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Santa Monica in Avant-Garde of New Art Season

September 12, 1989|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | Times Art Writer

Los Angeles' peripatetic gallery scene has gone about as far west as it can go--and dug in its heels.

After taking form on La Cienega Boulevard, strolling around West Hollywood, having a fling downtown and setting up shop on La Brea Avenue, the scene has settled into Santa Monica, where new galleries are popping up faster than nail parlors and Benetton shops. In the three years since the James Corcoran Gallery moved from West Hollywood to Santa Monica, about 25 fine-art galleries have opened there--closer to 50 if you count the more commercial establishments that present exhibitions of art.

"Three years ago, it was a toss up between La Brea and Santa Monica as to which would develop. Now it's apparent that Santa Monica is the place," said dealer Richard Green. He will vacate his La Brea Avenue gallery later this fall and open in December at 2036 Broadway, a 6,000-square-foot space in one of Santa Monica's new gallery rows.

Daniel Weinberg Gallery is leaving West Hollywood for the same one-story brick complex and opening in November with a Richard Artschwager show. Immediately east of Green and Weinberg are three other galleries: Krygier-Landau (transplanted from Beverly Boulevard), Meyers-Bloom and Andrea Ross.

Park your car once, see five shows. Not bad for Los Angeles.

Better yet, the Broadway five are only a dozen blocks away from a strip mall of galleries along Colorado Avenue that offers an unprecedented 10 exhibitions for one parking place. Visitors shod in Reeboks or Nikes can easily take in an additional 10 shows if they light out on cross streets east and west of the Colorado group.

Along with Corcoran, the Colorado galleries (between 9th and 10th streets) seem to have been a magnet for the art trade. None of the first arrivals have bailed out and many more have joined them during the past two years. The latest addition, at 924 Colorado Ave., is the Linda Cathcart Gallery. Cathcart, former director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, is scheduled to open her first gallery on Sept. 28 with a show of Robert Longo's work.

Michael Maloney recently split off from Maloney-Butler Gallery (leaving Marilyn Butler operating independently at 910 Colorado Ave.), but he is opening a new gallery on Sept. 23 at 602 Colorado Ave. In the same building are John Thomas Galleries, a branch of a Fullerton gallery opening Thursday, and Bryce Bannatyne Gallery, which specializes in late 19th- and 20th-Century design.

More talked about than any of these moves, however, is the arrival of Luhring Augustine Hetzler in a refurbished building at 1330 4th St. The gallery is a partnership between Luhring Augustine in New York and Max Hetzler of Cologne. The new gallery will show the work of American and European contemporary artists already represented by the two partners, but it will forge a somewhat independent direction including young Los Angeles talent, according to director Fran Seegull.

Luhring Augustine Hetzler is scheduled to open on Sept. 23 with a solo exhibition of Stephen Prina's work and a group show featuring gallery artists. Given the present appearance of the elegant old building, no one believes that the entire construction project will be finished by then, but Seegull says the invitations are printed and the exhibitions will open on time.

Luhring Augustine and Max Hetzler have worked together for several years, but why did their formal partnership emerge in Southern California? "It's pretty clear that Los Angeles is becoming a very serious contemporary art city," Seegull said. Another attraction is that, unlike New York, the scene is still small enough that a newcomer can become part of the art community, she said.

And why did the partners lease a building in Santa Monica instead of farther east? Because they preferred having a building to themselves and found just the thing on 4th Street. It has about 4,500 square feet of exhibition space, divided into two galleries that will present separate, concurrent shows.

While Luhring Augustine Hetzler moves west, longtime Venice dealer Peter Goulds of L.A. Louver Gallery is opening an eastern outpost. Louver Gallery New York will launch itself in SoHo on Oct. 7 with an exhibition of assemblage sculpture by Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz--their first New York gallery show in 23 years. This may be the first time in history that a Los Angeles dealer has moved east without closing up the local shop, and it's a development that seems certain to benefit Los Angeles artists represented by the gallery, as well as other members of the gallery's international stable.

All the talk about Santa Monica's art boom may give the impression that gallery business has dried up east of 22nd Street.

Not true. In fact, two of the hottest rumors--that Asher-Faure Gallery and Rosamund Felsen Gallery are moving west--are untrue. After looking in Santa Monica, both dealers have decided to stay more or less where they are.

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