L.A. apartment gallery Park View bucks trend of big by going small

There's a new gallery in L.A. Park View is only 300 sq ft -- and it resides inside an apartment in Westlake

New galleries and exhibition spaces seem to be popping up all over Los Angeles. There's the 4,500-square-foot Mistake Room at the southern end of downtown and the 5,000-square-foot Gavlak in Hollywood. Soon, New York gallerist Michele Maccarone will have a 35,000-square-foot space on Mission Road downtown. That doesn't even begin to approximate the behemoth new Hauser Wirth & Schimmel, which is also set to open downtown at a whopping 100,000 square feet. (Brace yourselves for VERRRY BIG ART.)

But not every new space in L.A. is part of the whose-is-bigger space race. Consider Park View, a new gallery that Paul Soto (formerly of Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects) quietly opened in August.  Located in the Westlake-MacArthur Park district, Park View is a 300-square-foot apartment that Soto has transformed with bright white paint and sleek lighting. Better yet: It's still an apartment. One that Soto points out is not that much smaller than some Lower East Side galleries in New York.

"Plus," he adds, "it's roughly 350 square feet if you include the closet." Which he uses to display work. He maintains his living quarters in a small backroom, just off a diminutive kitchen.

"I had been working at a gallery but was ready creatively and professionally to do my own thing," explains Soto. "And I thought, 'What model will work for me?' The landscape of the gallery system here in L.A., it's such a rich place for artist-run spaces and alternative spaces."

In the short time that Park View has been open, Soto has been able to draw some highly influential artists. A show of photography, opened in late September, included works by established figures such as John Divola and Uta Barth. The former had a three-part retrospective scattered over three Southern California museums last year, including the L.A. County Museum of Art. The latter is represented by the prestigious Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York.

The newest exhibition, set to open Sunday, will feature up-and-comer Paul Pescador, an artist whose work straddles the intersection of performance and photography. But it will also include a work of video art by the Serbian artist Mladen Stilinovic, born in 1947, an influential conceptual artist whose work has been shown at the Carnegie International and Documenta, a prestigious contemporary art exhibition held every five years in Kassel, Germany.

"He's affiliated with the New Art Practice artists in East Europe, who were experimenting with the medium of art-making," Soto says. "They were making actions, artist books, performing, making paintings."

Soto says he saw the artist's work at an exhibition in New York and he was so moved by the pieces that he started a correspondence with his studio. "It's basically the old-fashioned way, where you write to someone and you say, 'I would really like to show you,'" he explains.

The correspondence paid off. Soto will show Stilinovic's video work, "Krumpira Krumpira (Potatoes, Potatoes)," from 2001, in the apartment gallery's closet — aka project space.

Did an established European artist have any qualms about showing his work in a California closet?

"I don't think so," chuckles Soto. "[The gallery] is a slight but serious affair, which gets right at the nature of his work.

"It feels intimate, but also kind of polished. It's a home, but it's a gallery."

The exhibitions "Paul Pescador: Color/d: Vol. I - III," and "Mladen Stilinovic" open Sunday at 4 p.m., and will be on view through Dec. 21 at Park View, 836 S. Park View St., Los Angeles. parkviewparkview.com.

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

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