Three wishes for 2015 from the High & Low

There is no shortage of culture product coming down the pipe for 2015. I’m pretty excited about a lot of it, including the new “Star Wars” movie, the new downtown Los Angeles museum that looks like a “Star Wars” movie set piece (that’d be The Broad) and what appears to be a full docket of exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art — highlighted by a show of the visceral, uneasy work of William Pope.L. (The only artist I know who could pull off art on a Pop Tart.) It’s going to be a very interesting year — one that I hope doesn’t contain a single frame of Jar Jar Binks.

But, as always, there are gaps. I have a totally speculative, unrealistic wish list of three things I’d love to see (and not see) in 2015 and beyond.

Let’s start with my most unlikely-to-happen desire: galleries that operate on a human scale. At this point, the industrial art exhibition hall is practically a cliché. A light manufacturing space, auto body shop or former factory is transformed into a gleaming white box, complete with cavernous gallery spaces and exposed bow-and-truss ceilings. In recent years, this has turned into an arms-race of art acreage. There’s the 12,000-square-foot Michael Kohn gallery in Hollywood, the 20,000-square-foot David Kordanksy space on La Brea, and two upcoming mega spaces in downtown from Michele Maccarone (35,000 square feet) and Hauser Wirth & Schimmel (a mind-boggling 100,000 square feet).

What can we expect from this? A lot of very big art and a lot of artists working to inhospitable scales. This is not to say that all big is bad. (Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx was pretty epic.) But I’m ready for small — and I enjoy the intimacy of being in tighter quarters with art, from standard-sized exhibition spaces like LACE, Luis de Jesus and L.A. Louver to smaller, more experimental spaces such as Park View, C. Nichols Project, Five Car Garage and, of course, Proxy, the gallery in a box. So enough with all the gigantism. Big ideas can be held in small containers. The “Mona Lisa,” after all, is just two feet tall.

This was the year of Michael Brown. And Eric Garner. And Tamir Rice. It was also the year of “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hands Up Don’t Shoot.” If there was ever a time in which we could use art that deals with the tricky topic of race in American society, that time is now. And with planning underway for the Hammer biennial in 2016, as well as the Whitney Biennial in 2017, it would seem like a great time for one of these important, career-making surveys to take on the topic hook, line and sinker.


Often, biennials have all kinds of intellectually squishy non-themes about questions of process and time and hybridity and ... you get the idea. Race hasn’t really been tackled in a serious, consistent way in a biennial exhibition since the Whitney Biennial of 1993. (Which, though it wasn’t universally loved, remains one of the most memorable biennials of the last two decades simply because it stuck its neck out.)

Barring a few exceptions, the art world has an aversion to work that addresses questions of race, class and gender, often dismissing it as identity art. Well, “identity” is now on the social and political front-burner. It’s time for the art world to catch up. If curators aren’t sure where to start, may I suggest this installation by L.A. artist Natalie Bookchin.

Currently touring Europe is an opera about the Spanish conquest of the Americas that is directed by an Angeleno and whose set was conceived by a Los Angeles artist. Seventeenth-century composer Henry Purcell’s final opera, “The Indian Queen,” has been reconceived and modernized by famed director Peter Sellars. Its sets were designed by muralist, painter and installation artist Gronk (he of Asco collective fame). So far, the opera has been staged in Spain and Russia. In February it will travel to London. There are no plans to bring it to Los Angeles.

So, let’s see: We have an opera about the Conquest directed and staged by two notable Los Angeles figures and we live in a city that was once part of the Spanish Empire. What is there to even think about? All I know is that the Music Center and L.A. Opera should be out-bidding each other to woo Sellars instead sitting on their hands. “The Barber of Seville” is all well and good. But I’m ready to see events that took place on this continent depicted on stage in this city, whose very name is evidence of that not-so-distant conquistador past. C’mon, Los Angeles. Let’s bring “The Indian Queen” here.

Happy New Year, Los Diablos. I’ll see you all on the other side.

Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.