L.A. Dance Project checked in with Paul Schimmel, the former Chief Curator of MOCA and Partner and Vice President of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, a multi-disciplinary art center to open in Downtown Los Angeles in 2015, to discuss the state of art in Los Angeles. In the exclusive interview Schimmel elaborates about the collaboration between L.A. Dance Project and artist Sterling Ruby, the future of art in Downtown L.A., and his vision for the future of arts in L.A.
L.A. Dance Project has collaborated with Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby for the company’s show at The Theatre at Ace Hotel. From your perspective, would you elaborate on Ruby’s work and significance?
P.S. Sterling’s broadly varied practices can be characterized by his taking an almost strident approach to non-hierarchical materials. Painting and sculpture are considered as significant as ceramics, collage and found materials.
Throughout his career, he has been interested in exploring the entire range of that which comes out of popular culture, subcultures and high art simultaneously. He has often privileged those materials which are, in a sense, abject–whether through the use of graffiti and street techniques for painting, or the use of distressed or soiled cloths or ceramics that are made through the process of destruction.
Creation and destruction are inextricably tied, and while he pushes the boundaries between various media and art forms, his work is deeply grounded in formalism and the history of abstract art. He has brought to the 21st century a practice with an idealism and sensibility similar to that of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; like then, his studio is less a factory and more a collection of workshops.
Ace’s opening of The Theatre at Ace Hotel, formerly the United Artists Theatre, is especially poignant, given their commitment to preserving the space’s history, and to cultivating arts and culture. Do you think there is a case to be made for thinking of venue owners as curators?
P.S. There is no doubt that not since the 1920s and the first build-out of the Downtown area has there ever been more interest and excitement than currently exists; what first began with MOCA and the Geffen Contemporary in the 1980s has now spread throughout the area. In preserving both historical buildings and commercial warehouse spaces, Downtown is finally coming to appreciate the extraordinary resources it has in revitalizing what has been left unused or marginalized.
There appears to be a movement away from new development and toward redevelopment, which is happening in the Arts District. I believe venue owners hire curators, artists and creative individuals to activate community spaces. I certainly felt, attending the opening at the Ace Hotel and other new venues in the neighborhood, that the audience of Los Angeles that has always been looking for a cultural town center, or meeting place, is increasingly finding it in the Downtown area.
What is your vision for the arts in Los Angeles over the next ten to twenty years?
P.S. I think one big change that is taking place is that we are now not only a city that is able to develop artists through its great university and art school programs, but is also able to sustain and support those artists’ careers.
In the last 20 or so years, the artists who have emerged through that institutional system have been staying in Los Angeles. That was the first enormous change that took place in the late 80s and early 90s–that artists no longer had to go to New York or Berlin to have a career. Now, what we’re seeing and what may be of greater importance is that we are attracting artists who have studied elsewhere and are coming to Los Angeles already having established both their work and themselves to some degree.
Artists move here from all over the world because of LA’s openness to and support of new art and artists. Artists from Asia, Europe, Latin America, New York, Chicago and many other places are here because it is city that still feels much more driven by artists than by commercial or institutional entities.