blog (3) Becky Kolsrud (b. 1984 in Los Angeles) bases her works on the ideas of woman as an allegory and the ocean as a backdrop and sheltering entity. In her most recent, intense paintings, the women appear as modern symbols, connected to art history through in ways both new and old. Her use of blues represents artificiality, but is also an invocation of the region’s scarcest resource: water. All photos featured are by Daniel Sahlberg, courtesy of CFHILL

This exhibition is about the contemporary art scene in Los Angeles, but your career actually began in China, where you lived for many years. What’s the story there?

I majored in Art History at Wellesley (the top US college for women, which counts Hillary Clinton among its alumni). The college is known for being progressive, and for having teachers who are well-schooled in feminist thought. It had such an impact on me! My art history teacher Heping Liu was from China, and he was the reason why I ended up spending several years there right after graduating. This was about ten years ago. He told me, ‘China’s economic future looks bright, and any strong economy is interested in art. If you move there now, you will find great opportunities.’ He was right. The contemporary art scene was just budding, and it was far from saturated. And that’s what I ended up doing.

blog (4) Math Bass (b. 1981 in New York) Math Bass started out as a performance artist but has moved on to working with drawings and sculptures incorporating optical illusions and amorphous figures that can be interpreted in multiple ways, such as duck/rabbit or old/young woman. Her idiom is stylised and geometric, and utilises a distinctive set of symbols.

And the market there was dominated by Chinese art, right?

Yes, there wasn’t much international art being shown when I began working as an intern at MoCA Shanghai, the first private museum in Shanghai, one of many that have since appeared all over the country. The best thing about everything being new and untested was that none of the hierarchies had been established yet.

blog (5) Lauren Davis Fischer (b. 1984). Creates ceramic sculptural objects in line with the spirit of the absurd and the surrealist tradition. Her works tend to involve shifts of perspective and color. She occasionally works in close collaboration with Math Bass.

And how do things look now, ten years on?

The change has been rapid. Young Chinese collectors today care very little about nationality. They choose the art they like. They’re very globalized, and they work all over the world. If they’re around the age of twenty-five, they might have studied in LA. And their collections will differ a lot from their parents’ collections.

But then, you moved back home. Why?

After five years there, I moved back. I returned on a mission for Budi Tek, a highly successful businessman who is also a major Asian collector, the man who made the first (and largest) exhibition of Giacometti in China possible at his YUZ Museum in Shanghai. Now, he wants to start collecting and exhibiting emerging American artists at the museum. Two of the artists I’m showing at LA Dreams, Math Bass and Joshua Nathanson, have had solo exhibitions at Budi Tek’s YUZ Museum in Shanghai. For these exhibitions Budi always wants to commission the largest pieces the artist has ever made. We’re talking monumental, like six metres in height.

blog (6) Joshua Nathanson (b. in Washington DC in 1976) fills his canvases with colors from the world of fabrication, whether it be the shimmering lights of shopping malls or the brilliant new hues that were born out of the digital age. Nathanson is one of the artists who was recently exhibited at the YUZ Museum in Shanghai, where he had a 30-foot plastic sculpture made.

What had happened in LA while you were away?

A lot. For one thing, the city has become a genuine free zone for artists from all corners of the world. It has a tolerant atmosphere, a pleasant climate, good rents, and a clustering that is itself optimally beneficial to art.

When I moved back in 2012, a lot of talented artists had already moved into the area. I met many of them, and since then, I’ve followed them and watched them progress. It’s gotten more expensive here, but still, compared to London, New York, or Paris, it’s really OK. I think the way the city is spread out makes a big difference. In New York, everything is cramped, and everybody is literally right on top of one another, mentally as well. Here, you can lock yourself away and do your work. Oh, and the sunshine, of course! The light makes such a difference.

So, what is it like to be back living in your home town?

I hated it at first. It didn’t feel like a real city. There is no real downtown area here, it’s all so spread out and flat. It’s like, where are all the high-rises? And the traffic is so terrible! But after two years, I fell back in love with it. I began to understand the city. It’s a conglomeration of lots of little villages, each with its own tastes, minorities, and age demographics. That makes it very dynamic. It just takes time to understand that. But when you do, it’s one of the most diverse places in the world. In LA, you can choose to spend time around people or by yourself, and you have the beach, the desert, and forests to choose from. Of course, being able to move so easily between different worlds is inspiring. But gentrification is underway. The moment artists move in, the rents go up. I worry that this will all disappear when it gets too expensive.

Tell me more about your curating practice and how this is seen in the upcoming exhibition?

Last summer when I was in Stockholm visiting my husband’s family I met Michael Elmenbeck at the old CFHILL location. We spoke about young LA artists that we both admired and found out that we had very similar taste! Soon into the conversation Michael asked if I would be interested in guest curating an exhibition including several of the artists we spoke about. I immediately said YES to the opportunity and began working on the exhibition when I arrived back in LA.

blog (7) Parker Ito - www.parkerito.com

For this specific exhibition LA Dreams Michael and I put together a list of our favorite artists and luckily all the artists we wanted for our show agreed and all of them are coming to Stockholm for the opening! The six artists are Parker Ito, Becky Kolsrud, Aaron Garber Maikovska, Joshua Nathanson, Math Bass and Lauren Davis Fischer. Their practices are all very different; but all of them are influenced by their lives in Los Angeles and infuse their work with the city and its art language.

blog (8) Aaron Garber Maikovska (b. 1978 in Washington DC) His paintings embody motion rather than presenting objects for visual interpretation. He gained a solid education in the history of performance art, and spent a sojourn as a student and assistant of the scandalous artist Paul McCarthy. Today, his oeuvre presents a universe of its own, consisting of human rituals, the unbearable lightness of LA, and an untamed passion for the infinite possibilities of painting.

What would you wish that the Swedish audience will experience?

It is my hope that the Swedish audience will experience the same kind of joy and energy that I experience when I visit these artists’ studios. Several of the artists have become my close friends and each has enriched my life in many ways. In addition to being solid human beings, each has a unique practice that keeps on pushing the boundaries of contemporary art and the mediums that they are working in. It is a true honor that they have entrusted myself and CFHILL with this exhibition.

Is there anything in common between Stockholm and LA?

Light is a very important aspect in all these artists' practices and they are excited to experience the light in Sweden since it is vastly different from anything we have in the Pacific West. Stockholm's light is blue, clear and hard where in LA our light is warm and bright with yellow hues and pinkish tones. In addition to the light, the artists can't wait to explore Stockholm's rich culture from its viking traditions, modernist design to pop music!

Image: CFHILL Image: CFHILL

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