On the heels of the sprawling Pacific Standard Time (PST) series of exhibitions comes the Hammer Museum’s inaugural Los Angeles biennial. Whereas the PST programming sought to recuperate, re-contextualize, and, in a sense, canonize, five decades of Southern California art, Made in L.A. 2012 aims to chronicle the next chapter. The previous exhibitions showed us what Los Angeles art looked like historically; the Hammer exhibition asks, “What does it mean to be a Los Angeles–based artist now?” “Who will pick up the mantle of Charles and Ray Eamses, Ed Keinholz, John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Mike Kelley?”
Both PST and Made in L.A. address the perception of Los Angeles as a cultural desert, characterized by banal architecture, shallow denizens, and dozens of loosely connected neighborhoods linked by miles of freeways. As Ice Cube says in a PST promo: “A lotta people think L.A. is just eyesore after eyesore, full of mini malls, palm trees, and billboards.” In reality, it is the city’s ahistorical sensibility, its lack of rules, and its geography without center that are its strengths. The wall tags for Made in L.A. 2012 even list the neighborhoods in which participating artists live and work, thereby celebrating the city’s fractured landscape. L.A.’s uniqueness as a city provides artists an amount of freedom and a range of visual and cultural sources on which to draw that they would be hard pressed to find in more established East Coast and European locales. Case in point: local print shop Colby Poster printed the poster for Made in L.A. 2012—their signature multicolored broadsides can be seen on lampposts throughout the city as a civic emblem that cuts across geographic and class lines. This freedom and polyglot vocabulary are on display in Made in L.A. 2012, alongside a healthy sense of optimism and humor.