The Miracle Mile

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Interior view of Edward Cella Art + Architecture
Photo: courtesy of the gallery

The Miracle Mile Arts District has not always been recognized as a single entity, extending far beyond the renowned stretch of Wilshire Boulevard from which the district gets its name. Set against a cast of independent designers, boutiques and restaurants, the numerous storefront galleries exist in well-known clusters stretching across several major boulevards. From west of Fairfax on Wilshire, to La Brea and scattered down Beverly, the region spans over three miles stretched over 40 blocks. To honestly assess the area as a single unit seems, instead, to mimic the gerrymandered political topography of the state. Without the convenience of imposed self-containment, as found at Bergamot and Chinatown, creating a succinct definition of this eclectic mix of venues seems to verge on impossible.

Then again, just what are the benefits of brevity? Kicking off the New Year, not to mention new decade, it seems that the City of Angels, itself, has decided to boycott any such restraint. With January re-christened as Los Angeles Arts Month and a multitude of art fairs slated across the southland, a renewed vision for one of the region’s historic centers bringing together nearly 40 venues to participate in quarterly art walks seems just the ticket.

The Miracle Mile Art Walks began in 2006, coinciding with the fourth annual TarFest, a celebration featuring art, music, and film, focused along a mile-long stretch of Wilshire Blvd. Miracle Mile Players founders James Panozzo and Steve Kramer, who also opened Lawrence Asher Gallery, organized the yearly festival. “We sought to harness the synergy of the art community,” Panozzo explains, “to create an opportunity for emerging artists, and as a social alternative that could be experienced by the larger community.” Tarfest proved a natural partner for the city council in the development of a broader community involvement, then known as the Mid City West Art Walk. Over time, and periods of wax and wane, the event matured into its current incarnation, featuring a converted trolley car providing transportation between such internationally recognized establishments as Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, ACME, and the Michael Kohn Gallery.

Art walks have been an essential component of the visual art community in Los Angeles almost synonymous with the birth of the city’s contemporary art scene. The date generally given to mark the Southern Californian delivery is March 1957, when Ed Kienholz with curator Walter Hopps opened the inaugural group show at Ferus Gallery on La Cienega Boulevard, just west of the Miracle Mile. Not long after the doors opened and the likes of Wallace Berman and Ed Ruscha were introduced, the historic Monday night art walks began along La Cienega, including a special benefit in ’63 held to raise funds for “the new Museum of Art now under construction in Hancock Park.” It was during this time that Art Forum also moved from San Francisco for a brief stay in a space adjacent to Ferus. The increased level of activity began to draw attention to the once “cultural desert” that had been previously dismissed as irrelevant. As noted by Peter Plagens in his early look at California art, Sunshine Muse (1974), “in the ’60s the city [Los Angeles] became big enough, industrialized enough, and ugly enough to be a breeding ground for contemporary art with a bite.” Kind words, indeed.

The sprawling and ever-changing campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art fits neatly into this timeline and provides a fitting anchor to the surrounding art community. Dating as far back as 1910, LACMA first opened as part of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art. The institution established a separate identity in 1961, and moved to its current location in ’65. Constructed on the former site of the historic Hancock family home, LACMA was the largest new museum built in America since the National Gallery of Art almost 25 years earlier. The ’80s brought the first major changes to the positioning of the museum with the addition of the Robert O. Anderson building, then dedicated to modern and contemporary art (now the Art for the Americas building); followed by the serene Pavilion for Japanese Art, designed by architect Bruce Goff.

After decades of steady maturation, the past five years have seen a radical upswing in the tempo of change with renovations, new buildings and collections, repositioning the face of LACMA back to Wilshire Boulevard. The addition of the towering Renzo Piano-designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum in 2008 expanded the presence of the museum, both in terms of the physical authority of the building and the rabidly contemporary collection contained within its interior. In the newly created courtyard, the serenity of Chris Burden’s installation, Urban Lights, simultaneously heralds the past and future as 202 vintage streetlights, arranged in the surprisingly modernist grid, illuminate the massive makeover taking place. An active participant in the local community, LACMA supports the art walks through the MUSE program, most visible in the extended summer programming. Alvaro G. Vasquez, vice-president of membership at LACMA, describes the healthy collaboration between the institution and local galleries as beneficial, providing opportunities and exposure, while the new quarterly format increases the ability for collaboration and scheduling, “so that there is always something new for art walk participants to come out and see.”

Several contemporary galleries and other notable museums now find themselves basking in the sanguine glow of Burden’s lights, among them Edward Cella Art + Architecture, Steve Turner Contemporary, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Creative Photography Workshop, and the new location of the A+D Museum scheduled to open this spring. Cella recently moved from Santa Barbara with his unique roster of artists, designers and architects, which includes such notable and varied figures as Joni Sternbach, David Humphrey and Ball-Nogues Studio. Describing his choice of new location adjacent to both LACMA and the A+D, Cella explains, “A close proximity can lend a sense of context… with our focus on architectural materials, the immediacy to the A+D is very desirable, providing opportunities for collaborative and adjunctive exhibitions.”

Almost next door, Steve Turner also stresses the advantage of their location. “We have a great space,” he states, and adds the galleries ACME and Marc Foxx to his list of influential neighbors. In November, Turner launched the first in a series of exhibitions collectively titled, “Artists Selects,” which explore the relationship between contemporary artists and historic artists or periods through works in private collections. The inaugural presentation demonstrated the beneficial propinquity with LACMA in “Nothing New: Amir Zaki Selects Vintage Photographs of Southern California, 1870-1950,” creating a subtle discourse with LACMA’s concurrent exhibition, “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape.”

Driving the Miracle Mile provides a sort of non-chronological trip through architectural history that predates both LACMA’s relocation and the naissance of Ferus Gallery. First cleared in the final years of the 19th century by the entrepreneurial chameleon Henry Gaylord Wilshire, the transition from an anonymous stretch of thoroughfare into the “Miracle Mile,” owes much to the commercial inclinations of a certain A.W. Ross in the roaring ’20s. Ross foresaw the convenience of creating a car-friendly haven for shopping located far from the congestion of downtown, and began to put these visions into action. Disbelieving Angelinos termed the project “Ross’ Folly.” The El Rey Theatre, the old May Company and Prudential Building, however, remain a standing testament to his vision. The first Art Deco-style building to grace the “Fifth Av
enue of the West,” was the Wilshire Tower — also known as the Desmond’s Building — designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood in the late 1920s. The nostalgic script of the building’s origins still grace the Egyptian-themed tower that for the past 25 years has provided over 30,000 square feet to the Ace Institute of Contemporary Art, operating under the notorious leadership of director Doug Chrismas. Moving to LA from Vancouver in ’66, purportedly on the advice of a certain Andy Warhol, Chrismas inhabited several spaces, including a stint in the space formerly known as Ferus during the ’70s, before moving to his current location. Since then, the vast halls of the gallery have held numerous museum-style exhibitions, including Dennis Hopper, Jannis Kounellis, and Robert Wilson, that simply wouldn’t be feasible anywhere else.

A few blocks west, the 6150 complex has been a hub of activity since its inception. ACME founders Randy Sommer and Robert Funderman, along with Marc Foxx and Dan Bernier collectively relocated from their Santa Monica, “Baby Bergamot,” location to establish the artistic complex in the late ’90s. Although Wilshire Boulevard did not offer a prepackaged art destination when the trio moved in, the new location did offer some basic essentials, as Sommer describes, “a conglomerate of empty buildings and a parking lot.” The following year Brian Butler established 1301PE working with artists like Diana Thater and Jason Rhoades, while Roberts & Tilton took over Dan Bernier’s location. Daniel Weinberg later joined the scene in 2000. Many notable Los Angeles galleries have since passed through the complex, including Paul Kopeikin, Karen Lovegrove, and Kontainer (now Nicodim Gallery). The rotations has made room for expansions and the addition of new residents, such as Peter Mendenhall, who set up shop in ’08, bringing Kenton Nelson, Albert Contreras and Squeak Carnwath into the mix. When the Roberts & Tilton moved out, also in 2008, ACME expanded and reconfigured their gallery, and for the first time their presence was visible from the street. Throughout the many changes, ACME and Foxx have remained the nucleus of 6150, offering such rising stars as Jennifer Steinkamp and Laura Owens; and Matthew Ronay and Evan Holloway, respectively.

Among the other galleries on Wilshire is the venerable Marc Selwyn Gallery, bringing in the New Year with the sculptural works of Kristen Morgin; and Lawrence Asher continuing their double-receptions with J. David Carlson and Michael Dotson. Not far off, official new kid on the block, Tracey Landworth recently opened the Creative Photography Workshops just six months ago. “Our space is really a school,” Landworth says, attracting both those “who don’t know how to download their film” and veteran photographers with decades of experience who seek the peer-interaction provided in the workshop atmosphere.

While not possessing the architectural eye-candy of its Wilshire sibling, the La Brea corridor provides home to denizens of independent establishments — artisans, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, designers, and antique dealers punctuated by an active community of contemporary galleries. As if inspired by their surroundings, voila! Art for the Modern Eye, and the Loft at Liz’s bring an eclectic feel to the interior, combining gallery shows with modern furniture and various objets d’art. DNJ Gallery promotes “innovation and reflection” with emerging and mid-career artists focusing on both digital and traditional photographic processes. Meanwhile, veterans along the avenue include 19th- and 20th-century vintage and contemporary fine art photography at Fahey/Klein, on the avenue since 1986; contemporary American and Latin American art at Couturier Gallery founded one year later; and Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, whose roster includes such historically significant names as Burkhardt, Weisman and Witkin. Among the earliest to stake his claim in the community, Rutberg began as a private dealer in 1979 before opening the doors at his current location in ’81. “There was nothing,” Rutberg says, as he describes his first visit to La Brea almost thirty years ago. Surprisingly, he credits the same condition for its present character, “the lack of history allowed for anything to happen… galleries ranging from contemporary to historic, LA to international, and it is absolutely surrounded by a community as eclectic as the galleries.”

Merry Karnowsky, one of Rutberg’s closest neighbors, embarks on a fundamentally different path providing a demonstration of this artistic diversity. Known as one of the progenitors of Pop Surrealism and what has recently been termed “New Contemporary,” Karnowsky opened her gallery in ’97 with an inaugural exhibition featuring Todd and Kathy Schorr. “It was so new,” Karnowsky begins, speaking thoughtfully about breaking down the preconceptions often attached to the so-called Lowbrow art movement, “my idea was to give the audience a chance to view their work, untainted, in a formal setting… when you see it in person, it changes, you talk to (the artist) and it changes again.”

Running parallel to the Miracle Mile, several galleries have put down their roots on Beverly Boulevard, with combined scheduling as likely to include conceptual sculpture and video installation as painting and photography. Located on the south side of the street, Thomas Paul Fine Arts has played a part in the Los Angeles art scene since 1976, working with collectors and holding exhibitions promoting the works of established talent such as Bengston, Bell, and Theibaud. Further west, the Stephen Cohen Gallery maintains a schedule of fine art photography from local and international artists; Richard Telles Fine Art promotes innovative works by the likes of Ginny Bishton, Lisa Lapinski and Ivan Morley.

Tobey C. Moss, established in 1978, sums up the ingredients that led to her Beverly address as “purely happenstance,” as she took over the space her husband’s business once occupied. Moss, who has promoted the early icons of California Modernism, specializing in prints, for decades, seems eager to understate her own contribution “I didn’t anticipate the 31 years,” Moss says, pausing before quietly adding with a smile, “so far.” While discussing the evolution of her eponymous gallery, her focus repeatedly deferred instead to describing her admiration for the artists she has long championed–Lundeberg, Feitelson, Woeffler, Edmondson, and Engle–as well as her own mentor, Jake Zeitlin of the Big Red Barn on La Cienega.

The knot of galleries located at the intersection of Beverly and Crescent Heights, consisting of Michael Kohn and David DeSanctis, marks the western edge of the district, providing a sanctuary from the hectic pace of city traffic. The expansive Kohn Gallery represents Los Angeles, New York and European artists, in addition to the estates of contemporary giants Wallace Berman and Bruce Conner. Located in a sister building around the corner, DeSanctis has been an active participant in the ongoing art walks. During the final art walk of 2009, he spoke of the importance of “having the one-on-one experience with the art,” comparing the vitality of the live encounter against online voyeurism. Standing in the gallery, in front of Helen Garber’s expansive 7′ x 18′ painting, it was easy to understand his point.

In the 45 years since LACMA first opened on Wilshire Boulevard, the surrounding neighborhood has grown into a thriving gallery scene, boasting some of the finest contemporary art venues in Southern California. Set within a community as varied as any found in the city, the galleries have become an essential ingredient in this urban mid-city blend. This neighborhood filled with storefront galleries may just be the closest thing among LA’s offerings to an urban arts district. The art walks represent the visible product achieved by the Arts and Recreation Committee of the Mid City West Community Council working with the galleries and museums within the district to promote the local and collective art community. While it may not be
the most glamorous of endorsements, in an age of rapidly diminishing art programs and grants, the commitment and collaboration between the two factions represents a vital opportunity for continual growth. And, perhaps, one defining element of this richly eclectic arts district.

The 2010 quarterly Miracle Mile Art Walks are scheduled to occur January 16, April 17, July 17, and October 16. For more information: www.miraclemileartwalk.com

WILSHIRE BLVD

1301PE Brian Butler, Owner
6150 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 938-5822 www.1301PE.com

A + D Museum, Tibby Dunbar, Director
6032 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 932-9393 www.aplusd.org

Ace Gallery, Douglas Chrismas, Director
5514 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 935-4411 www.acegallery.net

ACME. Gallery, Robert Gunderman & Randy Sommer, Owners
Molly Concannon, Director
6150 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 857-5942 www.acmelosangeles.com

Clark | Oshin Gallery at The Icon
5450 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 933-1666 www.iconla.com

Craft and Folk Art Museum, Maryna Hrushetska, Executive Director
5814 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 937-4230 www.cafam.org

Creative Photography Workshops Gallery
Tracey Landworth & Santino Zafarana, Directors
6020 Wilshire Blvd, (310) 839-8866 www.creativephotoworkshops.com
Tracey Landworth, a commercial and fine arts photographer, recently opened Los Angeles’ first independent photography school and gallery, located on the Miracle Mile, across from LACMA. Creative Photography Workshops offers classes for beginners and experienced photographers alike, in addition to rotating exhibitions that feature contemporary innovative photographers working in various exciting photography medians.

Daniel Weinberg Gallery
6148 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 954-8425 www.danielweinberggallery.com

Edward Cella Art + Architecture, Edward Cella, Director
6018 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 525-0053 www.edwardcella.com
In its new, contemporary gallery space, ECAA presents photography, painting and drawings by significant emerging and mid-careers artists which conceptually and materially engage the art-making process; Additionally with a unique and special focus, ECAA presents drawings and projects by emerging and established 20th- and 21st-century architects and designers. Artists include: Cathy Daley, Gerald Incandela, Mark Harrington, Mary Heebner, David Humphrey, Ruth Pastine and the innovative design firm of Ball Nogues Studio.

Korean Cultural Center, Jaewon Kim, Director
5505 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 936-7141 www.kccla.org

Lawrence Asher Gallery, James Panozzo, Director
5820 Wilshire Blvd, #100 (323) 935-9100 www.lawrenceasher.com
Established in 2004, Lawrence Asher Gallery reflects a strong passion for the arts with a vibrant connection to the important community of artists in Los Angeles. The gallery presents both emerging and mid-career artists, from the United States and beyond, with original painting, drawings, mixed media works and sculpture. The location opposite the Los Angeles County Museum of Art mirrors the gallery’s ongoing commitment to the cultural history and contemporary arts of the region. Artists include: Lisa Adams, Tim Anderson, Kevork Cholakian, Christopher Martin Hoff, Christopher Lawrence Mercier and Meeson Pae Yang.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 857-6000 www.lacma.org
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the western United States, with 100,000 objects dating from ancient times to the present. A museum of international stature as well as a vital part of Southern California, LACMA shares its vast collections through exhibitions, public programs, and research facilities that attract nearly a million visitors annually.

Marc Foxx Gallery
6150 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 857-5571 www.marcfoxx.com

Marc Selwyn
6222 Wilshire Blvd, #101, (323) 933-9911 www.marcselwynfineart.com

Peter Mendenhall Gallery
6150 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 936-0061 www.petermendenhallgallery.com
Opened in 2008, the Peter Mendenhall Gallery specializes in contemporary painting and sculpture. Artists include: David Buckingham, Squeak Carnwath, Albert Contreras, Daniel Douke, Kristin Leachman, Kenton Nelson, and Raimonds Staprans.

Sophia Louisa Projects at Phantom Galleries LA
5412 Wilshire Boulevard, (310) 773-1460 www.sophialouisaprojects.com

Steve Turner Contemporary
6026 Wilshire Blvd, (323) 931-3721 www.steveturnercontemporary.com

LA BREA

Couturier Gallery, Darrel Couturier, Director
166 N. La Brea Ave, (323) 933-5557 www.couturiergallery.com
Couturier Gallery, established in 1987, specializes in Latin American and American art. The gallery exhibits painting, sculpture, photography and ceramics by master and mid-career artists. The gallery has been a leader in promoting important artists from Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico as well as the United States. Artists include: Gale Antokal, Carlos Estev, Aimee Garcia, Alberto Korda, Jorge Marin, Gertrud & Otto Natzler, Maritta Tapanainen

DNJ Gallery, Pamela Schoenberg, Owner
154 1/2 N. La Brea Ave, (323) 931-1311 www.dnjgallery.net
DNJ Gallery is a photography gallery located in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile Arts District. The gallery is dedicated to presenting a select roster of emerging and mid-career artists who embrace and expand the boundaries of the photographic medium. The gallery opened its doors in October 2007, and has received critical acclaim for many gallery exhibitions in the first two years. Artists include: Holly Andres, Eileen Cowin, Darryl Curran, Michael Eastman, Richard Gilles, Cynthia Greig, Jane O’Neal, Suzy Poling, David Trautrimas, Chris Verene.

Fahey/Klein Gallery, David Fahey, Director
148 N. La Brea Ave, (323) 934-2250 www.faheykleingallery.com

Iturralde Gallery, Teresa Iturralde, Director
116 S. La Brea Ave, (323) 937-4267

Jack Rutberg Fine Arts
357 N. La Brea, (323) 938-5222 www.jackrutbergfinearts.com
Founded in 1979, Jack Rutberg Fine Arts has presented major exhibitions of important Contemporary and Modern European, American and Latin American artists. Since its inaugural exhibition featuring the works of Arshile Gorky and Hans Burkhardt, the gallery has continued to present museum-quality exhibitions, placing contemporary paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings in historical context. Jack Rutberg Fine Arts is particularly noteworthy for placing emphasis on education through its exhibitions, numerous lectures and panel discussions. Artists include: Hans Burkhardt, Patrick Graham, Ruth Weisberg, Jerome Witkin, and Francsico Zuniga.

Merry Karnowsky Gallery
170 S. La Brea Ave, (323) 933-4408 www.mkgallery.com
Merry Karnowsky Gallery was founded in 1997 by Merry Karnowsky, and has had a central focus for over a decade; championing emerging and mid-career artists who push beyond the boundaries of formal definition. The gallery is devoted to exhibiting contemporary works of art that are challenging, innovative and committed to fostering new directions in American art. Artists include: Camille Rose Garcia, Todd Schorr, Kent Williams, Edward Walton Wilcox, Kill Pixie (Mark Whalen), and Mercedes Helnwein.

The Loft at Liz’s, Liz Gordon, Director
453 S. La Brea Ave, (323) 939-4403 www.theloftatlizs.com
Art, architectural elements, design come together in one location. Downstairs, Liz’s Antique Hardware presents almost two centuries of functional design. Upstairs, the Loft at Liz’s gallery features thematic shows highlighting the work of both emerging and established artists. Artists include: Mike Saijo, Robert Morgan, Doni Silver Simon, Alvaro Valenzuela, Anna Dusi, Daniela Arbizzi, and Ben
dow.

Perrell Fine Art
145 N. La Brea Ave, (323) 933-8630 www.perrellfineart.com

Photographers Gallery
145-A N. La Brea Ave, (323) 938-8000 www.photographersgallery.com

Verve Gallery
156 N. La Brea Ave, (323) 937-0325 www.vervegallery.com

voila! Art for the Modern Eye
518 N. La Brea Ave, (323) 954-0418 www.voilagallery.com
Voila! Gallery offers “Art for the Modern Eye,” showcasing fine art without restriction to a specific time or media, vintage and modern furniture, antique prints, and all varieties of vintage oddities. In the gallery, Voila! features several contemporary artists, spanning numerous artistic genres from photography to painting to sculpture. Artists include: An Gyselinck, Gwen Samuels, Olivia Chague, Robert Stivers, Samuel Frost, Wahl G., and William Curtis Rolf.

BEVERLY BLVD / CRESCENT HEIGHTS

David DeSanctis Gallery
314 N. Crescent Heights Blvd, (323) 782-9404 www.desanctisgallery.com

Michael Kohn Gallery, Samantha Glaser, Director
8071 Beverly Blvd, (323) 658-8088 www.kohngallery.com

Richard Telles Fine Art
7380 Beverly Blvd, (323) 965-5578 www.tellesfineart.com

Stephen Cohen Gallery
7358 Beverly Blvd, (323) 937-5525 www.stephencohengallery.com

Thomas Paul Fine Arts
7270 Beverly Blvd, (323) 525-0444 www.tpaulfineart.com

Tobey C. Moss Gallery
7321 Beverly Blvd, (323) 933-5523 www.tobeycmossgallery.com
Tobey C. Moss Gallery began in 1978 with a listing of “Selected Prints.” Since then, the gallery has grown to include art in all media, focusing on the artists of Southern California between the 1920s and the 1960s, the printmakers launched in lithography with Lynton Kistler during the ’30s-’50s, and the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in the 1960s and beyond. Artists include: Ruth Asawa, Jules Engel, Oskar Fishinger, Helen Lundeberg, and John McLaughlin.

OTHER AREAS

Adamson–Duvannes Galleries, Jerome D. Adamson, Jr., Director
484 S. San Vicente Blvd, (323) 653-1015 www.justpaintings.net

Country Club Projects at The Buck House by R.M. Schindler
805 S. Genesse Ave, (323) 658-8522 www.countryclubprojects.com

Gallery 825 at Los Angeles Art Association, Peter Mays, Executive Director
825 N. La Cienega Blvd, (310) 652-8272 www.laaa.org

Gallery Brown
140 S. Orlando Avenue, (323) 651-1956 www.gallerybrown.com

MAK Center for Art + Architecture @ The Schindler House
835 N. Kings Road, (323) 651-1510 www.makcenter.org

New Stone Age
8407 W. 3rd Street, (323) 658-5969 www.newstoneagela.com

Otero Plassart
820 N. Fairfax Avenue, (323) 951-1068 www.oteroplassart.com

Papillon Gallery
8272 Melrose Avenue, (323) 655-2205 www.papillongallery.com

To download a PDF of the MiracleMile.pdf, please click here.