Come summer, the Los Angeles art scene bursts onto the streets in the form of festivals, screenings, and free performances at over 200 parks spanning the city. In June, Barnsdall Art Park, a tiny hilltop gallery, will be invaded by some of LA’s finest artists, chosen for the 2015 City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Individual Artist Fellowships, awarded only to established and mid-career artists who’ve significantly contributed to the city’s growing cultural scene.
On weekends through June 28th, you can view the work of artists like Baumgartner + Uriu, whose architectural wonders find inspiration in the weird worlds of H.P. Lovecraft. Constructed layers overlap and open spaces, forming inhabitable models with recognizable features like windows and doors in unexpected ways. The pieces reimagine architecture into a living being, seemingly capable of movement, even though they are very much stationary, simply plastic and paint.
It’s this kind of “movement” that characterizes much of the C.O.L.A. exhibition, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Elizabeth Leister’s “performed drawing” piece, one of three parts from her series the invisible lake called telepathy, which you can see live on June 20, starting at 3 p.m.
The piece involves a dancer, Samantha Mohr, who is dressed identically to Leister and instructed to improvise dance within a confined area, which is being filmed and projected onto the wall beside her. Standing by the projection, Leister proceeds to trace Mohr’s human form as she’s moving. In doing so, Leister draws the eye to her hand as we focus on specific body parts, like the outstretched leg or the craned neck. We see the dance from multiple dimensions, savoring singular movements in a way we might not if we simply watched the dance unfold.
Leister, who’d taken dance from a young age through college, insists she was never that great a dancer but has found unique ways to incorporate the body and movement into all of her work. Other pieces she created for the telepathy series are drawings of lakes comprised of thousands of graphite fingerprint smudges. By removing the paintbrush as the vehicle for production, Leister was able to literally imprint her body, layer after layer, into the work.
Another piece for telepathy is a single-channel video, where you are submerged in Century Lake in Malibu, while a voiceover guides you through the science of constructed memory.
“The project is based on memories of specific lakes that I have been to,” Leister says. “Dark, unclear waters are connected metaphorically to the unreliability, the murkiness, of memory. The performance is about witnessing a process of recording movement in real-time.”
Leister says she’s inspired by Simone Forti, Tricia Brown, and the late Chris Burden.
“I‘ve been thinking a lot about his work since his recent passing,” she says. Burden was the beneficiary of the same open Los Angeles art scene as Leister is now, a scene that’s fortunately very interested in not just what you make but how it’s made and where it can go in the future.
“There are definitely large parts of the art world that are ‘obsessed’ with art as a product,” she says, “but there are artists, spaces, institutions and curators who look at, think about, and create opportunity for art without the market as their priority.”
C.O.L.A. Individual Artist Fellowships are the epitome of that practice, which is exactly what makes them so exciting, for both the audience and the artist.
“Samantha and I don’t know what the final drawing will look like,” Leister says, “so it is as much of a surprise to us as it is for the audience each time we create it.”
For more details, please visit LA Municipal Art Gallery.