For years now, LAXART, the decade-old Los Angeles nonprofit that has served as a repository and resource for innovative artists like Mary Weatherford, Scott Benzel, and Mark Bradford, has been looking for new digs. Last weekend, they officially moved from Culver City into an unusual new space in Hollywood, inside an old recording studio where Elvis, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, and Jimi Hendrix once laid down tracks. That impressive history is one reason why the new tenants used a light hand when remodeling. “We’re trying to keep things intact,” said director Lauri Firstenberg as we wandered the space amid a riot of installation and construction noise the night before their housewarming exhibition, Phase 1, opened last Saturday, January 10. The show’s title is a reference to the timeline of their pro-bono build-out by the architect Lorcan O’Herlihy, a board member, who kept the recording booth in place. It’ll be used as a lab by Slanguage Studio, the educational art collective who created a mural, a billboard, and a series of other projects over three months at the nonprofit’s original Culver City site for the Hammer Museum’s first Made in L.A. biennial, which LAXART curated in 2012. “It’s the best thing we ever did, so they’re going to have space in perpetuity,” Firstenberg declared.
Just below the loft is a large temporary wall, which, through an unpatched hole, reveals a wooden sound panel dating back to the ’70s. Though currently covered, it will soon be occupied by artists like Melanie Schiff, who will open a show of her photos in May, or Kerry Tribe, who is creating a sound piece inspired by all of the songs recorded in the former studio. For now, the wood is under wraps—a stark backdrop for A Fireplace and Its Mirror, by Rochele Gomez, who recreated her parents’ bedroom in stained glass.
The current exhibition also includes Eamon Ore-Giron’s two-channel video installation documenting the destruction of a Peruvian mining village and Timo Fahler’a brightly painted cluster of telephone poles affixed with found objects that evoke the shards of broken glass used to make security fences in Central and South America. Fahler also created sculptures from Styrofoam and a sawhorse, and crafted a series of elegant clay paintings embedded with fashion textiles. “The things I get most excited about,” said Firstenberg, “are the things that are the most spontaneous.”
LAXART is located at 7000 Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles.