THE NEW LA EMERGING ARTIST is a scientist. With the spirit of a child explorer, these artists confront the bold unknown adventures of this metropolis, their living diorama. They collect things—models, taxidermied animals, figurines—and repurpose them as hybrid artwork. They reimagine them as magical totems or spirit animals of the urban jungle. And they dress the part—the numbers nerd with thick specs and button downs buttoned up. Their uniform takes many forms: thrifty combinations of wool and denim, plaid and gingham; sensible shoes and rough sacks; calculator watches. Their lives are research, artwork, and experiments: finding a small plastic dinosaur by the dingy old ATM on Sunset in Echo Park, making a mold of the dinosaur, recasting the brontosaurus in wax, and substituting miniature palm trees for its stubby legs. Now inspired, they make a delicate watercolor landscape of the Hollywood Hills with its legendary sign slightly blurred in the distance, place the palm-a-saurus in front of the watercolor, and light it with a purple neon sign. They photograph the tiny diorama with an old polaroid, titling it with a vintage electric green DYMO label maker inscribed ‘Time Travel sequence 13: The Tar Pit Mystery.” The work is then exhibited in a group show at a non-profit art collective in Silverlake. Money is of no interest. The research must continue, each block of this vast urban maze an opportunity for missing links in a puzzle collectively unfinished and untitled.
In a time when art of all forms is increasingly accessible, the financial reality of being an artist has never hung so paradoxically. A small select percentage of visual artists begin to realize magnificent sums for their work in galleries and at auction, meanwhile the remaining 99% self-publish pictures, sounds, and words online, sharing a constant stream of monetarily unfettered and pure artistic acts. These new scientist/artist is subversive by nature. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are breaking into an office building and re-titling an executive’s parking space sign with a moniker like “A. Hoel,” but they are subverting the direction of art consciousness from below the radar of the marketplace. Ask any budding artist in Los Angeles if they would like to have a show in a major gallery, and they will say yes. But aside from this aspiration, don’t expect them to stop their relentless quest for knowledge and understanding, hypothesis and revelation. The sharing of creative acts and ideas always leads to greater things. There is an unbridled optimism to the many, many subverteres of Los Angeles. If the most successful art dealer in the world got his start selling posters on the streets of LA, then the self-actualized geologist/sculptor in her garage in Eagle Rock will surely prevail.
Dustin Sherron is a SoCal native whose work explores, in his words, “the potential of objects.” His recent work is focused on painting miniature portraits of friends and new acquaintances on the back of Starbucks gift cards. The cards retain their value after use. His time with the subject—the photographs he works from—provides a meditative and intimate space made all the more personal by the inversely dispassionate nature of the throwaway plastic substrate. The quiet humanity of these tiny portraits in credit card dimensions reminds us of the ultimately personal nature of business transactions. Sherron’s portraits may be swiped, framed, or even recharged, but no matter where they ultimately reside, they ask a recurring question of our time, “can consumerism have character, too?”
J.A.W. Cooper or ‘Cooper’ is an English artist who grew up in Africa, Sweden, and Ireland before coming to California. She has applied her prodigious drawing skill to many mediums. From fine art to illustration, sketch art to storyboarding, her graphic fine art is a surreal conflation of the syrupy compositions and brooding palette of Pre-Raphaelite Romanticism with the elegant design and crisp draftsmanship of Japanese ukiyo-e printmaking. Animals and insects cavort with dramatically stylized semi-nude nymph-like figures in many of her intricately fashioned works on paper. Bambi meets Lolita in the land of OZ.
Lacy McCune is a Los Angeles based artist and illustrator living and working between Los Feliz and Long Beach. Her drawings have the other-worldly timelessness of Edward Gorey. Figures and animals morph with clouds and waves, threading into whirling microcosms wherein boundaries and distinctions become void. In Lacy’s words, “My most deeply rooted fascination in art is the process of forming a conclusion regarding objects that are alive but intangible. My interest is in the method of exploring those curiosities in order to depict hidden ideas that surround us and that would otherwise remain uninvestigated. The visual products that stem from contemplation, prodding at and pushing physical boundaries tend to consolidate a very human progression in idealistic thought and knowledge, which is essential to my livelihood.”