What It Is: New Marciano Museum Los Angeles
Welcome to What It Is. This is going to be a weekly column where I run down some stuff that I’ve seen on the internet, and off the internet. I think it’s important for us to look at our own cultures critically, and help to shape them. In these times the only way we can combat the decline of our nation is to build systems that prevent our reliance on government-controlled infrastructure. Creating new systems starts with becoming really aware of culture, because culture shows us society. If you know my writing then you know what to expect, and I’m really happy to have you back. And if you don’t then please allow me to provide a brief introduction.
I don’t write to hurt, I only write to build. I don’t write to tell you what I think is cool, I write to share the insights I’ve gained as an individual of unique circumstances. If you ever have an issue with something I write you should feel free to holler at me to talk about it. This isn’t about dividing the world into consumer and producer, or cool guy and lame girl. This is about seeking a common starting point that ensures the world is better tomorrow.
That being said, I saw some really unappealing art this weekend. And it wouldn’t have been too big of a deal, had it not been prefaced by a presumptuous declaration that this collection was an “unpacking of Los Angeles via Walter Benjamin.” The New Marciano Museum’s inaugural offering looks a lot like a collection that belongs to someone who has never set foot inside a house in a black bad neighborhood. I saw a collection of artwork that clearly ignored everything going on in the streets of Los Angeles, and instead focused on a vaguely thematic depiction of egoism, ignorance, and middling aesthetics banal enough to put Kandinsky to sleep.
I think if we were to truly unpack what was seen at the museum it would provide an apt summation of the outright ignorance and flagrant posturing of rich people who want to be down. I’m not an expert on LA, but I’ve learned enough living here to know that Los Angeles is not a city defined by the institutions of the rich. I have lived in Hollywood and North Hollywood for 2.5 years, and I’ve worked in Venice, Downtown, Santa Monica, Burbank, Malibu, and Sherman Oaks. I’ve spent time visiting my fiancé’s family in Pico Rivera, and I’ve made several trips to Long Beach, Orange County, and Pasadena. All across this vast metropolitan area I am constantly discovering art and culture in places that are not part of a sanctioned institution of art and culture. The cultures and arts that define Los Angeles are diffuse, and disparate, and in turn any depiction of Los Angeles that is not diffuse and disparate is inaccurate. The New Marciano Museum’s inaugural show is not diffuse, or disparate, it is merely false authoritarianism posing as qualified expertise.
"Everything is immediate and impermanent in this city by the sea with a sunken fate written in stone, brick, and mortar"
In the limited time that I’ve been in Los Angeles the seemingly endless arrays of interwoven cultures that compose the city have never ceased to amaze me. And, while Los Angeles’ surface bubbles and teems in an undulating mix of liquid cultures, its vast terrain unfolds nearly endless in every direction. And of course as this liquid culture rolls and spills across the massive area that the city covers it disappears as quickly as it takes shape. Los Angeles is not a city defined by institutions, and you can feel it. Everything is immediate and impermanent in this city by the sea with a sunken fate written in stone, brick, and mortar. Los Angeles doesn’t change so much as it never ceases to be in flux. And so it is quite difficult to accept that anyone could accurately capture the viscous culture of the city by lazily trolling a net through its most oversaturated locales.
In Los Angeles, you always know you’re in Los Angeles, but it often becomes unclear which part of Los Angeles you’re in. Themes repeat, and patterns emerge through the landscaping, the sun bleached tones of weathered concrete, the bend of the shadows in the ebbing sunlight, the acres of priuses, the plentitude of donuts, the intricate network of highways that buckles useless beneath the crushing weight of millions of dreamers of dreams, the colorful murals, and the homeless in tents. In this city where the streets are all but lawless unless your streets are where the cops are, in this city where tolerance reigns, but intolerance always stirs the waters with the grotesque specter of violence, I have asked a lot of questions, about, “What is Los Angeles?” And, I have gotten a lot of answers.
Los Angeles is never hidden, never tucked away in the recesses of institutions inaccessible to the public. In this city culture takes place at the ground level, and the financial elite have little influence in the spaces where the city’s defining culture takes place. Pretty much anything worth knowing here comes from the people, and is done for the people. From Project Blowed, to Seshollowaterboyz, to Mark Gonzalez, RETNA, The Berrics, Top Dawg, Soulection, Bando, et al. Los Angeles reveals itself to be a city where various groups of people come together forming cultures and networks that thrive amongst each other, sharing infrastructures, overlapping, and yet somehow rarely converging.
In order to “unpack” Los Angeles, it’s going to take a lot more than what was hung on the walls in this old Masonic temple. There were some great works, however overall, this was not a survey that served to unpack Los Angeles. If anything, this seemed like somebody unpacking a storage shed to reveal a lesson in art collecting by over-eager amateurs. I sincerely hope that the New Marciano museum will continue to make attempts to engage with Los Angeles’ incredibly vibrant community of artists. If you’re reading this Marciano Museum, then next time you should find someone who understands the cultures of Los Angeles, rather than someone who understands the clandestine workings of an “art world” that is nothing more than a vestige of bygone capitalism in a system built by racist white men. A for effort, D- for execution.