Every month I write a roundup of art shows and exhibitions to see around the city. This month, to celebrate the opening of my solo show, I asked friend and LA journalist Ethan Varian to write a piece on special exhibitions in San Francisco and LA.
Ethan is both writer and musician. I met him through my partner Chase and noticed his written work after reading his piece on the affordable housing problem in LA. He brings a unique perspective to the art community—as a musician he’s immersed in it, but as a journalist he steps outside of it, seeing with an objective lens.
In the following piece, Ethan unwraps a current art trend: immersive installations.
Walking through Simon Birch’s “The 14th Factory” was an otherworldly experience.
Navigating the darkened corridors of a once-abandoned warehouse complex near downtown Los Angeles, visitors were led through a series of massive physical installations and video projections. One floor-to-ceiling abstract structure, titled “The Meteor,” housed an exact recreation of the room from the iconic final scene of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Another piece featured a reflecting pool filled with a dozen standing airplane wings recovered from a junkyard in the Mojave Desert.
Fueled by a very human desire for spectacle (and perhaps the need to take the perfect selfie), there has been a recent explosion in these kinds of immersive exhibitions. Large-scale “pop-up” shows like the “The 14th Factory,” which sold over 80,000 tickets during its run this summer, have flourished on the West Coast. Despite a strict crackdown on warehouse events following last year’s deadly Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland, pop-up shows including San Francisco’s eminently Instagrammable “Color Factory” have been hugely successful.
Immersive exhibitions have also become centerpieces at renowned museums like the Whitney in New York and the Broad in L.A. At the Broad this month, all 50,000 advance tickets for Yayoi Kusama’s upcoming walkthrough installation “Infinity Mirrors” sold out in a matter of hours. The response to this growing trend has not been entirely positive, however, as many art critics have panned such installations as superficial or gimmicky.
As people continue to prioritize seeking new experiences over collecting material things, immersive art exhibitions will likely become even more popular. Scott Hove, the artist behind “Cakeland”—an ongoing series of Candyland-inspired installations—hopes to one day turn the pop-up exhibit into a permanent show.
“At my last two openings, I had 3,000 to 4,000 people standing in line to get in,” Hove told me in a recent interview for LA Weekly. “But not many of them were there to buy art; they were there to have that experience. These kinds of installations seem to be the new evolution of the art viewing experience.”
Here are 2 current or upcoming immersive exhibits in the Bay Area and L.A.:
Runs through January 1, 2018
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: 151 3rd St, San Francisco
“Soundtracks is the museum’s first large-scale group exhibition centered on the role of sound in contemporary art. Focusing on the perceptual experience of space, the exhibition offers opportunities for discovering public architectural features and galleries throughout the newly expanded building.”
October 21, 2017 - January 1, 2018
The Broad: 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles
“Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will provide visitors with the unique opportunity to experience six of Kusama’s infinity rooms—the artist’s most iconic kaleidoscopic environments—alongside large-scale installations and key paintings, sculptures and works on paper from the early 1950s to the present…”
Ethan Varian is a culture, music and media business writer based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, KCET, Guitarworld.com and American Songwriter Magazine. Find him on Twitter @ethanvarian.
It’s my hope, by sharing special art exhibitions and trends in the art community, that art becomes accessible to more people. Regardless of the form, art is meant to be shared. Thanks to Ethan for writing and opening the art community wider.
My solo show, Conversations and Color, will be running until Nov. 3 at 160 Spear Street in San Francisco. The exhibition’s lecture series Say started on October 10 and runs every Tuesday until October 24. This coming Tuesday October 24th we will be hosting a women's artist panel. It’s free to the public. I’d love to see you there.