The Hammer Museum Is Tapping Into Local Talent with Made in L.A.

A guide to the sweeping art biennial

It’s Made in L.A. time at the Hammer Museum, meaning more than 30 emerging artists (and a few seasoned ones) take over its galleries through September 2. Let us be your tour guide.

How to Make a Tapestry

Diedrick Brackens uses tapestry to tell stories of race, sexuality, and the South. Here, the 29-year-old Leimert Park-based artist walks us through the creation of The Decadence of Silence (above) from start to finish.

Step 1: Get a Visual 

“I don’t like to start a piece without a clear direction. I wanted this one to be figurative—a lot of my work is geometric—so I looked at ideas of protest. The dog is a way of looking at police intervention; the black figure is confronting this dog in a way you don’t expect. I also wanted to bring L.A. into the conversation—the palm trees tap into that.”

Step 2: Head to the Drawing Board 

“Once I have the idea, there’s a lot of sketching. You have to make what’s called a cartoon, which is a one-to-one scale drawing. So for this one, I had to make a six-foot drawing. I use a projector to enlarge things.”

Step 3: Dye Hard 

“I buy white cooking twine that comes on a cone—about a pound per cone—then dye it with commercial textile dye. Once the yarn goes into a dye bath, it takes about an hour for the color to set. This piece has 10 to 15 pounds of yarn.”

Step 4: Line it Up 

“Once my yarn is dry, I put the warp, or the vertical threads, onto the loom. Then I thread the warp yarn through harnesses, which lift the threads to create the different patterns.”

Step 5: Weave it Out There 

“The fastest parts are when I can throw the shuttle, which holds the weft, from edge to edge. That’s how I did the open sky. Other areas, like the palm trees, require hand manipulation. The black figure is almost like embroidery: There’s a black thread called a supplemental warp that hides in the primary warp. I only engage it when I need it. If I cut out all the supplemental threads, the black parts would fall of.”

Step 6: The Final Cut 

“Once I’m done, I cut it of the loom, sew any panels together, hem the frayed edges at the bottom and the top, and possibly add a fringe to the bottom. Then it’s ready to present. This piece took me a little less than a month.” (Marielle Wakim)

How the Curators Choose the Artists

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Made in L.A. curators Anne Ellegood and Erin Christovale on how they chose three of this year’s participating artists.

Lauren Halsey

Lauren Halsey made in la

Courtesy the Hammer Museum

The Piece: The Crenshaw District Hieroglyph Project (Prototype Architecture), a series of panels (detail above) depicting imagery and text Halsey sees around her neighborhood.

The Verdict: “Lauren is very devoted to the Crenshaw District and connected to the community there. Her plan for this project is to eventually create a large, permanent sculpture in the neighborhood. For us, she’s building an architectural structure covered in Crenshaw based ‘hieroglyphics.’ She’s inspired by ancient Egypt, Afro-Futurism, funk music—it’s beautiful, profound, and a real homage to L.A.” -Anne Ellegood


mpa made in la hammer museum 2018

Courtesy the Hammer Museum

The Piece: Faultline, a sculpture that winds through the museum’s courtyard and terrace.

The Verdict: “She is, like, not of this world. We are really interested in her desire to imagine the future. She is thinking about advances in technology, about Mars and outer space, and how people might interact with more compassion and respect for one another. With her installations, she is creating spaces where we can understand our humanity.”- Anne Ellegood

EJ Hill

ej hill made in la hammer museum 2018

Courtesy the Hammer Museum

The Piece: Excellentia, Mollitia, Victoria, a performance and multimedia installation that speaks to a series of laps Hill ran around his former schools.

The Verdict: “E.J.’s doing a beautiful project that’s a re- flection on all seven schools he attended in L.A. It’s important because it looks at how academic institutions help us but also fail us. It makes me think about LAUSD in particular, the challenges and lack of resources, and the impact that has on students.” – Erin Christovale (Brittany Martin)

Meet the Artists, Newbies and Veterans

Meet four of this year’s standout female artists: two who are embarking on the road to stardom and two who are basking in mid-career fame.

Nikita Gale

BORN IN: Anchorage, Alaska; 1983 LIVES AND WORKS IN: Inglewood HER INSPO: A lot of Gale’s art focuses on rock and roll and its relationship to protest—how social justice often stems from creative rebellion. As for materials, she’ll take anything that’s associated with making noise (guitars, XLR cables) and juxtapose it with things that muffle noise (towels, earplugs). HOW SHE GOT IN THE SHOW: Gale impressed curator Anne Ellegood with her MFA show at UCLA. Her Made in L.A. piece is an extension of her schoolwork. WHAT SHE HAS IN STORE FOR MADE IN L.A.: Think of it as a quiet riot: Gale has created a sculpture that incorporates a music stand, a mic stand, a guitar stand, and acoustic foam. It’s fastened to the wall with metal that resembles police barricades.

Christina Quarles 

BORN IN: Chicago, Illinois; 1985 WORKS IN: El Sereno HER BRIGHT PALETTE: Quarles often depicts figures in oranges and yellows and purples to mask their gender and race (so viewers can’t make assumptions about them). As a black woman with fair skin, she’s often mistaken for white; her paintings grapple with questions about outward appearance and representation. HOW SHE GOT IN THE SHOW: She re-created her MFA thesis show from Yale, It’s Gunna Be All Right, Cause Baby, There Ain’t Nuthin’ Left, in Frogtown in April 2017. But she caught the eye of Hammer curators Ellegood and Erin Christovale long before that. WHAT SHE HAS IN STORE FOR MADE IN L.A.: A number of paintings in her signature palette, each showing several bodies entwined in intimate spaces.

Carolina Caycedo

BORN IN: London, England; 1978 WORKS IN: Chinatown HER M.O.: Caycedo, who’s Colombian, focuses on water rights: the displacement, violence, and pollution that occur in Colombian fishing communities when waterways are dammed for industrial use. WHERE YOU’VE SEEN HER: Since 2012 she’s been working on a project called Be Dammed. Components of it—like a book whose pages fold together to create a serpentine map—were on display at LACMA as part of Pacific Standard Time, the multimuseum showcase of Latino/a and Latin American art. WHAT SHE HAS IN STORE FOR MADE IN L.A.: Cosmotarrayas is a series of hanging fishing-net sculptures, each studded with objects like sandals, clothing, and even bottles filled with water from Colombia.

Alison O’Daniel 

BORN IN: Miami, Florida; 1979 LIVES IN: Glassell Park HER INSPO: In 2012 several L.A. high schools experienced a spate of tuba thefts. Not trumpets, not flutes—tubas. O’Daniel, who is partly deaf, likens a tuba-less marching band to her experience of the world: Something’s just missing. WHAT IT TURNED INTO: A 54-scene feature-length film, titled The Tuba Thieves, which she’s been shooting in scene-byscene installments since 2013. WHAT SHE HAS IN STORE FOR MADE IN L.A.: New scenes from The Tuba Thieves, some of which star a deaf drummer and others that re-create watershed moments in the history of sound (like a performance of John Cage’s silent composition, 4’33”). There are also sculptures that incorporate foam, carpet, and other things that dampen noise. (Gwynedd Stuart)

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