ICA LA Celebrates Its First Year in the DTLA Arts District with an ‘INCOGNITO’ Benefit – Friday, September 7 & Saturday September 8
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, better known as ICA LA, emerged in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District last year. The museum’s previous incarnation, the Santa Monica Museum of Art, needed a new home, and after a short time when it was known as SMMoA Unbound, the museum settled in DTLA, not far from where Cartwheel Art is based.
Elsa Longhauser, ICA LA’s Good Works Executive Director, says the museum has embraced its new community. “It was a very exciting move for us. We went from Santa Monica, which is one kind of community and sensibility, to a very vibrant, alive part of the city. We’re right across from the Greyhound bus station, so our community has completely changed. There are homeless people, people getting on the bus and off the bus, children in many schools in the neighborhood. We have families and a whole community of artists and people who work downtown who have come to see the ICA LA as their museum. Not only do they come for the exhibitions, but for all of the programming and performances and talks and interactions that we have. It’s become a really dynamic meeting place and a gathering place, and because of the nature of the construction of the building, everything is open and transparent and very friendly.”
Photo by Jonathan Velardi
Longhauser describes the ICA LA space as a “community hub” for people interested in art and culture, and says it brings in a huge range of people. Since many of the visitors aren’t familiar with the DTLA art scene, the ICA LA staff often recommend other places in the neighborhood that they may want to check out. She says, “We tell them, there are many galleries and artist-run spaces all over the Arts District and downtown so you can spend a long time there, just walking or Ubering or driving five minutes to get to another interesting place.”
On Friday, September 7, and Saturday, September 8, ICA LA is celebrating its first anniversary by bringing back an old favorite from the SMMoA days—the “INCOGNITO” benefit art sale. More than 400 original 12”x12” works, created by 350 contemporary artists, will be for sale, with each piece priced at $500 (plus tax). The artist who created each piece isn’t revealed until after the art is purchased. Several of the participating artists—including Ralph Ziman, Maria Greenshields-Ziman, Dytch 66, Teale Hatheway, Fred Hoerr, David Lovejoy, Mark Dean Veca, and Dave Tourje—were part of Art at The Rendon‘s Hidden Rooms installation earlier this summer, curated by Cindy Schwarzstein of Cartwheel Art. Hidden Rooms was a benefit for community art programs and resulted in a $12,000 donation to ICA LA. Cindy Schwarzstein is also on the host committee for INCOGNITO, along with Jonny Black, Laura Copelin, Veronica Fernandez, Claudia Flores, Honor Fraser, Karen Hillenburg, Brooke Kanter, Mike Kelley, Price Latimer, Nino Mier, Joyce Ostin, Alison Palevsky, Tina Perry-Whitney and Ric Whitney, Miriam Rothbart, Brian Salzman, V. Joy Simmons, and Kulapat Yantrasast.
Longhauser says, “The idea was to gather art by very well-known and younger emerging artists, and have all the work made in the same format and signed on the back, so it forces people to trust their instincts when making a selection rather than looking at who made. You choose with your eyes.” Want a sneak peek at the available work? Platinum, gold, and silver ticket buyers have the opportunity to attend PRECOGNITO, an exclusive preview of the artwork on Friday, September 7.
Later this fall, ICA LA will present two new exhibitions—Nina Chanel Abney’s “Royal Flush” and B. Wurtz’s “This Has No Name.” Longhauser says, “They’re a very interesting combination of exhibitions. Nina Chanel Abney is a wonderful storyteller, and she creates large-scale contemporary history paintings that are informed by mainstream news, animated cartoons, video games, hip hop culture, celebrity websites, and they’re very large and beautifully painted bold contemporary history paintings.”
The Nina Chanel Abney exhibition opening on September 23 is a traveling show that originated at the Nasher and was originally organized by curator Marshall Price. The Los Angeles exhibition is co-presented by ICA LA and the California African American Museum (CAAM), and is organized by Jamillah James, Curator, ICA LA, and Naima J. Keith, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, California African American Museum.
Nina Chanel Abney and her artwork. Image courtesy of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Photo by J. Caldwell.
The B. Wurtz show opens September 30. Longhauser says, “B. Wurtz is a sculptor who scours the corridors of grocery stores to find all of the most wonderful objects that speak to him, and he makes sculpture that revolves around use of objects that refer to the acts of eating or sleeping or keeping warm. He uses everyday materials that are personal to him, and with these materials, he creates kind of self-portraits and makes very wonderful, elegant, single objects that make you think, ‘Oh my god, why didn’t I see that possibility in a yogurt carton?’”
“Hotel de Ville” by B. Wurtz. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.
As for ICA LA’s long-term plans, Elsa Longhauser says the museum will continue to evolve. “We’re always growing, but I think when you come here, we are an extremely vital and important place to learn about art, and to experience a variety of cultural issues. Right now, for example, we have a program where we’re registering people to vote, because we feel that it’s so important for people to vote in the upcoming November election. We’ll probably be a polling place. Everything about our contemporary culture, our contemporary political situation, our contemporary art… We are committed to making people understand the world and see it in new and different ways.”
Top photo: Steve Cohn
ICA LA’s INCOGNITO Benefit Art Sale
Friday, September 7 (5 – 7 pm)
Benefit Art Sale
Saturday, September 8 (6 – 9 pm)
1717 E. 7th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
“Catfish” by Nina Chanel Abney. Image courtesy of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion.
“This Has No Name” by B. Wurtz. Courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.