LACE A MECCA OF VIDEO ART
While temporary museum shows of artist-made videos are now nearly as ubiquitous as the VCR, one local venue offers continuous viewing opportunities.
“There’s always a tape playing,” said Anne Bray, video coordinator at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE). “Anyone can come down here for free, any time we’re open, and see original video art.”
LACE, the downtown alternative arts forum, started the nonstop programming last February when it moved to larger quarters at 1804 Industrial St. and built a room specifically designed for video screenings. LACE hours are Tuesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., (213) 624-5650.
“In the old building on Broadway,” Bray recalled the other day, “our screenings were sporadic because we had to share exhibit space with our static art exhibitions. We could only show videos in between exhibits or when a smaller show was in the gallery.”
The 25-seat screening room was designed and constructed by local artist Jim Isermann, who fashioned acoustical buffers from flat, carpet-covered rock shapes that adorn the walls. The cavelike chamber contains one 25-inch video screen with a stereo sound system.
But the video room is only one part of the LACE effort to support contemporary video work and, said Bray, “offer a range of video services and programs to video artists and audiences.”
She organizes all of LACE’s video activities. She earned a master’s degree in “New Forms and Concepts” from UCLA’s art department in 1985, after attempting to “white out” 500 billboards on Lincoln Boulevard with butcher paper. She has also worked in video.
“Los Angeles has had insufficient screening opportunities and video production here has been formidably impeded,” she said. Though the Long Beach Museum of Art has been showing video art for about 10 years, locally “video artists either had to be working for the entertainment industry or connected with a school to produce their work. We’re providing a way to show videos and a means of making tapes so the medium can flourish here.
“To show videos in the screening room or in our main gallery, any professional artist, emerging or established, can submit a sample tape to our video committee, six video artists who select the works for screening. We get artists from the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan.”
Since February, about 20 artists have shown their works in the screening room, Bray said, “and probably 10 times as many people have come through to see videos than before the move (to Industrial Street).”
To help with tape production, “LACE On-Line” allows video artists access to commercial post-production facilities at reduced rates. On-line refers to computer-controlled video systems, Bray said.
“Thirteen projects have gone through the program since it began in April,” she added, by artists from Bill Viola, who recently premiered a 90-minute video at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, to Liz Young, an emerging performing artist. “We’ve also just launched a similar program for composers, choreographers and performing artists who need inexpensive audio recording facilities.”
Other LACE projects include video openings during which artists debut and discuss new works, a bookstore with recent publications on video art and an artist/curator referral service.
“We’re also trying to hire young writers and curators for special exhibitions to develop criticism and curation of video by younger people,” Bray said. “But what I enjoy most is our video openings. They really bring the video community together. You hear people in the audience asking each other, ‘What kind of camera is that?’ or, ‘What are you working on now?'--that’s the classic question.
“We’re trying to help artists, but we’re also interested in exposing the Los Angeles community to experimental video work. It’s important to offer an alternative in a city where most of the film, TV or video work made is produced to satisfy mainstream mass audiences or to attract advertising. As in other art forms, video artists work with more private intentions.”