Magnus Rosengarten: I wanted to begin our conversation discussing the larger vision of the Curator’s Council. ICA LA’s vision is to balance local with global outlooks; to support art that challenges the way we see and experience the world; and to reflect the diversity of Los Angeles. How does this mission speak to you and what influence did it have in creating the Curator’s Council?
Miriam Rothbart: I was immediately attracted to the museum’s inclusive ethos and commitment to making contemporary exhibitions and programming relevant and available to a wide audience. In many ways, the Curator’s Council grew out of the desire to support and further this mission. In addition to exploring non-traditional spaces and visiting an array of local artists, the Curator’s Council also serves as the lead underwriter of ICA LA’s Project Room and Courtyard exhibitions. These spaces showcase emerging and under-recognized creative talent. For example, the inaugural Project Room show presented the first L.A. solo presentation of Bronx-based multidisciplinary artist Abigail DeVille - it was an incredible effort and ambitious installation to accomplish and the council is proud to have made that happen. This spring the Project Room will feature L.A. artist Rafa Esparza - his first solo museum presentation in his hometown and given his practice, we’re very excited to see his work and that of his collaborators in the space. Our group also experiences the rich diversity of L.A.’s culinary world. One of the most memorable lunches after visiting the Vincent Price Museum with artist Patrick Martinez was at Yxta Cocina Mexicana, a Mexican restaurant at the edge of the Arts District in Downtown L.A. On every outing we explore a different restaurant and to date, we haven’t returned to the same location twice. Always exploring what’s new!
Magnus: You have visited an array of spaces from the Marciano Art Foundation in Mid-City, to Cayetano Ferrer’s and Kelly Akashi’s studios in Inglewood, to 5 Car Garage in Santa Monica. Can you recall a show or experience that altered your perspective on the arts community here?
Miriam: Personally, visiting alternative, non-traditional art spaces has been the most eye-opening and transformative aspect of exploring the burgeoning scene here. Thinking outside the box is a big part of bringing emerging art to the public and spaces such as The Underground Museum and Joan are important catalysts to making art more accessible on the ground level. House of Gaga and Hunter Shaw Fine Art also come to mind as creative commercial ventures. Visiting Del Vaz Projects, a unique project located in a two bedroom apartment in Little Osaka, run by anthropologist Jay Ezra Nayssan, stands out in my mind. Curator Council members were greeted by Nayssan and offered Persian tea and dates before exploring the thought-provoking works of David Gilbert and Rachelle Sawatsky, exhibited throughout the apartment. Similarly, Five Car Garage is another example of an unconventional venture - a garage in an alleyway by the Santa Monica Airport and run by curator Emma Gray. The gallery provides a platform for both established and emerging artists such as David Hendren and Megan Daalder through a unique perspective, location, and space.
Magnus: Some of the group recently organized what looked like an exciting trip to Mexico City. You visited a variety of museums, private collections, and art spaces; among them the massive National Museum of Anthropology and the reputable Kurimanzutto gallery. Do you have some lasting impressions or take-aways from the trip?
Miriam: Mexico City is dichotomous and energetic, full of culture, art, and spirit. The Curator’s Council covered a lot of ground in just five days and highlights included visits to the National Museum of Anthropology, Museo Jumex, La Casa Azul at Museo Frida Kahlo, and the studio of Diego Rivera. Some of the standouts for me were visiting the homes and collections of Eugenio Lopez and Gabriela and Ramiro Garza; meeting with Mexican visual artist Yoshua Okón and exploring a survey of his work at Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo. Spending time with Yoshua gave us a unique insight into the important and relevant work he’s creating which often blurs the lines between documentary, reality, and fiction.
Magnus: What do you think makes L.A. so unique compared to other major art metropolises?
Miriam: Part of the vision for the Curator’s Council is to participate in the exciting developments surrounding the city’s art scene in downtown and beyond. The city is home to significant institutions like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Getty Center and Hammer Museum, but has traditionally been known more for its film industry. With the additions of new institutions like The Broad, Marciano Art Foundation and ICA LA, the city is now bursting with artistic and curatorial energy more than ever. This city is also home to quite a few exciting independent non-profit art spaces like LAXART and The Mistake Room, which showcase contemporary art and nonconventional projects. Hauser & Wirth in the Arts District has also been a worthwhile addition as it’s a gallery space that is working to become a community gathering hub with a communal garden, an exceptional restaurant, Manuela, and museum-worthy exhibitions. In the end, it’s not about how many institutions or spaces open or how many artists move here, but rather the cross-dialogue that happens when all of these things come together to build a creative and energizing spirit for the city. Which in turn spills over into other creative fields like the fashion, food, and film industry. So, all the overlapping of these experiences is what is making L.A. a wonderful place to learn from and live in. Whether through the ICA LA’s Curator’s Council or any other means, the council members and I truly believe this is one of the best times to explore and be involved with contemporary culture in Los Angeles - and there’s plenty of room for it all and for everyone!
Thank you Miriam!
ICA LA’s Curator’s Council is chaired by Florence Azria, Chris Cortazzo, Sydney Holland and Leslie McMorrow.