Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

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
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
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
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
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
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
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
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
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 (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

The Mess We’re In

An Artist Life Manifesto, directed by Marina Abramovic for MOCA Gala (2011). Photo: Frazer Harrison.

Steve Mnuchin already owned IndyMac and was swiftly becoming “Foreclosure King” when he joined MOCA’s board in December 2009—ProPublica pinned 39 percent of national foreclosures between 2009 and 2015 on his company, OneWest.1 His gallerist dad was about to open L&M Arts in Los Angeles, which debuted with an animatronic Paul McCarthy sculpture of George Bush fucking pigs, and no one protested Foreclosure King’s appointment to the museum board. Then, seven years later, when Donald Trump nominated him for Secretary of Treasury, his orientation to power and politics suddenly became a problem. Petitions circulated amongst art-worlders: “kick Trump’s minion off your board.”2 Mnuchin resigned from MOCA in December 2016, to focus “full-time efforts” on the treasury, he said.3 Robert Mnuchin, his dad, told the Wall Street Journal he’d “do a good job.”4

Trump came to town on March 13, 2018, the day MOCA parted ways with its outspokenly feminist chief curator, Helen Molesworth. “This is the first time I’ve seen traffic the color of shit,” said writer Carol Cheh on Facebook, posting a color-coded traffic map. “Also, Molesworth and [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson got fired today.”5

“I can’t believe Trump fired Helen Molesworth,” tweeted @dookie_williams, joking.6 We’re often not joking, though: “in-your-face pro-sex feminism” is risky in the “Age of Trump” and “may not be entirely profitable,” wrote Linda Yablonsky in Artforum’s Diary,7 as if those truths emerged post-election day. We now use “in the age of Trump” liberally in art writing, sometimes forgetting how much art world shadiness predated the reality TV star in the oval. For example, trouble at MOCA first brewed back in 1980, when billionaire Eli Broad took the board’s reins. It began boiling over dramatically and repeatedly a decade ago. The museum’s current tangle—the cancellation of a gala, resignation of a respected board member, and poorly explained firing of a curator on whom we staked too much hope—just further evidences a systemic mess. Rooted in self-interest and power grabs, the mess has many palpable symptoms, but each time we hurl our outrage at them we sidestep the illness.

Novelist Maria Hummel set her new murder mystery, Still Lives, in an L.A. museum that’s a cross between MOCA and the Marciano Foundation (named after a collector, dependent on a board, wracked by controversy). The action plays out in the recent past, though the way things are going, MOCA-meets-Marciano could be the future, and few prospects better indicate systemic messiness than a public museum blurring into a private one. Still Lives is a trashy novel in which bodies get shoved into art shipping crates, the murderer makes declarations like “you have no idea how much it’s costing the [museum] just to own things,”8 and registrars and development staff unwind together at spinning class. The book leaves out everything that makes art interesting, which is probably why hate-reading it as an art world allegory kind of works.

Still Lives begins with a gala at the Rocque (pronounced “rock”) Museum honoring hot L.A. artist Kim Lord, a flattened-out cross between Cindy Sherman and Kaari Upson. The museum’s director, Bas, pushed through Lord’s solo show of paintings of herself posing as murdered women, and chief curator Lynne wears her disinterest on her sleeve. “I thought she was highly over-rated,” Lynne says at one point, in private.9

Helen Molesworth opted not to visit the studio of Mark Grotjahn, the MOCA board’s chosen honoree for the 2018 gala and the subject of a 2020 retrospective at the museum, sending a junior curator in her stead.10 The retrospective wasn’t her idea and Molesworth rarely shows interest in male market darlings, though multiple board members collect Grotjahn’s repetitive abstractions. A few weeks before the curator’s ouster, Grotjahn turned down the gala honor, saying in a note to board chair Maurice Marciano, “There is a new urgency to change the power dynamic and we have an opportunity to do so.”11 It was a smart move, post #MeToo—choosing not be the white man in the spotlight—but the board seems to only know how to honor white men (Jeff Koons in 2017, Ed Ruscha in 2016, John Baldessari in 2015).

An Artist Life Manifesto, directed by Marina Abramovic for MOCA Gala (2011). Photo: Frazer Harrison.

Kim Lord never arrives at the gala at the fictional Rocque. No one knows yet that she is herself a victim, but her work’s murder theme carries over to the gala’s décor: “Bare lights resembling those in interrogation rooms hang from poles,” writes Hummel. “Even the appetizers have a corpse-like color scheme: [. . .] some smeary fig-paste chèvre concoction that resembles an infected wound.”12

Such macabre details recall an actual MOCA gala from 2011, art dealer Jeffrey Deitch’s second year as MOCA’s contested director. (After board members hired him, a YouTuber posted a video of Hitler reacting to the news: “That little Warhol wannabe? Are you kidding me?”13) Marina Abramovic masterminded the event, enlisting young artists to pose as centerpieces, select women nude on lazy susans with skeletons draped over their bodies and other performers perched beneath tables on rotating seats, their heads emerging through holes. Artist Blaine O’Neill told me five years ago that he performed as a head at a table for Eli Broad, Mayor Antonio Villarogosa, and other collectors. “The only person who gave me more than five minutes [of eye-contact] was the mayor,” he recalled.14 MOCA warned performers that guests might poke or touch them and paid each $150. LACE held a post-gala panel, interrogating the event’s ethics, and Deitch slipped in near the end. “Why no naked men?” someone asked him. “That was my request to Marina Abramovic,” Deitch answered—businessmen find male nudity uncomfortable.15 Sexist, indeed, but we acted as if, had Abramovic and Deitch not collaborated like this, “businessmen” would take interest in more than lady parts.

The April after the Abramovic gala, MOCA partnered with Mercedes Benz, which funded a month-long exhibition, Transmission LA, curated by Beastie Boy Mike D.: a big metal Benz logo hung outside the Geffen Contemporary, a new CLS 4-door coupe debuted in the galleries, accompanied by Cory Arcangel video installation and a room full of pinwheels designed by Jim Drain and Ara Peterson. Transmission LA “expands—and complicates—the comfortable moral outrage against Deitch and MOCA,” wrote Greg Allen at the time, “because the forces and assumptions that gave rise to it—art as [. . .] consumption experience, luxury good and corporate branding project—are already operating across vast swaths of the contemporary art and museum world.”16 Deitch’s commercialism hung out too blatantly for us, but he was mostly on trend.

In Still Lives, the museum’s board chair and main funder hires a detective before the artist Kim Lord even goes missing. She can’t buy Lord’s work—someone else keeps getting to it first—and wants the detective, Hendricks, to find out why. It’s merely coincidence that Hendricks also helps solve the artist’s murder; Lord’s market was his mandate.

Deitch and Eli Broad fired chief curator Paul Schimmel in late 2012, all the artists resigned from MOCA’s board and pundits fleetingly complained market had triumphed over meaning. But then Broad, already building his own museum across the street, pulled his financial support, LACMA and USC both offered to merge with the financially failing MOCA,17 and Deitch resigned in summer 2013. “Now that [Deitch] has fast-forwarded himself right out,” wrote critic Jed Perl, “the time has come to revisit the insidious assumptions that put him there in the first place.”18 After a stint of treating museums like box offices, maybe MOCA could return to serious programming. The board hired former DIA director Philippe Vergne in January 2014, and artists—John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, Catherine Opie—resumed their former roles on the board. In late 2014, Vergne hired Molesworth, who posed questions in her writing like, “what forms of history can feminism offer in [. . .] the museum?”19 and reinstalled the permanent collection to give women more space, juxtaposing Lee Lozano with Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Smithson with Valie Export.

Optimism that Vergne and Molesworth could right the ship persisted for a while, even as former board chair Broad opened his museum across the street and new board co-chair Maurice Marciano finished up his own museum, now open on Wilshire. The programming split, progressive exhibitions running alongside blockbuster shows (by men). Doug Aitken followed Matthew Barney in the cavernous Geffen, while Molesworth collaborated with artist-founded Underground Museum and curated Kerry James Marshall and Anna Maria Maiolino exhibitions. When Vergne brought to MOCA the Carl Andre show he organized at DIA, Molesworth invited a roundtable of women to discuss Andre, who was ambiguously acquitted of artist Ana Mendieta’s murder. Molesworth argued “it was not the right moment for such a show,” reported Julia Halperin in her artnet News postmortem on the curator’s firing. She also, apparently, refused to stroke egos. One anonymous donor said he “felt naked” when she came to see his collection. “She didn’t even pretend to like it,” he told Halperin.20

Back in the fictional realm, Kim Lord donates her whole Still Lives series (her posing as Nicole Brown Simpson, the Black Dahlia, etc.), to the Rocque, citing the museum’s historic “support of women artists.” She mostly does it to keep the male collector who has dominated her market from dominating again, and it’s unclear how well, exactly, the Rocque does support women, since most other artists mentioned are male. One man comes up often: Jason Raines, who sounds a lot like real-life Jason Rhodes, once installed an electric chair in the galleries. “You can’t just kill people in your chair,” he said, after deciding the installation would be participatory. “That part is pretend anyway. You need to make them part of the system that kills. That’s real.”21

In the days following Molesworth’s firing, whispers about her difficulty surfaced. Frieze published an article based only on anonymous sources, one of whom said Molesworth disrespected her colleagues “and made their daily work lives miserable.”22 Even if they’re likely part or mostly true, such accounts contrast the praise showered on openly difficult Paul Schimmel after he lost the same job, or the praise showered on, say, Walter Hopps—an oft-fired drug addict who demanded the impossible of colleagues. It’s also hard to imagine anyone working her way up the ladder in the museum world, while criticizing the museum world, and not being difficult.

Before Kim Lord’s body turns up, buried in the Angeles National Forest, the Rocque board considers voting out their director, Bas. After her death, attention turns to ownership. Bas, the board chair, and Lord’s gallerist meet to determine who owns her final series; the super-collector hoarding her work agrees to donate many paintings to the Rocque, on the condition that his name—not Lord’s—appears above the gallery’s entrance. Still Lives, an annoyingly familiar soap opera, paints L.A. as a city defined by private museums, driven by deals like this. The novel’s narrator escapes it all by moving back to Vermont (“There are some new graduate programs at the university,” her mom tells her23), then musing about the city where “monstrous appetites” devour hopes and dreams. She treats the power structures as inevitable, the countryside her solace. But we’ve yet to really try directing collective outrage exclusively, consistently at those appetites (not at programs, directors, curators), calling for the resignation not just of the Mnuchins but all the players who put their names first. If we did, success or not, we’d be shaping a truer story about the mess we’re in.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 12. 

An Artist Life Manifesto, directed by Marina Abramovic for MOCA Gala (2011). Photo: Frazer Harrison.

An Artist Life Manifesto, directed by Marina Abramovic for MOCA Gala (2011). Photo: Frazer Harrison.

  1. Paul Kiel and Jesse Eisinger, “Trump’s Treasury Pick Excelled at Kicking Elderly People Out of Their Homes,” Propublica, Dec. 17, 2016,
  2. “LA MOCA take Trump’s minion off your board !”, Ipetitions,
  3. Yvonne Villarreal, “Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Pick for Treasury, Resigns as MOCA Board member,” LA Times, Dec. 3, 2016,
  4.  Anupreeta Das and Rachel Louise Ensign, “Treasury Pick Steven Mnuchin Bet on Donald Trump and Won,” Wall Street Journal, Nov. 29, 2016,
  5.  Carol Cheh, March 13, 2018, Facebook post.
  6. @dookie_williams, 3:32 pm, March 13, 2018, tweet.
  7. Linda Yablonsky, “Deep Frieze,” Artforum Diary, Oct. 9, 2017,
  8. Maria Hummel, Still Lives (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2018), 131.
  9. Ibid., 133.
  10. See, among others, Julia Halperin, “Clashing Visions, Simmering Tensions: How a Confluence of Froces Led to MOCA’s Firing of Helen Molesworth,” artnetNews, March 16, 2018,
  11. Deborah Vankin, “Mark Grotjahn declines a MOCA honor, and an art gala turns into a deeper discussion about inclusivity,” LA Times, Feb. 2, 2018,
  12.  Hummel, 18.
  13. 334point5, “Hitler Learns MOCA Job Goes to Jeffrey Deitch,” Youtube video, 3 min., 45 sec., posted Feb. 8, 2010,
  14. Catherine Wagley, “Marina Abramovic’s MOCA Gala Controversy: Jeffrey Deitch Confronted and the Performers Speak Out,” LA Weekly, Dec. 19, 2011.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Greg Allen, “Concept by Mercedes,”, Aug. 6, 2012,
  17. See THR Staff, “LACMA Proposes Merger with Museum of Contemporary Art,” The Hollywood Reporter, March 7, 2013.
  18. Jed Perl, “The Departure of LA MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch: How the Box Office Took Over the Modern Art Museum,” The New Republic, July 26, 2013,
  19. Helen Molesworth, “How to Install Art as a Feminist,” in Modern Women: Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010).
  20.  Halperin, “Clashing Visions.”
  21.  Hummel, 114.
  22. Frieze Staff, “Ex-Employees of Fired LA MoCA Chief Curator Helen Molesworth Claim Poor Leadership,” Freize, March 14, 2018,
  23. Hummel, 266.

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

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