Cultured Magazine

Winter 2016

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234 BEST COAST Mara McCarthy was born to play her role as protector of California cool. BY KAT HERRIMAN Mara McCarthy opened The Box in 2007, and its contents shook up Los Angeles. Developing out of a conversation with her father, Paul McCarthy, Mara's gallery differentiated itself with its dedication to the heroes of the not-so-distant past. "We started with a few people with whome we had deep connections," says McCarthy. "One of them is Barbara T. Smith, one of the first people my dad and I spoke about because she lived in L.A., and had this amazing body of work from the '60s that nobody had seen. She was actually a starting point in some way for us trying to explore that world of people who aren't really shown." This fall, McCarthy opened her fourth solo show with Smith. A pioneering body artist who explored ritual with an emphasis on eating and copulating, Smith provided fertile ground for further investigation. The Box's September exhibition, "Words, Sentences & Signs," examined the artist's multi-layered practice rather than focusing on her performance. The show spanned Smith's 40-plus year career, including a series of photographs from 2016. When describing the show in her own words, the artist wrote: "This collection is a portrayal of the life of a human/woman over a span of time." Smith isn't the only person to have benefited from McCarthy's evolving program. In a landscape dominated by the thrill of youth and rediscovery, the young dealer stands out for her long-term commitment to her artists. Not everyone on McCarthy's roster started out in the '60s; the dealer also represents mid-career figures like Leigh Ledare and Mike Bouchet. In December, McCarthy will show the work of Naotaka Hiro, an artist she first exhibited in 2008. "He is working with this idea of understanding areas of his body he couldn't see," McCarthy explains. "He is taking wax molds in order to make new connections." As she notes, Hiro's final bronze pieces read more like drawings than sculptures. Rather than a site for strict revivalism, The Box has become an intergenerational hub, a place for continuous education as well as commercial development—and McCarthy hopes to keep it that way. "Right now, I've been enjoying the growth and recent focus on L.A.," she says. "My interest right now is fostering curiosity in both curators and collectors. There was a moment that I considered being a nonprofit, but I decided to go forward as a commercial space. Artists need support on all fronts. The commercial can trigger a bigger conversation." While McCarthy says she has not shut the door on a pop-up or a show somewhere else, her main focus is on serving those around her. Clockwise from top: McCarthy at The Box; Naotaka Hiro's Untitled (Letter X), 2016, and Untitled (The Hill), 2016, which will be included in this December's show at the gallery. PHOTO BY JASON UNDERHILL; COURTESY © NAOTAKA HIRO/ THE BOX, LOS ANGELES

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