Issue 25

Issue 24

Issue 23

Issue 22

Issue 21

Issue 20

Issue 19

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

at POTTS
–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon

Issue 18

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Children of the Sun
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg

Issue 17

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
at NAVEL
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

Issue 16

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden

Issue 15

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon

Issue 14

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon

Issue 13

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown

Issue 12

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan

Issue 11

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn

Issue 10

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Reviews
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum

Issue 9

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects

Home
at LACMA

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers

Issue 8

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth

Issue 7

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Generous
Structures
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

Ma
at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing

Issue 6

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)

Issue 5

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)

Issue 4

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room
at LACMA

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)

Issue 3

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
at ASHES/ASHES

Issue 2

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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 Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
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

Issue 1

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Distribution
Downtown
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Château Shatto
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ICA LA
in lieu
JOAN
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Murmurs
Nicodim Gallery
Night Gallery
OOF Books
Over the Influence
Royale Projects
Sow & Tailor
The Box
Vielmetter Los Angeles
Wilding Cran Gallery
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Bel Ami
Charlie James
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Stanley's
Tierra del Sol Gallery
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Marta
Smart Objects
Tyler Park Presents
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the Landing
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Et al. (San Francisco, CA)
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Learn from this Community: Resisting Hierarchy through a Return to Community Arts

Leer en Español

Crenshaw Dairy Mart (Patrisse Cullors, Alexandre Dorriz, and noé olivas), abolitionist pod (prototype) (2021). Modular geodesic dome containing autonomous garden. Image courtesy of the artists and Crenshaw Dairy Mart. Photo: Gio Solis.

The New Compassionate Downtown (2021), a recent performance by Los Angeles Poverty Department (a.k.a. the “other” LAPD) pitted a fantasy of community against the interests of Downtown Los Angeles developers. The performance—which debuted on the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA’s concrete plaza in May1—took as its premise the demonstrable fact that Downtown, particularly Skid Row, offers a high concentration of affordable housing and resources for mental health and addiction recovery. The performance then imagines, what if this—rather than the developer-touted promises of tall, boxy high rises and loft living—was what attracted new residents to DTLA. 

The performance began with a pitch. The 10 actors were situated in plastic chairs arranged in a circle, recovery-meeting-style, when performer Iron G. Donato, donning a fedora, stepped forward. “Looking for a place to move? Consider Downtown L.A.,” he said, with all the practiced zeal of a car salesman: 

Downtown’s Skid Row neighborhood is a resource for the entire region. …Become part of this community… Develop meaningful relationships by getting involved with your neighbors, all of them. Become involved with the social service and grassroots activities. Not only will you enjoy your new living space, but you’ll do so knowing that Downtown has inclusive zoning, and welcomes residents at all income levels…. Living the guilt and resentment free lifestyle, you will be a beacon to our entire society… 

If only. From there, the performance became a sharing circle of sorts, as performers articulated what brought them Downtown. Stephanie Bell’s character said she ended up on Skid Row due to a lack of love and resources, before Maya Waterman, playing one of the well-to-do newcomers, bemoaned paying a thousand dollars a week for a beautician to keep her face pimple-free, saying that she’d moved downtown because she didn’t want to live that way anymore. After asking her how long she’d been in the area (“three months,” she answered), the members of her newly chosen community embrace her without further question. 

For decades, powers that be have been reluctant to acknowledge anything resembling community on Skid Row, even as the Los Angeles Poverty Department—which has rehearsed on Skid Row since 1985 and primarily comprises performers who live there—asserts the existence of community in the neighborhood again and again through both their performances and the group’s very existence. As LAPD performers articulated a future of co-dependence and grassroots mutual aid, where DTLA newcomers knowingly join a pre-existing community of unhoused and low-income residents, I was struck by the contrast between this narrative and the recent struggles of the mainstream, institutional art “community,” whose failure to take care of its own during the ongoing pandemic prompted many artists to divert more energy toward mutual aid both for art workers and others who were left in need due to systemic failures. Considering that the art world’s top tier feigns inclusion while others struggle to get by, we are especially primed to rethink what community means and whom it includes. 

Artists and art workers have long tended to use the term “community” to apply mostly to themselves—consider the 1969 treatise by Carl Andre (an advocate for the independence of art workers long before he allegedly murdered artist Ana Mendieta), which claimed that the “art world” was “a poison in the community of artists and must be removed by obliteration” (emphasis mine). This argument framed the fight against hierarchies as beneficial to artists in particular, sidestepping the fact that those at the top tend to have a hand in oppressing people who are not artists as well.2 Such trends persisted through the Trump era, with artists organizing in rarefied and protected art world spaces that are often unfamiliar to larger publics. (The spectacular failure of the Artists’ Political Action Network’s first meeting in February 2017, where artists planning to organize against the Trump administration arrived at the Boyle Heights gallery 356 Mission only to be met by a picket line of anti-gentrification community activists, perfectly encapsulates the disconnect that can occur when a notion of community includes only artists.)3 The pandemic and anti-racist uprisings have coincided with—or rather, encouraged—a few artist projects that pointedly take a more locally-grounded approach to community, and in doing so, shed a different light on the longstanding friction between the institutional art world and broader communities. 

Before the Crenshaw Dairy Mart (CDM), founded in early 2020 by artists Patrisse Cullors, noé olivas, and Alexandre Dorriz, opened its gallery space, it set out to build connections with its Inglewood neighbors and to honor the long history of community arts and organizing in the neighborhood. Its programming includes community artists and organizers both in and outside of the mainstream art world—its founders all have MFAs from USC, even if they also have organizing backgrounds (Cullors co-founded Black Lives Matter), while both of the recent, inaugural artists-in-residence do not. In collaboration with resident artist Paul Cullors, the Nigerian-American artist Oto-Abasi Attah created a mural outside the Dairy Mart of murdered South Central rapper and local entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, titled Saint Nip (2020). This spring, CDM’s founders installed a geodesic dome (abolitionist pod [prototype], 2021), a prototype for community gardens that could be placed throughout the city, in the parking lot of the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA—still occupying space in the institutional sector. CDM’s presence within institutional boundaries perhaps primes the art world, often inclined to ignore such community-driven ventures, to embrace and pay attention to its work. 

Another community-based project founded in early 2020, artist Lauren Halsey’s Summaeverythang, began as a free, local, organic produce distribution project in South Central based out of a building that Halsey turned into a community center in 2019. The artist was able to fund the nonprofit through the sale of her work and outside donations, some of which were garnered through art world fundraising campaigns and promotion from her gallery, David Kordansky. Halsey, who has shown at MOCA, the Hammer, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, has often described her museum and gallery projects as prototypes for public art she plans to do in the Crenshaw District. Before the pandemic, she told the New York Times she planned to “throw open” the doors of her studio, a building adjacent to the community center, and invite neighbors to carve their own stories into panels that would be incorporated into a public monument. “We’re all authoring narratives around what it means to be alive now,” Halsey said at the time.4 As a result of the pandemic, the produce box project took precedence over this collaborative art initiative, in an effort to meet the more immediate needs of the community. Halsey did press for Summaeverythang, her art world clout and the art world’s desire to appear socially conscious fueling interest, but she avoided telling journalists where exactly in South Central the community-center-turned-produce-assembly-line was, as the project was not for them. 

The community artist has long been an ill-defined and misunderstood category, often interpreted as connoting efforts “outside” the art world, and thus—given high art’s tendency toward elitism—inviting some friction between the community arts and artists whose social practice or participatory work is more centered in the institutional art world. It doesn’t help that much of the literature on the community arts takes a more metrics-driven approach, evaluating potential impact over critical positioning or historical relevance. Claire Bishop acknowledged this in her 2012 book Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, demonstrating the tensions between participatory art and community arts by comparing the late 1960s and 1970s work of the Artist Placement Group (APG) with the rise of the British Community Arts Movement in the late 1960s. The APG, an early London-based social practice collective, aimed to convince businesses and government agencies to employ artists, placing them in a position to influence organizational culture. The APG intentionally distanced itself from “community arts,” seeing itself more as a conceptual project aimed at reimagining institutional and organizational thinking. In contrast, Bishop defined the Community Arts Movement as “positioned against the hierarchies of the international art world and its criteria of success.”5 According to Bishop, the community artist aims to use participation and co-authorship to primarily empower marginalized or resource-poor sectors of society. She also notes that “it is conspicuous” that the localized participatory efforts of community artists have been less thoroughly historicized than individual contemporary artists with similar interests.6 Conspicuous indeed, especially given that historically marginalized communities—including in South Central Los Angeles—often have rich, sophisticated community art legacies. 

In his book The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles (2006), Steve L. Isoardi defines the legacy of the community arts differently than Bishop, tracing a history of arts in Black America and West Africa that long predates the 1960s Community Arts Movement. Isoardi acknowledges that most Black American artists were community artists from the time of enslavement through the segregation era. Even as they began performing or exhibiting in mainstream venues during the first half of the 20th century, they often had no option other than to live and stay in communities of color. Still, when musician Horace Tapscott left the Lionel Hampton band in 1961, disillusioned with the growing commercialization of jazz and compelled by the experimentation happening in his South Central home, he was motivated by a desire to dig deeper into the traditions of African and African American ritual. As many South Central artists were doing at the time, he studied West African rituals, finding models for the kind of collaborative, socially-conscious art he wanted to make. In explaining the roots of Tapscott’s community practice, Isoardi quotes ethnomusicologist J.H. Kwabena Nketia, who wrote that for the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana, “the enjoyment or satisfaction which a social occasion gives to the participants is directly related to its artistic content—to the scope it gives for the sharing of artistic experience through the display of art objects, the performance of music, dancing, or the recital of poetry.”7 In other words, art intensified and strengthened the experience of living (whereas, in Tapscott’s experience, touring with Hampton involved catering to hostile white audiences, hustling to succeed in a mainstream commercial milieu that did not value his community’s lived experience). The musicians in the virtuosic Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, which Tapscott founded, based their rituals and musical innovations in part on oral histories they shared with each other.

The narrative of community arts that Isoardi traces—one that also resonates with stories of visual artists like Noah Purifoy, whose work in and around Watts and later in the desert lead to him being mislabeled an “outsider” artist, despite his education and exhibition history—is less about artists giving back or trying to use their high art know-how to empower vulnerable communities. It is more about choosing to thrive in a different kind of artist community: an inclusive, local one not defined by outside hierarchies, and not devoting its time and resources to angling for the attention of or a place in these hierarchies. The overwhelmingly white, mainstream art world has repeatedly viewed such work as “outsider” because it isn’t framed within the institutions most familiar to conventionally-trained curators and academics. Community artists who continue to focus on being present with one another, and on doing work that feeds on collective histories and desires, give the high art world the ultimate snub, completely ignoring its prominence in favor of a different world. 

As recent interest in Summaeverythang and the Crenshaw Dairy Mart has demonstrated, the hierarchical art world does want to pay attention to community efforts driven by the right kind of artists (ones that have come up through their ranks, and still to some extent promote their projects within the institutional art world), support of which can make traditionally elitist and disproportionately white art institutions appear more diverse, aware, and conscientious. But if a resurgence of interest in community arts is driven by a desire to virtue signal and appear on the right side of urgent social justice issues, it likely will not last. Rather, a community arts resurgence will have a better chance to thrive if it is motivated—to call back to Nketia’s rich description of community arts—by a desire for the enjoyment and satisfaction of a raucous, collaborative, locally-rooted, anti-hierarchical approach to art-making. Perhaps, given art institutions’ newfound desire to appear inclusive, this approach can trickle up, but the goal has to be to leave the closed-mindedness bred by institutional elitism aside in order to shift focus to something else.

At the end of LAPD’s The New Compassionate Downtown, former criminal councilmember José Huizar, played by Clarence Powell, makes an appearance, having been placed as a hotel concierge (rather than sent to prison) by the New Compassionate Downtown, who have advocated for restorative justice on his behalf. It isn’t quite clear from his posturing monologues if he has accepted the damage caused by his corrupt dealings with developers, but his neighbors in Downtown, affected by this damage firsthand, don’t judge. “Ain’t nobody an angel,” says Lorraine Morland, drawing out the words, as other performers take up this anti-sanctimonious refrain and the performance insistently crescendos to its close. The playing field is leveling, and the community is complicated, fully alive, and just taking shape.

Catherine Wagley writes about art and visual culture in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Poverty Department, I Fly! or How to Keep the Devil Down in the Hole (performance view at REDCAT theater) (2020). Image courtesy of the artists and LAPD. Photo: Steve Gunther.

Los Angeles Poverty Department, Jupiter 35 (performance view at Intersection for the Arts) (1989). Image courtesy of the artists and LAPD. Photo: Lukas Fletzmann.

Summaeverythang Community Center, Los Angeles (June 2020). Image courtesy of SLHStudio, Los Angeles, and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles.

Oto-Abasi Attah and Paul Cullors, Saint Nip (2020). Mural. Image courtesy of the artists and Crenshaw Dairy Mart. Photo: Gio Solis.

The Los Angeles Poverty Department, The New Compassionate Downtown (performance view) (2021). Image courtesy of the artists and MOCA. Photo: Monica Nouwens.

The Los Angeles Poverty Department, The New Compassionate Downtown (performance view) (2021). Image courtesy of the artists and MOCA. Photo: Monica Nouwens.


This essay was originally published in Carla issue 25.

  1. The performance was part of the city-sponsored mental health awareness initiative WE RISE 2021: Art Rise.
  2. Carl Andre, “Proposal,” from Open Hearing (The Art Workers’ Coalition, 1969).
  3. Matt Stromberg, “L.A. Artists and Activists Clash at a Political Action Meeting in Boyle Heights,” Hyperallergic, February 23, 2017, accessed July 8, 2021, https://hyperallergic.com/360636/la-artists-and-activists-clash-at-a-political-action-meeting-in-boyle-heights/.
  4. Hilarie M. Sheets, “Lauren Halsey Is Making Monuments to South Los Angeles,” New York Times, May 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/01/arts/lauren-halsey-frieze-award-new-york.html
  5. Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells: Participatory Arts and the Politics of Spectatorship (London: Verso Books, 2012), 177.
  6. Ibid, 185.
  7. Steve L. Isoardi, The Dark Tree: Jazz and the Community Arts in Los Angeles (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006), 5.

Catherine Wagley writes about art and visual culture in Los Angeles.

More by Catherine Wagley