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7 Artists from Los Angeles Every Chinese Art Lover Should Know

7 Artists from Los Angeles Every Chinese Art Lover Should Know

Picture of Julie Daunt
Updated: 11 December 2015
The cutting-edge, innovative style of Los Angeles art has taken hold in Beijing, China’s creative centre. This is particularly reflected in the wealth of Los Angeles art currently under the spotlight at The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), showcasing their latest exhibition The Los Angeles Project. With a cultural correspondence developing between western America and eastern China, here is a guide to the artists who will soon be household names in Beijing.
Aaron Curry at Michael Werner
Aaron Curry at Michael Werner © Contemporary Art Daily


Aaron Curry

Born in Texas but based in LA, the exhibition at UCCA will be Aaron Curry’s first showcase in China. His works can be described as biomorphic sculptures made from various different mediums such as metal and wood. Rough and ready, these works are left is a raw state to emphasise the fact that they have been crafted by hand. They are then sprayed in lurid shades of purple, pink and yellow that make the structures seem almost luminescent. Sculpture is not the only medium that Curry works in – the artist also produces paintings and collages. His works draw on a number of influences – from surrealism to pop art – and include contemporary and underground art movements, such as graffiti and punk. For his Beijing debut, Curry will display five of his notorious surrealist sculptures in a space covered by 238 sheets of cardboard. These are then plastered with orange paint and foot prints, resulting in high visual impact and engagement.

Aaron Curry interview on Art this Week

Alex Israel
Alex Israel © Bon


Alex Israel

A native of LA, the works of Alex Israel comprise of video, painting and installation pieces that both celebrate and deconstruct the idea of celebrity and Hollywood. His is perhaps best known for his web series entitled As it Lays,a mock talk-show in which Israel asks a series of deadpan questions that flip from deeply philosophical and profound to trivial and absurd. The series intro is a kitsch clash of 80s and 90s entertainment culture, with overly vibrant shots of beautifully quaffed LA residents and panoramic scenes enhanced by an over-the-top saxophone theme tune, created through a Casio keyboard. Israel embodies Warhol in his expressionless and emotionless demeanour throughout the interviews, which feature teen heartthrobs and icons from hit films of the 80s and 90s. The outcome of the series is the creation of an awkward and uncomfortable tension, something which Israel aims to probe and amplify in his works. His contribution to the UCCA exhibition is also his first showcase in China. Specially for the exhibition, Israel has created a site-specific mural that references Hollywood set-pieces and his journey through LA.

Alex Israel interviewing Molly Ringwald on As it Lays

Kaari Upson

Since discovering personal items, diaries and photographs from a burned down house near her family home, Kaari Upson has been compiling her complex work The Larry Project. Larry is a semi-fictional character who lived in that house and who Upson has described as the quintessential 70s and 80s playboy. Her works are created in response to this character, telling us his history and exploring the artist’s relationship with him. Sculpture, videos and performance pieces also examine Larry and Upson’s lives and give an idea of the projected self. The UCCA group show is Upson’s first exhibition in China. For the exhibition, Upson has included a set of mattresses, cushions and other objects which are moulded in silicon. These are put on display in space specifically choreographed and designed by Upson. The use of silicon explores the idea of flesh and the merging of body and object, in a similar manner to Upson’s merged relationship with Larry.

Kathryn Andrews at Museum Ludqig
Kathryn Andrews at Museum Ludqig © Contemporary Art Daily


Kathryn Andrews

Hailing from Alabama, Kathryn Andrews integrates the idea of art appreciation and authenticity into her sculptural pieces. Her works draw on historical influences in the art world, channelling a fusion of minimalism, kitsch and Duchampian ready-mades. Her works dissect the concept of the artist’s touch and personal autonomy. Andrews has been building her reputation in Beijing for the past few years, first exhibiting in China in 2007 at the Courtyard Gallery. This year, Andrews returns to Beijing to participate in the UCCA exhibition, where her work will include a collection of barrels made from aluminium and decorated with vinyl prints of Bozo the Clown. Accompanying these are recreated photographs of the seduction scene from The Graduate. Through her use of well-known symbols and signifiers, Andrews creates a tension between authorship and popular culture. Her deconstructive methods and exploration of symbolism means Andrews is one of the foremost contemporary LA artist to watch.

Kathryn Andrews discusses the fabrication process

Matthew Monahan

Already known for his large sculptures – which are often blended with his charcoal drawings – Matthew Monahan has successfully carved himself a place in the contemporary art world, particularly in Asia. His works show interplay between two-dimensional and three-dimensional planes, whilst also exploring ancient histories and mythologies. Monahan’s aim is to examine key periods in art-history, juxtaposing classical and modern art. Monahan previously took park in a two-month residency program at the Chinese European Art Center in Xiamen in 2002. This culminated in an exhibition with Lara Schnitger, entitled Civilised Special Zone, which explored the pros and cons of modernisation in China. For this, Monahan displayed a series of monoprint drawings created through the folding of rice or carbon painting, creating a kaleidoscope of linear designs. For his UCCA presentation in Beijing, Monahan will display a variety of his charcoal works which examine the nature of portraiture. These will be complimented by his totemic bronze sculptures.

Matthew Monahan in interview at the Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo


Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch

Working as a creative artistic duo, Ryan Trecartin and long-time collaborator Lizzie Fitch create sculptural and installation pieces that explore ideas of identity and youth culture in today’s society. Trecartin’s particular focus is on the advancements of technology, which has called into question ideas of the self. Together, they create films and media pieces that display a host of absurd characters, scenarios and visual effects. Trecartin often includes himself in his films, which are frenzied and disorientating, displaying a clash of elements from media culture such as text language and reality TV. The pair have worked on collaborative exhibitions around the world, including their show in the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 2011. Their participation at the UCCA group exhibition is their first showcase in China. For the show, the duo will present four films from Trecartin’s series Any Ever. This has been exhibited previously at various institutions, including MoMA PS1. The space of the exhibition will also reflect the films content, with the wall colours, furniture and accompanying music all specifically picked to amplify the chaotic nature of the film, creating an immersive viewing experience.

Ryan Trecartin ‘Any Ever’ trailer


Sterling Ruby

Artist Sterling Ruby was born in Germany but is based in LA. A master of all trades, Ruby’s art portfolio is impressive for its comprehensive inclusion of all forms of media – from painting, to sculpture, to ceramic and even video. His works are often compiled as installations, which are dense and rich in materials and themes. Ruby is influenced by a number of sources, from urban culture to Minimalism, but his work is always a deconstruction and rejection of conceptual limitations. His installations analyse and dissect gender theories and social stereotypes. Ruby has already established himself in the creative circles of Beijing. In 2011, Ruby had a solo show entitled VAMPIRE which took place at Pace Beijing. Here, Ruby brought his socially aware artistry to the capital of China, providing a fresh perspective on the chaos and conflicts of modern society. Ruby has also previously exhibited at the first international group exhibition at the UCCA entitled Stray Alchemists (2008). At this group show, Ruby explored the transient nature of power through his installation piece Recondite. For his latest participation in a UCCA group show, the artist will include a large, thirty metre long display of his landscape-like spray paintings. Alongside these paintings will be collage works and his Monumental Stalagmite totems which are urethane-drip monoliths.

Ruby Sterling’s Studio and his Urethane Works

The Los Angeles Project runs from September 13 to November 9 at The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art , Art District, Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China. +86 10 5780 0200


By Julie Daunt