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GOING THE DISTANCE All Roads Lead to Art

Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor at MOAH, "blame/thirst," 2018.

Los Angeles, being what it is—a big, sprawling desert grid with almost as many art galleries these days as there are Starbucks—can seem overwhelming when it comes to actually hopping in the car and making the point to go and see some art. Let’s face it, we sometimes spend more time on the freeway getting to the gallery or museum than we do actually viewing the work itself! That said, the amount of good work being made in this city necessitates that we go the proverbial distance.

MOAH, the Museum of Art and History located in Lancaster, is one such destination, set within the hot and arid backdrop of the desert landscape. At the helm is Andi Campognone, whose program over the last several years has reflected both a keen eye and a decisive awareness of new art made and exhibited today. The exhibitions at MOAH are always imaginative and intellectually stimulating, often merging science, history and art. Current exhibition Woven Stories charts the narrative structure of art-making as it relates to fiber and the history of storytelling through visual form. The results are visually arresting, the stories familiar, yet fresh.

Installation view of Ray Blender at MOAH, 2019. Photo by Mido Lee

In the opposite direction way down south lies the Laguna Art Museum, where shows span a variety of cultural disciplines. Most of the exhibitions feature an inherent narrative structure that ties the work into a broader social consciousness. This is true of the current exhibition, Self-Help Graphics, 1983–1991, which celebrates the East Los Angeles printmaking workshop and arts center that emerged from the pivotal and groundbreaking Chicano Art movement of the 1960s. Helmed by Executive Director Malcolm Warner, the Laguna Art Museum continues to mine the rich cultural heritage that exists in Laguna Beach while also expanding the museum’s program to include other modalities and ways of seeing.

Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor at MOAH, “hate stayed the ending” (detail), 2018.

Still, some venues are closer to home for some of us. Such is the case with Cal State Northridge’s Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication gallery, which (lucky for me) is located a few hundred yards from my CSUN classroom. Again, as with the other two venues I mentioned, the Northridge galleries are committed to socially conscious art that reflects the ever-changing culture in and around the Northridge area, and the surrounding metropolis. Many exhibitions endeavor to support former alumnae including Judy Baca and Jeffrey Vallance, who both had solo shows on the campus last year. Again, these artists’ work speaks to issues of identity and personal responsibility, engendering a deeper awareness of our past and present political climate.

In Los Angeles, “going the distance” can sometimes be challenging given the city’s vast expanses, but if you have a reliable set of wheels and a will to see some really good art, go ahead—burn some rubber!

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