COLA 2020Artist Focus Series
The Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery was pleased to present the COLA 2020: Artist Focus Series. This video series took an intimate look at artworks and processes of the 2020 City of Los Angeles (COLA) visual art fellows. With sneak peek views of work in studios along with documentation of commissioned COLA projects, Curator Steven Wong and Assistant Curator Brianna Bakke interviewed artists about their practices and connections to the city of Los Angeles.
The COLA grant has a legacy of supporting Los Angeles’ mid-career artists for over 20 years. The fellowship is not only an accolade or financial award, but also an opportunity to generate dialogue between cohorts of recipient artists. While the culmination of studio visits and artistic production would traditionally involve an exhibition at the LAMAG accompanied by a robust series of free public programming, 2020’s COLA exhibition required an unprecedented re-thinking, due to Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti’s COVID-19 “Stay-At-Home” orders. Throughout this period, LAMAG continued support of COLA visual art fellows by focusing on the aspects of experiencing artworks that extended beyond visual allure—to stimulate curiosities, provoke critical conversations, learn more about artistic practices and gain new inspirations by engaging with different perspectives.
Throughout the month of June, LAMAG released episodes of its in-house produced, COLA 2020: Artist Focus Series.
Lisa Diane Wedgeworth discusses her background as an artist working in Los Angeles — a setting that fostered her expressive practice rooted in autobiographical reflections and storytelling. Wedgeworth introduces the body of work commissioned for COLA 2020, a group of paintings that raise abstraction to the pursuit of reconstituting associations with the color black.
Holly Tempo’s conceptual and expressive paintings present a window to experience through the social engaged practice of recording her Inglewood neighborhood. While Tempo discusses her processes and encounters behind these psychologically charged landscapes, she demonstrates her stake in, “how geographic and cultural histories of place can be translated to abstract painting.”
COLA Fellow or international spy? Jeffrey Vallance in conversation with Steven Wong discusses folk art influences, Bob Ross hauntings and the FBI’s notice of his art — in addition to sharing sketches of his plein air installation intended for COLA 2020.
As Vincent Ramos culls through ephemera, he discusses the personal, collective and cultural histories that inform his work. In relaying the influence history holds on Ramos’ objectives and practice, he states the need for “an awareness of the past to better understand the present and better imagine a future.”
Tanya Aguiñiga’s practice fuses art and activism, her efforts encompass over 20 years of experience working with US/Mexico border issues utilizing craft activations to engage dialogue within border communities. Aguiñiga’s COLA project seeks to challenge what artists can do with monetary awards. During COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Aguiñiga discusses the possibilities of continuing community support through online networks working towards inclusivity with a crowdsourcing project that organizes data to combat resources lost through digital divides.
Amir H. Fallah reflects on his experiences as an artist in Los Angeles, as well as his formative experiences in 80’s and 90’s punk rock culture that impressed an agency of both aesthetics and politics. Fallah discusses his current body of work, intimately produced alongside his young son, his COLA commissioned series of paintings explore personal topics of family dynamics, parables and life lessons learned to pass along to younger generations.
Shizu Saldamando demonstrates how the “personal is political” in respect to her practice of portraiture. Saldamando’s intimate portraits of friends, family, and “chosen family” are representational of a plurality of Chicanx experiences. Saldamando reflects on the ethics and role of a portrait artist working in Los Angeles, a mecca for mainstream image production, and discusses the importance of “dismantling flattening stereotypes and media gazes.”
Hillary Mushkin welcomes viewers into her studio, sharing analytic processes and materials collected to inform her 2020 COLA commissioned works; including a continuation of the artist’s on-going “Incendiary Traces” project and a new multi-medium investigation titled, “From Survey to Surveillance”. Mushkin’s research-oriented drawing practice questions the concept of objectivity and its perceived obtainability by examining histories of rendering praxises—from scientific survey drawings, to photographic documentation, to contemporary exercises in surveillance.
YoungEun Kim’s work directs a focus on auditory culture with the mission of “examining sound as a social, cultural and political medium”. Kim’s artworks charge us to re-think everyday aural experiences, exposing how the seemingly weightless activity of sound is actually fraught with material and politics, prompting a duty of listening that is anything but passive. Kim discusses her COLA commissioned work, “Brilliant A” which investigates the history of Western tonal standardization procedures and its ripple effects when normative measures are applied universally—questioning “what is gained and what is lost during the transition.”
COLA 2020 Fellow, Elana Mann is an artist who both participates and draws influence from protest culture and grassroots efforts for social justice. In the following interview, filmed during the early days of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Mann reflects on the fluid conditions of the times and the flux of contexts her protest sculptures and instruments function in. Mann discusses her commissioned work, Years of Wonders, a 10-foot communal sound amplifying horn intended to not only be exhibited but also activated in situations of protest. (Interview filmed April 28, 2020)
Visual artist and filmmaker Alison O’Daniel conveys how her practice is “rooted in [her] own lived experience and exploration with sound,” sharing her association and allyship with the hard of hearing and deaf communities. O’Daniel discusses the frustrations and critiques of institutionalized accessibility measures which became a catalyst for creating artworks that deliver heightened experiences for a wider spectrum of perceptions.