Art Under the Influence

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Displaying the typically vigilant LA disdain of all things conventional, the Los Angeles Art District has decloaked over the past few years, revealing a fresh approach to contrast the prominent, traditional art studios. While elite New York and London galleries have launched offshoots such as Venus Over Los Angeles and Ibid alongside the prestigious locals (the Box and Wilding Cran) edgy startup artists are popping up in out-of-the-way locations. Far from the predictable venues, these unique and trendy artisans offer not only atypical locales but an entire diverse social nerve center. Locals are referring to it as Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA).

The art scene has always had to compete with LA's omnipresent film industry and its overwhelming gloss. Over the past few years however, art has come into its own celebrity, boasting galas and red carpet events that rival Hollywood premieres, including stars in designer attire. DTLA moves away from that perspective, asserting its independence from the accepted customs of Hollywood's glamorized culture. This relatively new movement is becoming known across the country, according to the NewYork Times: "In the last two years, more than 24 galleries have moved into the warehouses and decommissioned factories in downtown Los Angeles on either side of the desiccated Los Angeles River, including the Arts District and neighboring Boyle Heights, offering a new party destination for the city’s thriving art scene."

When 27 year-old New York filmmaker Maggie Lee hosted the West Coast debut of her hour-long film called “Mommy,” there was no haute couture or fancy jewelry; just jeans and sandals. The after-party consisted of fruity cocktails and beer in a graveled courtyard inside metal gates with barbed wire. A far cry from the glitzy Hollywood norm, but full of the proper artistic ambiance.

“It’s like a dream here with all the artists around,” said Ms. Lee, a 27-year-old filmmaker from New York. “But it’s also desolate, and the only sound I hear all night are big trucks.” But when the artists settle in, the atmosphere fairly vibrates with the artisanal adrenaline necessary for this uniquely cutting edge creativity.

Despite openings described as “booze-soaked, populist galas” attended by hundreds, Mieke Marple of the hip Night Gallery, states, “It’s all about discovery and taking chances and hopefully finding something revelatory.” Amidst a legion of industrial buildings, Night Gallery is only distinguished from other area warehouses by its acrylics-clad windows done by the artist Yunhee Min. Many who haunt their soirees are area artists appreciative of the locale’s low-cost rents and creative camaraderie and are very definitely “under the influence” of this rapidly growing culture.

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