A Slice of L.A.’s Multicultural Art Scene and Rising Talent

Melanie Edmunds
Jul 29, 2014 8:44PM

While best known for its sweeping views, Hollywood glamour, and legendary beach culture, Los Angeles is one of the most dynamic and diverse cities in the world. The city’s diversity has always been one of its greatest strengths; in this multicultural environment, art thrives. The galleries on this list represent a unique cross-section of contemporary artists whose work is making a significant impact on the Los Angeles art scene. The route will take you through some of the city’s most popular destinations, so sit back and enjoy the ride!

A. Charlie James Gallery | 969 Chung King Rd., Los Angeles, CA, 90012

Located on Chung King Road in the heart of the Chinatown Arts District, Charlie James Gallery has, in my opinion, one of the most well-rounded programs in Los Angeles. Exhibiting a diverse range of contemporary art, the gallery is dedicated to representing emerging artists based in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Germany. The gallery aims to support artists who engage in social commentary and activist practices—including Los Angeles-based artists Nikki Pressley, Ramiro Gomez, and Nery Gabriel Lemus. In Gomez’s recent hit show, the artist introduced a new series of paintings in which anonymous Latino domestic workers were inserted into scenes reminiscent of David Hockney’s iconic paintings of Southern California from the 1960s. Stop by for an impromptu viewing of these works, and during your visit be sure to check out the downstairs exhibition space, which often houses group shows organized by emerging artists and curators.

B. LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) | 6522 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028

Situated along the Hollywood Walk of Stars, LACE has nurtured emerging local artists, and provided a necessary space for a dialogue on contemporary art and culture in Los Angeles since 1978. Through mid-August, visit LACE to experience the collective Cocina Abierta’s communal kitchen—described as “a nomadic experimental ‘test kitchen.’” Here, cooking is performed and taught, to facilitate a dialogue on immigration and document the histories of local restaurant workers.

C. GUSFORD | los angeles | 7016 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038

Some of the city’s most prestigious Hollywood gallery transplants are now in good company with this year-old program owned by artist and long-time collector, Kelsey Lee Offield. Stop in through late August to view “Cicadas Cicadas,”the first solo exhibition for Singaporean multimedia artist Genevieve Chua in North America. Chua uses paintings, objects, and sound in this site-specific installation to create her own adaptation of both the physical form of the cicada and the rhythmic sounds of the insects within their environment. There are a number of intriguing artists to fall in love with at GUSFORD, including Dave White, Oliver Jones, and Hugh Mendes. Also, remember to request a special viewing of the gallery’s collection of fantastic photographs by Hassan Hajjaj, a Moroccan-born portraitist who has recently garnered attention for his vibrant tableaux that mix his native culture, street style, and commercial products.

D. PAPILLION | 4336 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90008

Located off the beaten path, Michelle Joan Papillion’s latest gallery venture leaves little to be desired. PAPILLION opened at the top of 2014 in the city’s historic Leimert Park Village. Once known as the epicenter of black Los Angeles, Leimert Park is an area of cultural significance and exciting revitalization, making the presence of PAPILLION even more important. Since opening downtown’s Papillion Institute of Art (P.I.A.) in 2009, Michelle Joan Papillion has been known for her recognition of great talent and her commitment to making art accessible to the community. Papillion is known for working with a diverse roster of emerging international artists. Stop by the gallery soon to check out their current summer series the “Video Art Residency,” where transmedia art project, “Question Bridge: Black Males” is currently on view. Before leaving, ask for a tour of the gallery’s trove of works by some of my favorite Los Angeles, Bay Area, and New York-based artists: Suné Woods, Hugo McCloud, Derek Fordjour, Kenturah Davis, Samuel Levi Jones, Noah Davis, and Danielle Dean.

E. Mark Moore Gallery | 5790 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

Not only does this family-owned gallery represent one of the city’s strongest rosters of contemporary artists,  you can also find them supporting a number of  public art projects from coast to coast and around the globe. Works by hot, young artists like Ben Weiner, Joshua Dildine, and Stephanie Washburn are likely to be on view during one of the gallery’s jam-packed exhibitions in Culver City or in an art fair booth in a city near you. Stop by the gallery soon to catch the final week of the gallery’s concurrent exhibitions: “The New Suburbs,” a solo exhibition of painted wood carvings by Japanese artist Kenichi Yokono, and “Chain Reaction,” a solo exhibition of mixed-media sculpture, photography, video, and installation by Chicago-based artist Cheryl Pope. Yokono’s latest body of work is a continuation of the artist’s signature brand of traditional woodcutting expressed through his unique contemporary, visual language. Meanwhile Pope’s works, ongoing explorations into personal sociopolitical issues, offer commentary on segregation, power, and privilege, manifested through imagery relating to the human body and identity. 

F. Reginald Ingraham Gallery | 6021 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232

After short stints in the Chinatown Arts District and Santa Monica’s Bergamont Station, Reginald Ingraham Gallery has found a permanent home in Culver City’s Washington Boulevard corridor. Established in 2012, the gallery is the only program in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to promoting modern and contemporary African American art. While exhibiting works by artists based in cities throughout the United States, the gallery’s program continues to explore the significant contributions of African Americans to the Los Angeles art community and strives to maintain the crucial legacy of these artists. The new space was recently transformed to display the latest series of paintings by emerging artist Michelle Robinson, which depict textured hair in lush, intricate patterns. Stop by the gallery to see these paintings and other works by artists such as Nikita Gale, Maren Hassinger, and Ceaphas Stubbs.   

G. Richard Heller Gallery | 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404

Nestled inside Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station Arts Center, Richard Heller Gallery is the final destination on this route. You’ll find a number of gems in this gallery’s stellar contemporary program, including works by Dustin Yellin and Amy Bennett. However, you won’t want to overlook the work of rising stars, and two of my favorite artists, Devin Troy Strother and Firelei Báez. A Los Angeles native, Strother creates collaged paintings featuring black paper dolls with provocative titles that have spawned an entirely separate dialogue on the art world’s “fetishization of urban slang.” The visual presentations of Dominican-born Báez are more subtle, but her large-scale works on paper still pack a punch. The subjects of Báez’s work construct a powerful narrative rooted in the artist’s interests, including anthropology, supernatural beings, and the hypersexualization of the black and Latina female body. A taste of these two artists is well worth the drive.

Portrait by Connie Martin Trevino.

Explore more of City Guide: Los Angeles on Artsy.

Melanie Edmunds