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The LA art scene: Mega-galleries and narco art

"Bowling for Medellín 1" (2014) by Camilo Restrepo. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape, newspaper clippings, glue, stickers and saliva on paper.
Wild Don Lewis
"Rip Currents #3 (Burro)" by Camilo Restrepo. Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape, stickers, newspaper clippings, glue and saliva on paper.
Wild Don Lewis
Camilo Restrepo's "Tight Rope #1 (Kid Pambele)." Ink, water-soluble wax pastel, tape and saliva on paper.
Wild Don Lewis

The visual art scene in L.A. seems to be growing in big ways these days. Not only are we a week into the life of the new Broad Museum, but there are massive galleries opening around town and there are artists migrating to Los Angeles to attend art school or grab big studio space.

One person who follows the art scene around the city is Carolina Miranda. She writes the Culture: High and Low blog for the Los Angeles Times.


When Miranda came to KPCC's studios, she spoke with The Frame Senior Producer Oscar Garza about the mega-galleries opening in L.A. from New York and beyond and how the current trend is to inhabit massive spaces. For instance, the Maccarone Gallery is a total of 35,000 square feet with 10,000 square feet of exhibition space. In the past the standard was closer to 2,000 square feet, but now it's near 5,000. Next year the gallery Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel will open in a space that's 100,000 square feet.

Miranda sees this is partially because gallerists can get larger space in L.A. than in New York, but at the same time it's an expression of a trend in the art itself.

The whole art world is going through this trend of gigantism .. .You're seeing larger scale installations, environmental installations. Art is not just about painting on a wall. It's now about these environments that you inhabit — monumental sculpture. So we're also seeing this trend towards gigantism just in terms of the types of works being produced. So, obviously, the gallerists need to have space in which to show that.


One artist that Miranda discovered while combing the gallery scene in town is Camilo Restrepo. He's a 42-year-old Colombian artist whose work is currently on display at the Steve Turner Gallery.

Restrepo grew up in 1980s Medellín, amid the culture of narco violence and the Pedro Escobar years. His art is partially fueled by that history and encompasses "fantastical drawings" of "cartoonish scenes of insane violence." Miranda recounted a story he told her of being 10 years old, dressed as a superhero on Halloween, when he came upon a dead body in the street. 

Restrepo began his art career as an art photographer in Colombia where he won an important prize and a Fulbright, but he told Miranda he wanted to push himself as an artist. So at the age of 38, he enrolled at CalArts to get an M.F.A.. He found being in school challenging. but he began working on paper — first in sketchbooks and then on a larger scale.

As a result his work is more visceral and personal. Miranda says "there's an energy and aggression," not just to the images, but also to how he treats and works with the materials, "He'll scrape the paper. He'll rub it with saliva," says Miranda, adding that Restrepo is an artist we'll be hearing more from in the coming years.

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