The Los Angeles Louver celebrates 45 years with 45 artists at 45 Venice Boulevard

By Bridgette M. Redman

“45 at 45” draws upon many thematic strands, from the body and sensuality, to personal narrative and magical thinking, among other connections.

There comes a time to pull out all the stops. For the Los Angeles Louver, that time is now as the art gallery celebrates its 45th anniversary.

From now until January 16, 2021, they are honoring that milestone with an exhibit called “45 at 45.” It features the work of 45 artists at their gallery home located at 45 North Venice Blvd. in Venice.

The exhibit is spread out over two floors, inaugurating the newly remodeled second floor gallery space. The project was a brainchild of all four directors who were meeting weekly over Zoom because of the original pandemic shutdown. They came up with the idea and started to curate the show over Zoom, a show that they wanted to evoke the spirit of the gallery and its 45-year history.

“We wanted to give people a really profound experience,” says Elizabeth East, one of L.A. Louver’s directors and the show’s project manager. “Not only for our anniversary, but with people going through six months of the pandemic, we thought we’d be able to offer them something that would be celebratory in nature.”

They didn’t settle on the title or the number of artists until they were a couple of months into the planning process and they realized that the number of artists they were targeting was in the 40s to 50s. They decided to settle on the number 45 since it had so many recurrences for them this year.

East says they sought out diversity in the artists chosen, the work chosen and the media represented.

They picked artists with whom they had a long association, some whom they formally represented and others who had never exhibited in the gallery but whom one of the directors had followed for years. There were artists who had never shown in LA and those who are well-known to the local arts community.

One thing that was foremost in their minds as the directors curated the exhibit was when it would take place. For many people, it would be the first time that they were getting to look at art in person in a number of months.

“We wanted to really think about materiality and focus on the physical,” East says. “As a gallery, we show artists who paint and sculpt. We’re not a gallery known for photography or conceptual art. We wanted to represent a wide diversity of material, and there are scores and scores of different material used in the various works—bronze, beads, stoneware, porcelain, paper, oil, acrylic, clay, found materials, glass, lighting and gold leaf. It is really an extraordinary diversity of material.”

The patrons that come through have confirmed what the directors suspected. Many of them reported that this was the first time they’d seen art in nine months and poured out their gratitude for the show and what it had to offer.

“People have been very open to the diversity and the idea that we’re giving them such a range of visual experience in this exhibition,” East says. “It’s not a solo show or a group show that is confined by a particular subject or theme.”

East says it became a particular pleasure to work on this exhibition because it provided focus when the staff was locked down in their homes.

“It allowed one’s imagination to travel and to get out of the four walls of one’s own home,” she says. “We were able to have conversations with artists, to do virtual studio visits, and to talk about things and be excited about a project. Working with colleagues and artists to bring it all together—it was just an amazing gift. I hope that people will feel that sense of joy and enthusiasm in all this when they visit.”

Even when arranging the art in the gallery, the directors resisted grouping by themes, staying committed to the open nature of the show. The installation, East says, is based on no criteria other than aesthetics. It is arranged in a way that the curators thought was pleasing and would allow each piece of art to shine.

“That said, what is interesting is that there are conversations and relationships that are surprising when you see work alongside other works,” East says. “You really realize that the work begins to talk to each other in interesting ways. That is something people have pointed out. It’s allowed them to look at work both individually and to make connections with it. They are surprising connections, not ones we planned.”

There are a few pieces they did plan early on. For instance, at the entrance of the gallery, they put a work made in 1991 called “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” by husband and wife artists Edward and Nancy Reddin Kienholz.

“My Country ‘Tis of Thee” is a mixed media assemblage taking a grotesque look at corrupt politicians. They circle a barrel, naked below the waist, waving flags with one hand and performing more obscene acts with the other.

“It becomes more and more relevant as time goes on,” East says. “We thought it would be a powerful and timely exhibition given the subject and the fact that we knew when we opened the show, it would be the month leading up to the election.”

While they weren’t able to choose works from all of the artists they have worked with, they did consciously choose some artists because of extraordinary exhibitions they have done in the past with those artists’ work. Some of these included Marcel Duchamp and Alice Neel because of the work they’ve done in the past with the gallery.

“When we were talking about this exhibition, we would sometimes talk about certain shows we felt made a particular impact and wouldn’t it be lovely to have a work by that artist?” East says. “We
consciously thought about that in terms of who we might want to include in this current show.”

Due to the pandemic, patrons can visit the exhibit by appointment only. East says they have very strict protocols. They only allow two people in every half-hour. They must wear a mask and they try to make it so no one has to touch anything.

They are doing a number of virtual conversations and events to accompany the exhibition. These include bringing together multiple artists and inviting the public to listen in over Zoom. They’re able to introduce artists to audiences in a way that might not have been possible before. For one November event, they had 250 people signed up to hear artists in Long Beach, Atlanta, LA and Athens, Ohio discuss their work.

“We can offer this to the world because of our current situation,” East says. “The show becomes a springboard of these things, giving people doors into these extraordinary worlds you can walk into. We could do countless virtual activities because there is so much here (in the exhibit).”

In addition to Zoom conversations, they are discussing things such as virtual studio visits, Instagram visits and even a cocktail hour where an artist mixes a cocktail inspired by their art in front of their work. For now, East’s hope is that anyone visiting the exhibition feels that they have experienced something enriching to them.

“I hope they discover that they find something to connect with,” East says. “We can’t go to concerts or theaters or even museums right now. I hope anyone visiting here comes away and feels that they have experienced something that is enriching to them.”

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