Oh No You Ditten! Los Angeles invades SoHo

Installation View, Greater LA.

Is this a throwdown? It’s tempting to think so, since the title, Greater LA, is obviously a riff on the seminal P.S.1 survey Greater New York, and is installed in the same type of beat-up SoHo loft where major New York art history went down in the 1960s and ‘70s. But don’t get too excited. Any sense of bi-coastal competition erodes  quickly when you realize that many of the artists on view are already well-represented and accepted commodities here in New York.  Also, unlike Greater New York, which was a wild, not-for-profit showcase of up-and-comers, Greater LA is a commercial show and there really isn’t too much here that can’t be seen during a typical afternoon in Chelsea or the Lower East Side. So stop frontin’, y’all.

Alex Israel, Property, 2011.

If it were a throwdown, however, Sterling Ruby would be in the heavyweight class. With a group of stacked rectilinear forms, he adds color, a sense of the handmade, and illusion to minimalism’s airtight vocabulary.  Lofts like these have always been the perfect setting for minimal forms, and Ruby’s piece dominates a show that suffers from too many freestanding walls and too large a roster of artists. Token appearances by highly saleable artists (Mark Grotjahn works on paper, anyone?) give the show an art fair vibe that renders the whole “snapshot of exciting new LA art right now” thing nearly laughable.  A handful of great pieces amidst acres of empty loft space would have been way more effective.

Installation View, Greater LA.

Alex Israel’s Property, however, provides a sophisticated moment. A Grecian figure stands in front of a group of lockers, as if you had accidently stumbled into the employee lounge at the Getty. This pairs well with Jonas Wood’s chunky paintings of Grecian urns.  Wood, who lives in Los Angeles but grew up in Boston, went to school in St. Louis, and already has a strong presence in New York, also seems out of place here. He represents the sort of omni-local artist who pervades today’s scene, the type that makes it hard to discern any real conceptual or aesthetic differences between Los Angeles and New York.

Personally, I would have loved to see more space devoted to artists who are not represented by New York galleries, to get at what, if anything, really distinguishes the two cities’ art ideologies. But I suppose you can’t blame the curators for playing it a little safe and including their bankable stars. Their kitchen sink approach and all-over-the-place-career-wise roster seems to say that no matter where you set up your studio, every artist stills wants and needs to show in New York. We throw down harder, and Los Angeles knows it. Otherwise, they would have just had the show there.