The Neon Wilderness: Voices from Los Angeles

Is it true what they say about Los Angeles, that Los Angeles
  is erratic,
That in the sweet national symphony of common sense Los Angeles
  is static?
Yes, it’s true. Los Angeles is not only erratic, not only erotic;
Los Angeles is crotchety, centrifugal, vertiginous, esoteric, and
Many people blame the movies and the movie-makers for Los
   Angeles’ emotional rumpus,
But they are mistaken; it is the compass.
Certainly Los Angeles is a cloudburst of non-sequiturs, and of
   logic a drouth,
But what can you expect of a city that is laid out east and west,
   instead of north and south?

    – from “Don’t Shoot Los Angeles” by Ogden Nash

We can’t tell you the number of times we have heard the city of Los Angeles described as nothing more than and endless strip of concrete boulevards and suburban blight all strung together by a random smattering of convenience stores. This statement is usually presented in the context of some kind criticism and is usually spoken by someone who hasn’t spent much time there. There has been quite a bit written about art in Los Angeles over the past few years and while a good deal of it is interesting, from our experience, most of it barely scratches the surface. If you look hard enough, there are real treasures to be found there. Yes, some of it is being shown in the galleries and museums or are the products of the thrawl of hot young things spewing out of the city’s numerous art schools, but not all of it. In our opinion, the real beauty of the creative scene in LA exists outside of the expected venues. Artists across the city are bubbling up from beneath the sheen of Hollywood (ignoring it actually), in favor of creating lives and art and music and design that exists strictly for the benefit of the scenes it affects. When you stop comparing Los Angeles to the rest of the world and see it for the flawed and beautiful and wild animal that it is, the skies (and the boulevards) literally open up and suddenly there is a feast of inspiration that, in our opinion, is unrivaled in America.
So in honor of celebrating this exciting world we speak of, The Conversation is proud to present The Neon Wilderness: Voices From Los Angeles. In this exhibition, we present eleven artists from different generations, each and everyone coming forth with a singular signature, yet still remaining distinctly Los Angeles. From Peter Shire’s geometric “Memphis” era sculptural works, to Amanda Charchian’s intimate photographic portraits of young female artists in glorious nature, to Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson’s rough-hewn furniture to Cali Thornhill-Dewitt’s bold, post-punk text-based paintings, the exhibition spans styles and mediums.

Like Los Angeles itself, the works in this exhibition revel in their contradictions. Rosson Crow presents us with multi-layered canvasses that evoke the darkness behind the California sheen, while Kenny Scharf tricks us into to believing, just for a second, that this whole experience might be a cartoon? Alexis Ross’ work takes us into his singular version of “Beach Noir” while Geoff McFetridge shows us that perhaps it’s only in simple abstraction that we find the true order of this playful city. Lastly, Brian Roettinger’s sculptural wall works twist and bend the “accepted” history of Los Angeles art, while Deanna Templeton’s photographs offer us a moment of respite, tempting us to take a wonderful swim in a warm suburban pool.

The varied works these artists create become a sort of evidence – priceless artifacts of a culture that is as transient as the city that created them. Contrary to Hollywood, these creators are usually behind closed doors, necessitating being sought out rather than flaunting their existence. To find the real art in Los Angeles you must be an undercover detective, gathering clues. We hope The Neon Wilderness helps you crack the case.

The Conversation is a nomadic cultural project founded by Los Angeles-based filmmaker and independent curator Aaron Rose and Berlin-based Circle Culture founders Johann Haehling von Lanzenauer and Dirk Staudinger. A progressive space, where concepts in all mediums can come to fruition through a diverse and talented international group of creative protagonists. More a think tank than a gallery, The Conversation cultivates an exchange of ideas that happen in a three-dimensional context.