Joy Silverman has been wearing what she calls "construction clothes" to work for weeks, instead of donning dresses as she often does.
A good thing, too, since Silverman, director of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions Inc. (LACE), would have ruined her better threads with all the painting, sawing and sweeping that she, her staff and several local artists have undertaken lately to finish renovating a new facility for their alternative arts forum.
LACE is moving to 1804 Industrial St. and the relocation becomes official Friday at 8 p.m. with a street party and the debut of "TV Generations," a multimedia, 45-artist inaugural exhibition.
"We've been working till 12 every night without a day off for about a month," Silverman said. One week before the opening, she gave a visitor a tour of the new LACE, its white walls freshly painted and concrete floors still covered with sawdust. The downtown ex-warehouse doesn't exactly shine on the outside (flanked by a railroad track and various produce distributors), but the two-story, 13,200-square-foot structure has more than twice as much space as the first LACE to carry out its primary purpose: to foster and showcase emerging and experimental artists' work.
"We have about 3,000 square feet for exhibition space," Silverman said above the screams of an electric saw, "a 3,000-square-foot performance space, a (500-square-foot) video screening room (built and designed by artist Jim Isermann), a (500-square-foot) bookstore for artist-made books, artists' products and video theory manuals, an adjoining coffee/dessert bar and work and living space for four artists."
Renovation of the new building, bought last February, was begun last July, paid for in large part by a loan from the Community Redevelopment Agency. The facility also has an outdoor courtyard (now used for parking), six offices, and unlike the first LACE on South Broadway downtown, free street parking and separate work and display areas for its multimedia artists.
Two new services have also been established, one offering video artists access to low-cost professional editing facilities, the other a grant program for interdisciplinary projects.
"TV Generations" is "perfect" for an inaugural exhibition, said Silverman, now in her fourth year as LACE director, "because it incorporates all our programs. It has video, performance art, installation, sculpture, poetry and fiction, painting, drawing and photography."
Indeed, the exhibit about "TV art and culture" includes unveiling of artist-designed men's and women's bathrooms. Central to the show, co-curated by video artist Bruce Yonemoto and conceptual artist John Baldessari, are five multi-channel video installations, placed upstairs and down in the building.
"The idea behind the installations is to reconceptualize TV so we can redefine the relationship of the viewer to the content (of TV) and see that it can have a different meaning than it does in our living rooms," said Yonemoto in a separate interview. Yonemoto is chairman of LACE's video committee, which created the new permanent video screening room, "the first in Los Angeles."
"In order to change the way we look at TV or what we expect from it," he explained, "we have to disassociate ourselves from the relationship or somehow rupture that relationship." Thus, many of the artists he chose for the show, "are actively trying to discredit TV, showing it is a monolithic structure which manipulates our lives for economic or sociological control."
By contrast, Baldessari said he chose "artists whose sensibilities seemed to be affected by the media in general, not just TV," whose inspirations came from media images (TV, movies or newspapers) rather than from "observing the real world or imagining out of one's head."
An art teacher at CalArts since 1970, Baldessari, an internationally known artist, also selected young, lesser-known artists still in school or recently graduated, many of whom use photography as a primary medium--as he does.
Several performance art and poetry and fiction reading presentations also make up "TV Generations." Organized by Tim Martin, they are part of LACE's "Winter/Spring" performance art, dance, music, video and workshop schedule.
Reflecting on the relocation, Silverman said, "I see it as a move to where many artists now are, and as a way to make LACE more easily accessible to artists and their audiences. This is a heavily populated artists' area and it's right off the freeway.
"I can't wait to see all our programs developing and flourishing, because now there's a facility to do that," she continued. Though still restricted by a meager budget "we now have this space and time for artists to do what they want to do.
"I hope we'll be stimulating a lot of artists and giving more artists an opportunity to show their work, as well as having them come up with ideas for new programming.
"We're also hoping that with the new building, we'll be able to raise more money. We have some stalwart supporters, but other prospective private donors need to see the new LACE function before they'll invest. I hope that will take place."
"TV Generations" runs through April 12. Friday night's opening celebration (8 p.m. to midnight) will include a dedication of the new building and entertainment by four bands. It is free and open to the public.