The Los Angeles Art Show, which opens to the public Thursday at the L.A. Convention Center, has grown even as the city's rich and vibrant arts reputation has grown.
"It used to be we were the stepchild of New York, and a lot of that has shifted in the past few years; L.A. is now driving the conversation in contemporary art, internationally, which is thrilling," says Peter Mays, executive director of the 88-year-old visual arts nonprofit L.A. Art Association and curator of the installation "Translating Transitions #4" by emerging artist Marilyn Lowey -- one of several special exhibits featured in this encyclopedic exposition of contemporary, modern, historical and traditional works, including paintings, prints and works on paper, photography, sculpture and video.
Expected to draw more than 50,000 people during its four-day run, the show is designed to be a fair within a fair under one roof. It takes a cue from museums, juxtaposing contemporary art alongside historical works to show movements and highlight the evolution of art through the ages.
"This is the only art fair that has all this diversity to it," says Kim Martindale, who in partnership with the Palm Beach Show Group produces the L.A. Art Show, a show he's produced for 18 years. "Most shows are focused on one type of time period or stylistic approach.
"At our show, fine art is represented from an early time through a contemporary time," he says.
While people come to the show to purchase art -- ranging from $50 vintage posters to $3,000 paintings to $1 million works -- the L.A. Art Show also serves as a showcase for new and unique exhibitions, such as Lowey's abstract piece.
It's made up of several 3-foot-long neon tubes, which are scattered across the floor and suspended in midair. Each tube is programmed to simulate the sensation of a flickering flame as it's being streamed live on video.
The L.A. Art Show also will feature the works of established Latin American artists Betsabee Romero of Mexico and Andrea Juan of Argentina in an exhibit presented by ADC Contemporary Art Gallery and the nonprofit Building Bridges International Art Exchange Program.
Romero uses car tires as her medium, carved into intricate patterns and imprints onto textiles to evoke traditional Mexican motifs. The final works are hung to create an immersive environment.
Juan, meanwhile, has created enthralling foot-to-ceiling video installations from her work in Antarctica that document the unexpected effects of global warming while blending in a Christo-like urge to adorn landscape in vibrant color.
Another standout is "Letters from Los Angeles: Text in Southern California," which highlights renowned L.A.- based artists such as John Baldessari, Eve Fowler and Dennis Hopper, who incorporate elements of words and letters as an artistic device.
"What's revelatory in this is that no city in the world is defined internationally by typography," says Jack Rutberg, gallery owner of Jack Rutberg Fine Arts on La Brea Avenue and curator of the "Letters from Los Angeles" special exhibit. "You have New York with the Empire State Building, Paris with the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben in London - all these architectural monuments.
"When you say `L.A.,' people think of 20th Century Fox, the Hollywood sign, Capitol Records," he says. "Those logos are iconic for us."
The L.A. landscape is riddled with signs, billboards and graffiti, and so too are works such as Ed Ruscha's iconic depictions of Standard Gas stations and the Hollywood sign or the graffiti series by late abstract expressionist Hans Burkhardt (who taught at California State University, Northridge).
In other works, words are used to address philosophical issues or make statements about race as in Mark Steven Greenfield's image of a performer in blackface. Over the image, an eye chart spells out "Don't Hate the Playa Hate the Game" as a point of reflection.
And that's just a glimpse.
Los Angeles Art ShowWhat: A fair within a fair featuring different genres of art and several special exhibitions.
Where: South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St.
When: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 27.
Tickets: $20, or $40 for a four-day pass.
Information: 310-822-9145, www.laartshow.com
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