Monday, May 16, 2011


I much appreciated the honor of being invited to be the keynote speaker at the Third Annual Benefit Dinner at the 18th Street Art Center in Santa Monica on Saturday—especially in view of the fact that my two predecessors were the art critic and curator Davie Hickey and the world-renowned creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson (if you haven’t yet come across his wonderful TED talks , it’s really time you did!) I’m happy to say that my talk was enthusiastically received, and it was a great pleasure to see many familiar faces amongst the guests.

Ellie and I arrived early, in order to join one of the tours the Center had laid on. Our first stop was the studio of John Malpede and Henriette Bouwers, whose nicely named Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD) works to empower Skid Row residents through a variety of art programs, ranging from performance and installation to public art projects. In my ignorance, I had been unaware of this immensely valuable and compassionate initiative, and I was glad to hear about it. Incidentally, it fit in well with the theme of my own presentation, later: the responsibility of artists to use their gift to “change the world, one art work at a time.”

Next stop was in the Center’s small gallery space, currently devoted to a show called The Los Angeles-Istanbul Connection—a curatorial collaboration between Saliha Kasap, an Istanbul-based artist, and Arzu Arda Kosar, a resident at the Center. Modest in size, the exhibition managed to cover a lot of interesting territory, and served as a fine reminder that the 18th Street Art Center is conscious of the international reach of art, and the common ground between artists everywhere.

Aside from its residency program, which attracts artists from throughout the world, the Center provides studio space for a number of Southern California-based artists. If these, we visited the studio of Clayton Campbell, the evening’s honoree for the many years he devoted to serving as Artistic Director of the Center, who was recently appointed Director of the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. Amazingly, despite the time he has devoted to art community service, Clayton has maintained a steady and serious practice as an artist working with photo-based media. He’ll be missed in Los Angeles, but the benefit dinner offered him a fine send-off from Los Angeles.

At dinner, we sat at round tables in a gallery currently devoted to a photographic survey of the remarkable work of the Australian artist Andrew Rogers. To quote the press release:

Rogers has spent the last 13 years engaging over 6,700 people in 13 countries on seven continents to create stone sculptures in deserts, fjords, gorges, national parks, and on mountainous slopes. He often works for months on end, engaging hundreds of local workers and even a thousand Maasai warriors to help him erect his visionary installations. By building structures with local significance and providing sustaining support to maintain the mammoth artworks, Rogers engages the communities where his works are created. Following each project's completion, Rogers photographs the work himself either from a not air balloon, a helicopter 500 feet aloft, of from a satellite stationed 450 miles above the ground.

Here he is in Kenya:

And here in Chile:

But I do encourage you to go to the artist’s Land Art site and click on the names of the various continents to get a complete sense of his work.

All in all, it was a memorable evening, and one in which I am most grateful to be been able to play a role.

1 comment:

mandt said...

The genre of earth works and environmental art is thrilling!