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“Pam and I get a big kick out of our association with the Biennial,” said NPR CEO Jarl Mohn, standing at a podium before a presser announcing the artists included in “Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only,” the Hammer Museum’s biennial, which opens June 12 and will be on view through August 18. “A hundred years from now, art historians are going to write about this era in L.A. The most advanced work, in aggregate, is being made here today.”
Mohn, the founder of E! Entertainment Television and former VP at MTV, is a longtime supporter of the UCLA-affiliated museum and finances three prizes given out during the biennial — the visitor-voted Public Recognition Award ($25,000), the juried Career Achievement Award ($25,000) and the Mohn Award ($100,000). “It’s our favorite thing,” he said.
This biennial, the third iteration for the museum, will feature 26 artists from all areas and fields — fashion and poetry too — of art in Los Angeles. The number of artists is down from previous years (60 in 2012, and 35 in 2014) so as to “give the artists the space they deserve,” said biennial co-curator Hamza Walker, director of education for The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago.
Walker’s co-curator, Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi, revealed that the exhibition will be “artist-driven, which is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but artists will permeate all facets of what it takes to put on an exhibition,” meaning that one of the selected artists gave the biennial its sub-title: “a, the, though, only” was produced by poet-artist Aram Saroyan, who achieved some renown for his minimal poems in the 1960s. Meanwhile, artist Guthrie Lonergan will create a widget on the Hammer’s website, based on Microsoft Word’s “Clippy,” that will guide viewers through the exhibition.
The show features a multitude of fields — “Dance, fashion, literature, music, painting, and film are all represented,” said Hammer director Ann Philbin.
Even Hollywood is represented on an even playing field, something relatively rare in the art world. Arthur Jafa, a cinematographer who worked on Crooklyn (1994), Malcolm X (1992), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), and Selma (2014), will present a series of notebooks he compiled over his 25 years in the industry that imagine a black aesthetic applied to film, “resulting in an alternate version of Hollywood cinematic conventions,” said Moshayedi.
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Other highlights include Eckhaus Latta, a young duo recently relocated to Los Angeles from New York, who created an ad campaign for their new clothing line commissioned by the Hammer; Kenzi Shiokava, an overlooked veteran who has been making woodwork and assemblage art since the 1960s; Martine Syms, an up-and-coming young installation artist; and Sterling Ruby, an L.A. art world superstar who is collected by Michael Ovitz and UTA’s Joshua Roth.
A small dinner for the artists and museum trustees was held on Monday night. “Steve Martin wasn’t there,” said a rep from the museum — Martin is a friend of the museum’s, having curated “The Idea of the North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris,” an exhibition highlighting the career of a Canadian artist whom Martin has collected for years. The show is on view through January 24.
The Hammer’s board of overseers includes UTA’s Peter Benedek and Jeremy Zimmer, Susan Bay Nimoy, David Hoberman, Bob Gersh, Viveca Paulin-Farrell, Endeavor’s Greg Hodes, music exec John Rubeli, and producer Joni Sighvatsson.
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