HAVE YOU SEEN "The Californians," the Saturday Night Live sketch in which Fred Armisen, Kristen Wiig, and Co. play bleached, surf-drawling dimwits whose soap-operatic interactions always lead to discussions about the best way through the traffic-clogged thoroughfares of Los Angeles? The acerbic parody makes Portlandia seem like a swooning love letter, but of course, as someone with his own deeply held opinions about how (not) to drive from Westwood to Hollywood to Culver City, I'm biased. At first glance, the regional purview of Made in L.A. 2012--on view this past summer at the Hammer Museum and I.AXART as well as the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Bamsdall Art Park--might easily have suggested collective SoCal navel-gazing comparable to the scene at the end of each of the SNL skits, when the characters come together to stare into a mirror in a surrealistic act of group narcissism.
Lost on nobody was the fact that this energetic survey of sixty artists and collectives--organized by Anne Kllegood, Lauri Firstenberg, Malik Gaines, Cesar Garcia, and Ali Subotnick--capped nearly a year of the exhibitions and festivities making up "Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA. 1945-1980," as if to say, "Hey, this is what's going on now; you probably missed it while you were out getting your art-history lesson." Yet, while Made in L.A. appeared as diverse and sprawling as the city whose art it presented, it might also be argued that the bulk of the work on view extended four familiar (and familial) lineages of Los Angeles art that were well represented in "PST": hard-edge abstraction (represented here in paintings by Brian Sharp and Alex Olson and painterly objects by Lisa Williamson and Brenna Youngblood), found-object assemblage (in the work of Liz Glynn, Ry Rocklen, Henry Taylor, and Krika Vogt, among others), eclectic performance practices (including live pieces by Math Bass, Kenyatta A. C. I (inkle, and Ashley Hunt, as well as the collective Slanguage's array of community-based works at LAXART), and Him and video projects that pointed, more or less, to the looming shadow of Hollywood (e.g., Mi I John Ruperto's Seven and Five, 2012, which includes multiple remakes of a 1961 episode of the TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Dan Finsel's The Space Between You and Mfi, 2012, for which the artist rescaged Farrah Fawcett and Keith Edmier's decade-old roll in the clay). But thankfully, other narratives emerged, too.
Despite its boosterish tone, the title of the show also brought into play the idea of import/export--approaching a thesis that, if teased out, would imply that the Southern California art world operates as a center for cultural production in way that simulates (rather than counters or negates) the machinery of the entertainment industry: Stuff gets made here, lots of it, in order to be sent our into the broader culture. Indeed, a number of works in the show enacted or called attention to notions of manufacture, distribution, and mediation. Take, for example, Nicole Miller's untitled 2012 installation focusing on Darby Jones, one of the first African Americans to work in Tinseltown; Scott BenzePs performance Threnody/ A Beginner's Guide to Mao Tse Tung, 2012, which is built around photographs of actress Sharon Tate posing as a Maoist rebel; and Zackary Drucker and Rhys Kmst's She Gone Rogue, 2012, a transgender updating of familiar "Holly wood" narratives (with a nod to Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid's 1943 short Meshes of the Afternoon--also made in LA). …