The big news in the Downtown art scene is the mid-March arrival of mega-gallery Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Its opening marks a homecoming of sorts for Paul Schimmel, the former chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art who has partnered with Swiss gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Ursula Hauser to open their West Coast outpost (their other locales are New York, London, Somerset, and Zurich).
And what an outpost it is! Housed in the former Globe Grain & Milling Company complex in the thriving Downtown Arts District, the 116,000-square foot hub transforms a collection of vast, interconnected late 19th– and early 20th-century industrial buildings. The soaring spaces include nearly 24,000-square feet of enclosed galleries, contemporary art and culture bookstore ARTBOOK, and, opening this summer, the restaurant Manuela, which will feature seasonal fare, locally sourced produce, and a menu focused on foods of the American South. There’s also a public garden, dynamic murals that engage the architecture of the complex, and a large, open-air courtyard.
The inaugural exhibition, Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016, includes nearly one hundred works made in the last seventy years by thirty four artists from the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Japan. It unfolds chronologically in the four gallery spaces that roughly encircle the complex’s beautiful courtyard, where Jackie Wilson’s towering 30 to 1 Bound Trees—comprised of white birch saplings held together with hemp rope—is displayed.
Among many themes, the exhibition shows how the use of mixed media that is central to art making today—including employing found, experimental, and recycled materials—took hold in the works of women artists. Equally radical is how these women artists rejected classical modes of installation, instead experimenting with stacking, hanging, and intertwining. Wire, salvaged wood, rope, and fabric are everywhere, with nary a traditional pedestal topped by a carved marble or bronze. In this way, Revolution in the Making considers how women changed the course of art by transforming the vernacular of sculpture since the postwar period.
The greatest hits are too numerous to list. They include historic pieces, like twelve curvaceous hanging woven wire sculptures by Ruth Asawa, and six fearless wall reliefs by Lee Bontecou that look like they could have been plucked off the set of Mad Max. A new generation of sculptors is represented with many works commissioned for the exhibition, including Shinique Smith’s Forgiving Strands, bountiful bundles of colorful fabric suspended in a walkway, in which kids will enjoy spotting denim jeans, bed spreads, and stuffed animals.
If you are new to the Arts District, you may be pleasantly surprised by the vibrant street scene that has evolved there in the past few years. There are plenty of tasty, family friendly eating options on the blocks near the gallery, including Umami Burger (738 E. Third Street), Wurstkuche (800 E. Third Street), and, for dessert, The Pie Hole (714 Traction Avenue). There’s also a thriving street art scene in this neighborhood, and it’s well worth a stroll to discover the murals, graffiti, and impromptu installations that enliven every block.
Alternatively, if you don’t mind moving the car and haven’t yet taken the kids to the reopened Clifton’s Cafeteria (648 S. Broadway), you’re in for another treat. This lone survivor from the Golden State’s golden age of cafeterias celebrates California nature with a kitschy forest theme that puts a smile on everyone’s face. Be sure to visit the second floor to gawk at the enormous tree that appears to be growing through the ceiling! If the line is too long, the charming and delicious Nickel Diner (524 S. Main) is just around the corner.
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel is open daily from Wednesday, Friday – Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm and Thursday: 11 am – 8 pm. Note: since Hauser Wirth & Schimmel is open on Sundays, a rarity for galleries, several other Downtown galleries are following suit, as Carolina Miranda noted recently in the LA Times. So if you are up for a Downtown gallery crawl on a Sunday, there is plenty to see!
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel // 901 E 3rd Street // Los Angeles, CA 90013 (213) 943-1620
Written by Stacey Ravel Abarbanel