Masters to cutting edge Contemporary,” a democratic concession that whatever your taste there will be something to satisfy you. Come in black tie or just black. Attracting a well heeled social scene laced with celebrities starting with the opening night benefit to support the L.A. Music Center’s Spotlight Awards program will hopefully be good for business and feed the gossipy needs of glossy magazines groping for trends. But what is the nature of the shift in emphasis here: are we witnessing further evidence of the death of the avant garde or the absorption of traditional art into the contemporary? Perhaps the bland acceptance of both is a reasonable given if more collections become more eclectic. Hey, the formula here is working bigtime if buyers do business with Bingham Gallery in one part of the hall, and then Grant Selwyn down a way. We’ll all coexist under the big hangar.

Wherever the L.A. Art Show goes from here, 2002 is going to be pivitol. We’re not about to make any predictions, but whether this proves to be the start of something expansive or implosive, this will be a scene that nobody interested in art in Los Angeles should pass on.

L.A. Art Show dates are the weekend of October 4th & 5th (11am-7pm), and 6th (11am-5pm), admission is $15 (color catalogue is included) at the door. Tickets to the benefit preview on October 3rd (starting time, 6pm) are $100. Contact exhibition organizer K.R. Martindale Show Management for further information at (818) 905-9299, or at krmartindale Oh, and bring your ArtScene with you to take advantage of a $5 discount on the entry charge.

Fredrico Andreotti, "Spring Blossoms," o/c, 18 x 15".

Edouard Cortes, "Porte St. Denis," o/c, 13 x 18".

William Wendt, "A Vista," o/c, 24 1/4 x 36".