A stone’s throw from the Venice boardwalk, L.A. Louver is the last outpost of what was once a thriving bohemian arts district. Low-rent no more, the gallery ascended to the big time representing the likes of expat David Hockney, R.B. Kitaj, Ed Kienholz, and Ken Price while championing the underrated like Charles Garabedian (eightysomething and at the peak of his powers), Don Suggs, and Tom Wudl. Newer talents such as Rebecca Campbell and Ben Jackel keep the stable fresh, as do the gallery’s Rogue Wave exhibits—mini biennials featuring mostly unknown locals. » 45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-4955.
Rosamund Felsen Gallery
With the uncertain future of Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station—the former Red Car stop turned one-stop art mall is set to incorporate an Expo Line station—this is the gallery to watch to tell whether Bergamot will flourish or disintegrate. Having played significant roles at the legendary Pasadena Art Museum and the Gemini G.E.L. printmaking studio, Rosamund Felsen’s late-’70s debut as a dealer launched an era that saw her representing virtually every important new L.A. artist of the period, from Paul McCarthy to Mike Kelley to Lari Pittman. In recent years Felsen has honed her roster to reflect a more personal, less blockbuster vision, but her gallery remains the last space standing with roots in the ’60s boom. » 2525 Michigan Ave., B4, Santa Monica, 310-828-8488.
Larry Gagosian started his art empire in the early 1970s with a poster shop near UCLA. He now maintains 12 galleries worldwide. While often given over to such non-local Go-go heavyweights as Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, and Damien Hirst—there wasn’t a single solo show by an L.A. artist last year—his outpost in the Rodeo Drive shopping district is also home to Ed Ru-scha, Chris Burden, Frank Gehry, and the estate of Mike Kelley. Just remember to check the schedule. » 456 N. Camden Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-271-9400.
Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
Representing a cross section of contemporary local artists—Steve Roden, Rodney McMillian, Andrea Bowers, Sean Duffy, Yunhee Min, Raffi Kalenderian, and Charles Gaines among them—Susanne Vielmetter’s gallery is always a safe bet for catching a show people will be talking about. Her first Culver City space had a cramped, oddball charm, but her new accommodations down the street give her artists the room they need to shine. » 6006 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310-837-2117.
Blum & Poe
From their original digs in the back of a small office park in Santa Monica to the museum-size anchor of the bustling Culver City Arts District, Tim Blum and Jeff Poe have become the definitive success story in the city’s galaxy of galleries, launching the careers of Sharon Lockhart and Mark Grotjahn, masterminding the stateside triumph of Takashi Murakami, promoting influential post-slacker artists Sam Durant and Dave Muller, and recently nabbing art stars Tim Hawkinson and Jim Shaw. » 2727 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., 310-836-2062.
A nonprofit operating in the midst of the explicitly for-profit Culver City scene, LAXART made such an impact in its first few years of programming that founder-director Lauri Firstenberg was invited to co-curate the Hammer Museum biennial, Made in L.A. 2012. Rubén Ortiz Torres, Kori Newkirk, Anna Sew Hoy, and Daniel Joseph Martinez are among the best-known local artists to have conceived exhibitions for the experimental project space. » 2640 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A., 310-559-0166.
‘Since 1989, the West Hollywood operation has maintained one of the highest levels of programming of any gallery in the city. Founded by the late Stuart Regen—son of New York gallerist Barbara Gladstone—Regen Projects initially built a reputation with its international connections but came to support stellar local talent like Lari Pittman, Doug Aitken, Elliott Hundley, Catherine Opie, Toba Khedoori, Raymond Pettibon, and Charles Ray. Last September Regen Projects relocated slightly east of WeHo to a 20,000-square-foot space that promises to be the nucleus of a whole new arts district. » 6750 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, 310-276-5424.
They may have lost some hipster cred after abandoning their dingy after-hours crawl space in Lincoln Heights for a clean, well-lit downtown warehouse—with normal gallery hours no less. But owners Davida Nemeroff and Mieke Marple maintain an always-intriguing rotating schedule of up-and-comers and perennial scenesters that’s difficult to beat. Better still, they supplement their shows with film screenings, performances, readings, and a slate of DIY publications. » 2276 E. 16th St., downtown, 213-537-3027.
Although it has the peculiar pedigree of being a vanity gallery of sorts for art star Paul McCarthy, his family, and his friends, the cavernous operation is one of the most interesting venues in town. Its main program emphasizes important historical revisionism, bringing to light the work of the late Wally Hedrick, the late John Altoon, and the still-chugging-along Los Angeles Free Music Society. Such lessons are punctuated by occasional contemporary outbursts (a somber antiwar piece by Rachel Khedoori, for instance, or the massive collaboration between McCarthy and son Damon) of equal weight and significance. » 805 Traction Ave., downtown, 213-625-1747.
Of the surprising abundance of high-quality spaces associated with the educational institutions in the region, one of the best and most overlooked is a few minutes east of downtown, off the 10 freeway at Cal State Los Angeles. Architecturally expansive (with ample parking), the Luckman has alternated between substantial surveys of midcareer artists (Daniel Douke, Marnie Weber, Kim Jones, Jennifer Bolande) and exuberant group shows such as 2010’s Psychic Outlaws, in which 19 Los Angeles artists each interpreted a chapter from Annie Buckley’s novel of the same name. » 5151 State University Dr., El Sereno, 323-343-6610.
Pictured above, from top to bottom:
The Potlatch, 1988, Edward & Nancy Reddin Kienholz, L.A. Louver; Installation view of Mary Kelly’s show at Rosamund Felsen; Ed Ruscha’s Psycho Spaghetti Westerns exhibition, Gagosian Gallery; Aurora Annulus and the Butt Bags, 2012, Olga Koumoundouros, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Phase-Mother Earth, 1968/2012, Nobuo Sekine, Blum & Poe; Passages, 2009, Walead Beshty, LAXART; Untitled, 2012, Sergej Jensen, Regen Projects; Cafe Gratitude, 2012, Josh Kline, Night Gallery; A Los Angeles Free Music Society exhibition at the Box; Earthquake, 2004, Jennifer Bolande, Luckman Gallery
All photographs by Spencer Lowell