Cultured Magazine

Spring 2014

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COUNTER CULTURE Cesar Garcia and The Mistake Room challenge L.A.'s art identity. BY MAXWELL WILLIAMS PORTRAIT BY AFSHIN SHAHIDI 72 CULTURED or all the talk about L.A.'s art evolution coming to a head, it's interesting to note that the façade has grown faster than the infrastructure. Gaps remain when discussing how to actually sustain a healthy, multifaceted art scene. Sure, there are galleries popping up seemingly daily, stalwart institutions and the evergreen art school system, but there are still slots to fill to both support the system by revealing it to the world and to expose artists working here to artists from unconventional art centers like Accra and Bogotá, lest L.A. become more insular than it already can appear to be. Cesar Garcia aims to change all that. He founded a contemporary art space, The Mistake Room, in January with a goal to respond to the navel-gazing that can happen in L.A. "Despite L.A. being one of the most diverse cities in the country, it tends to have a history of institutions supporting local artists," Garcia says. "While that's been incredible for our city, it's disconnected it from a lot of interesting, burgeoning art centers from around the world. So our program has a focus of both bringing emerging artists to do projects, but also to commission new work by very established artists who've just never been invited to do anything here." Garcia describes the newest addition to the ballyhooed downtown L.A. renaissance alternately as a "mixed-bag" art space and a European-style Kun- sthalle. The latter couldn't be a more apt depiction. The Mistake Room is staunchly outward-looking—its inaugural exhibition was the first L.A. show by Colombian-born, London-based art star Oscar Murillo—but that's what makes it so important for L.A. By bringing Murillo in, it allows Angelenos (such as those budget-conscious art students)—who wouldn't normally be able to see Murillo's work, which is widely exhibited across Europe—to obtain a glimpse into what's happening in the rest of the world. And it brings interest into what L.A. is up to from the international community, helping to legitimize the developing art capital. As for the mixed-bag approach, Garcia is open to established and emerging artists alike. "We started to make a list of people who've never done a solo show or a commission in Los Angeles," says Garcia. "And the list is pretty extensive. We have a huge community of art students. If you don't have the budgets that museum curators have to go biennial-jumping, then you've never seen a Thomas Hirschhorn in person or a Tino Sehgal here in L.A." Garcia, who was born in Mexico and grew up in L.A., has been making his mark on the L.A. art world since he wowed LA>

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