Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews:
Made in L.A. 2016
Doug Aitken Electric Earth
Mertzbau

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
Mark A. Rodruigez
The Weeping Line
Molly Larkey, Aaron Horst,
Keith J. Varadi, Katie Bode,
Stuart Krimko, Matt Stromberg
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Hana Cohn, Eli Diner,
Claire De Dobay Rifelj,
Katie Bode, Molly Larkey,
Keith J. Varadi
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater
Diana Thater
at LACMA
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Launch Party Carla Issue 4
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj,
Matt Stromberg, Hana Cohn,
Lindsay Preston Zappas,
Simone Krug, Keith Vaughn,
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Launch Party Carla Issue 3
Share Your Piece of the Puzzle Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Eli Diner, Jonathan Griffin,
Don Edler, Aaron Horst
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Benjamin Lord, Aaron Horst, Stephen Kent
Top-Down Bottom-Up Jenny Gagalka
Snap Reviews Aaron Horst, Char Jansen, Randy Rice, Lindsay Preston Zappas
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee
William Pope.L’s Reenactor
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
MEAT PHYSICS/
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
VESSEL // CINS and
VESSEL // PERF
Ben Medansky
I've been a lot of places,
seen so many faces
Nora Slade
Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, Catherine Wagley, Keith Vaughn, Aaron Horst, Kate Wolf, Mateo Tannatt, Evan Moffitt, Cal Siegel
We’re in This Together Lauren Cherry & Max Springer
Distribution
Downtown
ARTBOOK @ Hauser Wirth
    & Schimmel
917 E. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Central Park
412 W. 6th St. #615
Los Angeles, CA 90014

CES Gallery
711 Mateo St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

Cirrus Gallery
2011 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

Château Shatto
406 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Club Pro
1525 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90015

Fahrenheit
2245 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

Ghebaly Gallery
2245 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

The Geffen Contemporary
    & at MOCA
152 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Harmony Murphy
358 E. 2nd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

LACA
2245 E. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

MAMA
1242 Palmetto St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Mistake Room
1811 E. 20th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90058

MOCA Grand Avenue
250 S. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Night Gallery
2276 E. 16th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

The Box
805 Traction Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Wilding Cran Gallery
939 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Chinatown
A.G. Geiger
502 Chung King Ct.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

EMBASSY
422 Ord St., Suite G
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Human Resources
410 Cottage Home St.
Los Angeles CA, 90012

Ooga Booga
943 N. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Mid-City
1301PE
6150 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Chainlink Gallery
1051 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Commonwealth and Council
3006 W. 7th St. #220
Los Angeles CA 90005

David Kordansky Gallery
5130 W. Edgewood Pl.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

HILDE
4727 W. Washington
Los Angeles, CA 90016

JOAN
4300 W. Jefferson Blvd. #1
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Kayne Griffin Corcoran
1201 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

ltd Los Angeles
1119 S. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90019

Marc Foxx
6150 Wilshire Blvd. #5
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Martos Gallery
3315 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018

Ochi Projects
3301 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018

The Landing
5118 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Park View
836 S. Park View St. Unit 8
Los Angeles, CA 90057

Skibum MacArthur
712 S. Grand View St., #204
Los Angeles, CA 90057

SPRÜTH MAGERS
5900 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

The Underground Museum
3508 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90018

VACANCY
2524 1/2 James M. Wood Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006

Visitor Welcome Center
3006 W. 7th St., Suite #200A
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Culver City
Arcana Books
8675 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Blum and Poe
2727 S. La Cienega
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Cherry and Martin
2712 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Honor Fraser
2622 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Klowden Mann
6023 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Luis De Jesus
2685 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

MiM Gallery
2636 La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Roberts and Tilton
5801 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Samuel Freeman
2639 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Susanne Vielmetter
6006 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Silverlake/ Echo Park
Smart Objects
1828 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

Otherwild
1768 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
Hollywood
Diane Rosenstein
831 Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Family Books
436 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

GAVLAK
1034 N. Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Hannah Hoffman
1010 Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

LAXART
7000 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90038

M+B
612 N. Almont Dr.
Los Angeles, CA 90069

Mier
1107 Greenacre Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

Moskowitz Bayse
743 N. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Regen Projects
6750 Santa Monica Blvd.
LLos Angeles, CA 90038

Shulamit Nazarian
616 N. La Brea
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Various Small Fires
812 Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Westside
18th Street Arts
1639 18th St.
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis
    &College of Art and Design
9045 Lincoln Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Christopher Grimes Gallery
916 Colorado Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

DXIX Projects
519 Santa Clara Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90291

Five Car Garage
(Emma Gray HQ)

Team (Bungalow)
306 Windward Ave.
Venice, CA 90291
Eastside
ACME
2939 Denby Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039

ESXLA
602 Moulton Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90031

SADE
204 S. Avenue 19
Los Angeles, CA 90031
Boyle Heights
BBQLA
2315 Jesse St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Chimento Contemporary
622 S. Anderson St., #105
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Ibid.
670 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Ooga Twooga
356 Mission Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
1326 S. Boyle Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Museum as Retail Space (MaRS)
649 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023

Nicodim Gallery
571 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Venus Over Los Angeles
601 S. Anderson St.
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Pasadena/ Glendale/ Valley
The Armory Center for the Arts
145 N. Raymond Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91103

Los Angeles Valley College
5800 Fulton Ave.
Valley Glen, CA 91401

Natural
15168 Raymer St.
Van Nuys, CA 91405

The Pit
918 Ruberta Ave.
Glendale, CA 91201

Le Louvre, Las Vegas

Pageant of the Masters, Laguna Beach

Pageant of the Masters (2015) (backstage). Live recreation of Edward Percy Moran, The Birth of Old Glory (Betsy Ross Presenting Flag) (1917). Image courtesy of Pageant of the Masters.

Pageant of the Masters (2015) (backstage). Live recreation of Edward Percy Moran, The Birth of Old Glory (Betsy Ross Presenting Flag) (1917). Image courtesy of Pageant of the Masters.

I’m pointing at the moon, and you looking at my finger! – Bruce Lee

In 1985 Jean Baudrillard arrived in the warm, verdant hills of Orange County. It was a land of soymilk and honey, humming with sprinkler water and gasoline. He had come at the end of a trip across the anti-Europe, to see a young country that bewildered him.

He was delighted and horrified by America. It was everything he expected. The Pacific was a “crystal prison” wall; the desert a “cinematic vision.”[1] Santa Barbara was filled with “funereal” villas and beaches where joggers prolonged death through a “morbid…semi-ecstatic cult of the body”.[2] Los Angeles, the capital of cinematic illusion, was for him no more than a Hollywood metonym, a real city sloppily slathered with artifice. “For us the whole of America is a desert,” he wrote in his travelogue, which later became his book America. “Culture exists there in a wild state: it sacrifices all intellect, all aesthetics in a process of literal transcription into the real.”[3]

I thought of old Uncle Jean last September, when I found myself in Laguna Beach fifty years after his visit. I had come for the Festival of the Arts, a commercial art fair on the grounds of an outdoor amphitheater. It was a warm weekend showcase of Sunday painters with aspirations of Dale Chihuly—pleasantly middlebrow family fun. The real draw, though, was a staged performance at nightfall unlike any in the world, a spectacle known as the Pageant of the Masters.

Since 1933, an all-volunteer cast and crew have assembled each summer to recreate famous masterworks in exacting tableaux vivants. From unsigned Roman sculptures to Edward Hopper paintings, the program is a broad survey of art history. Each figural subject is a live human posed motionless in an elaborately painted set. No curtains are ever drawn, but in a pall of onstage darkness props are placed, gigantic frames are cinched, and bedecked models take their places. The hyperreal results I witnessed would have given Baudrillard an aneurysm. When the lights went on, those deep sets seemed truly flat; painted shadows on costumes perfectly mimicked blocks of shade in oil. Live actors, frozen still, became statues. Poses were held for only a minute or two, while a narrator described the work being imitated; then the flattened set was dismantled and the next artwork patched together. The whole stunning sequence was set to a live orchestral score. This was a museum with intermission and buttered popcorn, its prep team black-clad stagehands.

Pageant of the Masters (2015) (backstage). Live recreation of Edward Percy Moran, The Birth of Old Glory (Betsy Ross Presenting Flag) (1917). Image courtesy of Pageant of the Masters.

Pageant of the Masters (2015) (backstage). Live recreation of Edward Percy Moran, The Birth of Old Glory (Betsy Ross Presenting Flag) (1917). Image courtesy of Pageant of the Masters.

“Where Art Comes to Life!” the Pageant website promises. “Why just look at art when you can experience it.” What distinguishes the act of looking at art from a true perceptual experience isn’t clear—though I doubt the fair organizers were consciously making phenomenological claims in their advertisement. The experience they sell is a spectacle for awed yet passive consumption. The program is what Baudrillard would call “a mark of cultural ethnocentrism”[4]—an art-historical drive-by from the safety of an air-conditioned safari Jeep.

The Pageant’s theme, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” washed each work with sunny, patriotic pep that made art history cozy and communitarian rather than dangerous and dysfunctional (as I believe it to be). The field felt foreign as I sat there listening to the cheerful story of Norman Rockwell. The syrupy sentimentality of Currier and Ives—an audience favorite—went down like an inedible concession stand sweet. No opinions were necessary but a profound admiration for traditional notions of beauty.

The narrator’s soothing baritone lubricated our effortless glide from Mughal India to Rococo France, not unlike those pacifying headsets available at museums for a sizeable surcharge. Lulled by his omniscient tone, audience members’ studious gazes glossed into vacant stares. Look away from the frozen corpses strewn before our first President’s victorious steed in Washington’s March (Thomas Ball, 1869); think not on the vicious proclivities of Shiva, Lord of the Dance (Anonymous, 950-1000). Cyrus Dallin’s Native American Scout (1910) knew nothing of the Trail of Tears. In that amphitheater, art history was a pleasantry enjoyed by the rich, cleansed of politics and other nasty blemishes. It was a story of victors; losers don’t sit for portraits.

This was Reagan country, and the show could’ve been mistaken for a late summer Fourth of July extravaganza. In Laguna Beach, recreations of 19th century pioneer paintings felt self-referential, celebrating a Manifest Destiny fulfilled on the Pacific shore. Boucher’s Madame de Pompadour (1756), plopped awkwardly between Revolution-era American artworks, and was cast as a lush celebrant of aristocratic capitalism. The mercantilism of Louis XV seemed suddenly close to the austere economics of Orange County, Le Petit Trianon a Neoclassical summer villa on the shores of Emerald Bay. The pursuit of happiness ended in projected fireworks at the show’s pre-intermission peak, while an actor dressed as George Washington rode a live white steed before a plaster and bronze-painted flesh facsimile of the Jefferson Memorial.

Pageant of the Masters (2015). Live recreation of Edward Percy Moran, The Birth of Old Glory (Betsy Ross Presenting Flag) (1917). Image courtesy of Pageant of the Masters.

Pageant of the Masters (2015). Live recreation of Edward Percy Moran, The Birth of Old Glory (Betsy Ross Presenting Flag) (1917). Image courtesy of Pageant of the Masters.

What is a pageant but a striptease, a cakewalk, a Christmas play—a parade of beauty or patriotism or faith? Pageantry means values presented with panache, ideology displayed with celebratory flair. Its propagandistic spirit makes history into myth, the dialectic of civilization into a precession of simulacra.

Baudrillard believed our modern world to be a stream of copies without originals. America—and especially the West—was founded on this simulacral premise, a desire to resurrect the dead for the pleasure of the living. “One of the aspects of [Americans’] good faith,” he wrote, “is their stubborn determination to reconstitute everything of a past and a history which were not their own and which they have largely destroyed or spirited away. Renaissance castles, fossilized elephants, Indians on reservations, sequoias as holograms, etc.”[5] For him Disneyland was the consummate simulacrum, a fabricated world that refers only to the realm of fantasy. On his visit, Orange County’s infamous theme park cast a shadow of fakery over the entire sunny region, one that gave me chills as I sat in my amphitheater seat that night.

As I watched history’s classic artworks shamelessly reconstituted, I sympathized with the departed French curmudgeon. Larger than life, these tableaux were actually nothing like the art they aped, a fact made inscrutable by distance. My opera glasses grew foggy with body heat as I clutched them close, trying to spot the cracks in the Pageant’s narrative. I felt like a kid on a Disneyland ride looking for exit doors, safety valves, and track lighting; I yearned to dismantle the artifice. But everywhere I turned, it was there to face me off: nothing hid behind its mask but another mask, another layer of illusion.

All of a sudden, I wondered if maybe we were in a museum after all. The narrator could be reading wall labels. Our vantage point was framed by a proscenium not unlike a cordon. The lighting was precisely controlled to amplify a specific perceptual experience.

Both museum walls and theater stages are contextual frames within which work performs; even static objects are full of motion, engaged in a parallax with the bodies that perceive them. Perhaps the Pageant illustrates the way art really behaves before our senses, less a stable material to consume at will than a living force to contend with.

The Pageant tableaux are mimed performances more than faithful recreations, but they transmit images and concepts to viewers the same way paintings do—and ultimately that merits just as much study or casual enjoyment as any Manet. In the end I resisted Baudrillard’s postructuralist panic: though overwhelmed by the ideological spectacle my field of study had become, I was fearful of being too rooted in the discipline. The faces around me were alight with wonder; art most of them probably knew from dry textbooks felt suddenly dynamic and alive. Their excitement might be worth the whole simulacrum. If we were in Las Vegas or the Louvre, it didn’t really matter. I decided relax and enjoy the show.

[1] Jean Baudrillard, America, Trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 1988), 30.

[2] Ibid., 35.

[3] Ibid., 28.

[4] Jean Baudrillard, America, Trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 1988), 101.

[5] Ibid., 41.

2016-07-12 (1)

Originally published in Carla Issue 3.