There’s a New (Free) Museum Open in DTLA

Casually continuing to put the ”arts” in Arts District

DTLA has been giving Museum Row a legit run for its money as the city’s cultural hub for years now, what with the launch of powerhouse galleries like Hauser & Wirth, mega-institutions like the Broad, and pop-up exhibitions like the Museum of Ice Cream. Downtown’s domination continues with this weekend’s grand (re)opening of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (ICA LA in brief and/or via text message) in the Arts District, which is actually just a new name and location for the old Santa Monica Museum of Art.

ICA LA’s inaugural exhibition is a survey of the late Martín Ramírez, a Mexican artist who created a massive body of work while incarcerated in California’s mental health system. “In the beginning he didn’t have any kind of paper or materials,” says ICA LA executive director Elsa Longhauser, who curated the exhibition. “He was able to scavenge materials from the hospital: examining table paper, envelopes, crushed paper cups, whatever he could find. He would glue these fragments together with chewed up bread and mashed potatoes, and with scraps of pencil and burnt matchsticks, he made a series of magnificent drawings.” One of the most magnificent pieces from Ramírez’s oeuvre of outsider art is a 17-foot scroll, on display at ICA LA for the first time. “It takes you on a journey through mountains and tunnels and architecture and fields,” Longhauser says. “It’s a touchstone to understanding his visual vocabulary.”

Ramirez’s “Untitled (Horse and Red Rider)”

©2017 The Estate of Martín Ramírez; Courtesy Ricco/MarescaGallery, NewYork. Photograph by Tom Van Eynde

The show is part of the Getty’s insanely ambitious Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, but it’s not the only thing on display. Your Instagram feed is about to blow up with pics of Sarah Cain’s now i’m going to tell you everything, a splashy 3D piece of wall art dripping with brightly colored paint and glittery backpacks located in the museum’s courtyard.

Photograph courtesy ICA LA

You can also catch a sculptural installation from Abigail DeVille in the museum’s smaller Project Room; hers is an oversized tree whose branches are hung with found objects (beds, fences, car parts). Both exhibitions were put together by curator Jamillah James, who is stepping into her new role at ICA LA after a stint as assistant curator at the Hammer.

Check out all three exhibitions when the museum opens to the public on September 9, and don’t worry about bringing cash—entry is free.

ICA LA is located at 1717 E. 7th Street, Los Angeles. Opening week hours:
September 9, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. 

September 10, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. 
September 13–15,11 a.m.–7 p.m. 
September 16, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.