Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

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
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick 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
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Issue 18 November 2019

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
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–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
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Issue 17 August 2019

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
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
–Julie Weitz

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

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Issue 16 May 2019

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
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
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Issue 15 February 2019

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
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–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
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Issue 14 November 2018

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
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
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Issue 13 August 2018

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
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
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Issue 12 May 2018

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
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
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Issue 11 February 2018

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
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
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Issue 10 November 2017

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
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
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
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.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

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
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


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

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.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
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
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
Exquisite L.A.
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

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

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
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

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.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
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.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

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.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
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
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Issue 2 November 2015

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
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
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
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
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
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Ace Hotel DTLA
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Blum & Poe
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art
David Kordansky Gallery
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
Karma, Los Angeles
Lorin Gallery DTLA
Lorin Gallery La Brea
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
New Low
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
r d f a
Rele Gallery LA
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Shulamit Nazarian
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
the Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Libraries/ Collections
Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
CalArts (Valencia, CA)
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Research Library (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Emerging Leaders of Arts (Santa Barbara, CA)
Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, ID)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Scholes Library (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
Room Project (Detroit, MI)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
The Baltimore Museum of Art Library & Archives (Baltimore, MD)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

than Ruin

Center: Leonhard Hurzlmeier, right: Nick van Woert. Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

The former Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center building is a dusty pink, vaguely brutalist box that quietly, and stagnantly, sits amidst 
the cluttered, imperfectly gridded sprawl of South Central Los Angeles, haphazardly demarcated by the 10 freeway’s horizontal cleaving of the city. Adjacent to the historic West Adams district and within earshot of the freeway’s monophonic din, the hospital primarily tended to residents from its surrounding low-income communities until it swiftly shuttered in 2013 amidst allegations of criminal misconduct. Its neglected patients and workers were hurriedly swept out, seemingly absolved of responsibility for the building’s now-petrified contents.

As a hollowed-out shell situated in a neighborhood increasingly brushed by waves of gentrification, the hospital and its innards were expeditiously acquired by CIM Group, a real-estate investment firm that develops luxury projects in so-called “qualified communities.” 1 John Wolf, a Los Angeles-based art advisor who counts CIM Group as one of his corporate clients, 2 dreamed up plans for the site in advance of its eventual conversion into residential condominiums, and in October and November mounted a large-scale exhibition 
that occupied all but one floor of the derelict hospital. The exhibition spanned the administrative offices, cafeteria, pharmacy, and ICU, as well as the surgical, maternity, and psychiatric wards. Work by 84 artists—including Jenny Holzer, Gregory Crewdson, Matthew Day Jackson, Katherine Bernhardt, Marlene Dumas, and Daniel Joseph Martinez—was dispersed throughout the facility in often bizarre configurations, while the vestigial medical detritus remained largely intact. Whether a speculative vanity project designed to generate hype for luxury condominiums, or an honest attempt at fostering critical discourse by granting artists access to a contentious site, the exhibition’s premise and execution brings to light crucial questions regarding the urgency of fully excavating a site’s context, as well as the complicated politics of romanticizing spectacles of urban abandonment.

The shuttered hospital currently stands as an immoveable, vernacular allegory of institutional failure, avarice, and exploitation, of both the residents it purported to serve, primarily Latinos and people of color, as well as its staff. For years, a federal investigation revealed, former doctors and administrators operated a barbaric scheme that involved illegally performing unnecessary tests and procedures on homeless patients, “recruited” from Skid Row, in a bid to defraud Medicaid and amass insurance payouts. 3 In a similarly sinister collusion, a separate lawsuit also alleged that elderly and mentally impaired patients were virtually imprisoned in the psychiatric ward. 4 Upon litigation, the hospital abruptly folded into its current state—its 212 beds were swiftly emptied of patients and hundreds of people were suddenly unemployed. 5

Tanya Batura, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

While The Human Condition, both the exhibition’s title and its passively generic conceptual umbrella, aimed to “re-contextualize the hospital’s functional history” and “transcend the building’s original intention” by “invit[ing] artists to explore the corporal [sic] and psychological experience of being human,” 6 it also nonetheless attempted to strategically activate the hospital’s original narrative as a formal element of the exhibition. The language in the press release encouraged both artists and viewers to “explore the dilapidated remains” of a hospital that, according to organizers, “proudly opened in 1971 as the first Black-owned hospital in Los Angeles.” This reads as a couched attempt to frame the building, and by proxy the exhibition itself, as a cultural (and very specifically racial) landmark in West Adams, where, the press release stresses, “years of neglect are now giving way to reinvestment” 7 —a boilerplate sales pitch for developer-fueled gentrification.

Despite Wolf’s encouragement to view this particular hospital as a uniform stage for the multitude of human experiences that a hospital in general can emblematize, his simultaneous focus on the site’s historical narrative and the significance of its West Adams environs are key criteria for evaluating the exhibition’s context. While the Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center may indeed have been among the first black-owned hospitals in the city (definitively confirming this has proven difficult), both the Rose-Netta Hospital 8 and the Julian W Ross Medical Center 9 were founded earlier, in 1941 and 1957, respectively. At the time, segregation and racism triumphed in insidiously infiltrating the medical system, and as a result black physicians often fought to establish integrated hospitals in an attempt to patch the distinct dearth of healthcare options afforded to citizens of color.

As has been extensively documented historically, the housing climate proved similarly hostile.
 In 1943, several years after the Rose-Netta Hospital was established nearby in South Los Angeles, 30 
newly settled black homeowners in West Adams were met with bigoted resistance from their predominantly white neighbors, who attempted 
to invoke a restrictive covenant, an exceedingly common practice used 
to “maintain the racial integrity” of white neighborhoods. 10 This particular covenant sought to establish an all-white neighborhood through the year 2053—over one-hundred years into the future. The case was eventually dismissed by the Los Angeles Superior Court, and in 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants violated the 14th Amendment. 11 After 
a period of white flight, West Adams became a seat of black prosperity until befalling economic despair, largely spurred by the 10 freeway’s dissection of the neighborhood in the 1960s; now, it exemplifies a familiar narrative as a predominantly low-income, minority community on the cusp of gentrification due to astronomical housing prices elsewhere in the city.

Left: Gregory Crewdson, right: Matthew Day Jackson, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

The neglected Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center silently floats atop the tumultuous brew of these complex, deeply rooted racial and geographical histories. Nearly four years after the hospital’s demise, the building embodies the aura of a chalky, sickly flush, something that The Human Condition seemed either exploitative of, unaware of, or oddly muted to.

For the exhibition, the surgical, maternity, and psychiatric wards that previously harbored vulnerable and underserved patients stood littered with a random array of humanoid sculptures and clunky equipment: surgical lights, oxygen valves, x-ray illuminators, unidentifiable machines. Walls painted in various shades of institutional pastel supported large-scale paintings that sat perilously close to swollen ceiling panels, some of which had sagged and burst 
from the creeping pressure of errant bulging wires. Dust, iodine stains, and fugitive pills coated sooty linoleum floors amid misplaced installations; cartoonish pain assessment charts, pharmacy slips, and even medical records (a blatant HIPAA violation?) dispersed across unkempt countertops. Several whiteboards still listed the names of patients next to their corresponding bed numbers, and in one room a nurse’s scrawl mundanely memorialized the hospital’s last day in operation: April 8, 2013. “How do you feel today?,” the sign read in mismatched lettering, “Happy and Grateful.”

Throughout this diorama, works of art were physically enmeshed in, yet conceptually isolated from, their surroundings, and with few exceptions, failed to transcend pedestrian interpretations of the site and probe the litany of potential critical inquiries that the hospital and its environs invite. A limited number of works benefitted from this context: Kendall Carter’s installation that featured
a Jim Crow-era sign delineating segregated restrooms functioned as the only work to directly address the presciently raw fallout of systemic racism and institutional failure. On a poetic note, Tony Matelli’s immaculate bronze renderings of weeds and plants—verdant yet rusted fossils sprouting from structural fractures—read as indexical, ruminative monuments to the calcified site. In other cases, the site’s context detracted from otherwise intriguing work: the maternity ward read as an unnecessarily dogmatic setting for Polly Borland’s psychologically arresting images of adult men swathed in infant clothing and engaging in cosplay; Katherine Bernhardt’s agreeably prismatic painting of fruit betrayed a similar sentiment in the context of the hospital’s former cafeteria. Elsewhere, predominantly figurative works squatted amidst the matrix of vacated medical wards,
 and in a didactic reenactment of the exhibition’s thematic conceit, seemed to function solely as surrogates for the former presence of actual people.

Tony Matelli, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

In failing to account for the “specific” in site-specific, the majority of these works instead read as potential props for the exhibition’s de facto subject: the hospital’s uncanny, forsaken setting. An immersive mise-en-scène, this setting was curatorially staged as a singular entropic artwork, ultimately rendering the surrounding work irrelevant. This evident privileging of the site’s physical decrepitude called the veracity of The Human Condition’s narrative into question: the suspiciously clean box of latex gloves, the dusty, jaundiced medical folders, and the perfectly askew furniture and equipment all suddenly functioned as trompe-l’oeil embellishments designed to buttress the mirage of hurried desertion.

Unarguably falling within the purview of so-called “ruin porn,” 
this attempted reincarnation recasts the hospital as an aestheticized—and utterly anesthetized—totem of contemporary urban blight. While the romantic invocation of ruins in poetic and artistic contexts dates back centuries, spanning Renaissance formulations of ruins as fragmented connections to our Classical past, to twentieth century conjurations of ruins as dust-ridden premonitions of our apocalyptic future, the languished Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center functions in an entirely different context. The lyrical framing of the hospital as a ruin serves as a pretense for its reality as a site in developmental transition. Despite being treated with a fetishistic romanticism generally reserved for our atrophying remnants of the past, the hospital ultimately represents a vestige of the present—one that simultaneously presages imminent future displacement. This in itself carries with it problematic ethical undertones.

Rather than critically engaging with the site itself, and the innate political and conceptual complexities that this would entail, The Human Condition solely emphasized, and ultimately exploited as spectacle, the hospital’s general state of physical deterioration—rendering the site as 
a content-less formal abstraction primed for occupation by figurative works of art. As a spectacle of present-day urban peril rather than abandonment—from its narrative of criminal negligence to its potential role as a harbinger of dislocation for minority communities—the hospital is ultimately a spectacle of recent suffering; more wound than ruin. Wolf’s curatorial premise not only muted the intersecting narratives 
that underwrite the site’s history, but also passively invoked the notion of black ownership as an identity-based, site-specific selling point for an exhibition that predominantly featured white artists. In doing so, he manages to cajole visitors and collectors (either the culturally curious or the cultural elite) to a site expectant of gentrification by that same demographic.

This feature was originally published in Carla issue 7.

Polly Borland, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

Christopher Reynolds, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

Polly Borland, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

Marc Horowitz, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

Bettina Hubby, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

Chantal Joffe, Human Condition (2016) (installation view). Image courtesy of John Wolf. Photo: Gintare Bandinskaite.

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Jessica Simmons-Reid (MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago; BA, Brown University) is an artist and writer based in Los Angeles and Joshua Tree. She’s interested in the interstitial space between the language of abstraction and the abstraction of language, as well as the intermingling of poetry and politics. She has contributed essays and reviews to Carla and Artforum, among others.

More by Jessica Simmons-Reid