Viewing single post of blog Los Angeles research trip

My journey to LA didn’t turn out quite as planned. A storm in London meant my flight from Manchester was delayed, resulting in a missed connecting flight to LA. 33 long hours later I arrived in LA. It seemed as though one freakish weather event triggered a further domino-like series of ‘system errors’ – lost luggage, delayed buses, tire blowout, missed appointments here in LA.

On the plus side, the extra long journey left me with plenty of time to reflect. I found myself thinking about systems – what it means for something to work efficiently, while leaving enough room for flexibility and variance.      A-N’s travel bursary has enabled me to come to LA to see the first major museum show dedicated to Black Mountain College (BMC) at The Hammer Museum. Something I’ve been interested in about BMC (an experimental art college in North Carolina from 1933 to 1957) is the notion that it flew in the face of the rigid systems found in mainstream education at the time (something which is of course more relevant for education now than ever). The impetus for BMC came about through its founder John Rice having been sacked from Rollins College, California for his progressive ideas about the purpose of education – that of provoking open enquiry and critical thinking.

As a founder of an independent art school myself (Islington Mill Art Academy (IMAA) 2007- ongoing), I want to better understand this key chapter in the history of arts education. I’m interested to consider what elements of the BMC story might still be applicable to our context as a peer-led, self-directed ‘alternative’ educational project today. IMAA approaches its 10th anniversary next year, which has naturally led us to imagine what its future might consist of, so this trip comes at a timely moment.

Before seeing the BMC show, which is far across town at the Hammer Museum, I notice that there is a show at MoCA Geffen Contemporary nearby, showing art in its collection from the 1990’s. Intrigued, I head there pretty much straight from arriving to take advantage of their free entry Thursday evenings. The show attempts to make sense of the 1990’s through work collected by MoCA during this time. It is largely work by LA based artists, which demonstrates that the institution has a commitment to collecting work by artists who live locally (something that many UK collecting institutions could take heed of). The show is grouped into themes: Installation; The OutmodedNoir AmericaPlace and IdentityTouch, Intimacy, and Queerness; and Space, Place, and Scale. The accompanying text lists key political, social and cultural events of the decade without particularly discussing how the artworks on display relate to these, and indeed it’s hard to see how they do. There is something to cater for all aesthetic tastes, in terms of the styles and media represented in the show – and perhaps this is as emblematic of the 1990’s as it gets. The museum itself is one of 3 sites operated by MoCA, a huge multi-level former warehouse space in the Little Tokyo district, opened in 1995.

More updates to follow soon!