Meet three extraordinary artists putting Los Angeles front and center in the contemporary art scene.
Written byMelinda O’Brien
Sarah Cain in her studio.
Sarah Cain – Painter
Sarah Cain creates everything from small objects to giant room-size works on-site. Her creative process is similar to that of jazz, poetry or stand-up comedy, whereby she allows herself to absorb the energy of her environment before improvising and throwing something exciting back at her audience.
She shares, “I never plan. It’s basically an attack-and-resolve method. I tend to work on 20 or so pieces at a time and build toward exhibitions. Usually I will have the title of the show—which represents a loose theme—in mind and a few ideas of new challenges that I want to accomplish with the work.”
When you view any of Sarah’s on-site works, you can feel the heightened state of present tense and risk behind them. Their force is palpable, and as Sarah surmises, “Their energy is hard to contain, and it hits the viewer in a very accessible way.” This accessibility is certainly part of what draws people into the artist’s work.
Left: hey babe take a walk on the wild side LAND headquarters installation (2014). Right: California (2013).
In the latter part of 2014, Sarah made a permanent exterior painting entitled hey babe take a walk on the wild side on the headquarters building of Los Angeles Nomadic Division, a nonprofit organization committed to curating site-specific public art exhibitions in Los Angeles and beyond. The execution of the project required Sarah to work in a fully exposed area, right on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Los Angeles.
A mecca of wild activity, the location is filled with a constant frenetic energy.
“You never know what’s going to happen there,” Sarah admits. “I was definitely outside of my comfort zone while making the work, but overall the experience was pretty amazing. So many people outside of the art realm—a lot of people living on the fringes—thanked me for adding beauty to the world.”
Artwork courtesy of Honor Fraser Gallery in Los Angeles
Matthew Brandt surrounded by some of his work.
Matthew Brandt – Photographer
As Matthew Brandt prefers to not be associated with—and thus perhaps limited by—a specific genre, he shares that he “works with photography to make things.”
This somewhat vague explanation of his art form leaves things wide open, possibly
just the way Matthew likes it.
Each individual art project he takes on starts with a material, an event or a photograph that he has. He considers this initial object to be a seed or kernel—one that hopefully grows into something that serves as an interesting interpretation of something else.
“The brewing stage is the most important part of making a work,” Matthew says. During this stage “there is a lot of experimenting and playing that goes into tinkering something into a work of art,” he adds.
Some of Matthew’s works circumstantially touch on issues like droughts, industrialized foods and dying bees, but “these are just elements the works encounter in their making, and thus are just part of the projects’ compositions as a whole,” according to the artist.
Rainbow Lake WY G1 (2013).
Matthew explains, “Actually there is no specific point that I try to bring to an audience through my work. And I think the fact that there is no bold hypothesis or agenda to any one of my works makes it possible for a viewer to relate more objectively to the work.”
When viewing Matthew’s Rainbow Lake WY G1 (2013)—a grid of 12 chromogenic prints soaked in Rainbow Lake water—it seems that the artist has catapulted the art of photography into some sort of psychedelic realm marked by intensified colors and misshapen elements. One might think the work is a compilation of disfigured views captured through a wonky kaleidoscope.
A symmetry that could define the image is replaced with an imperfect yet perfectly beautiful combination of shapes that come together to tell a vivid story. The best part is that the viewer gets to decide the meaning of the tale.
Kim Fisher at rest.
Kim Fisher – Painter
Kim Fisher is a Los Angeles-based artist who primarily executes projects—many of them about the City of Angels—with paint. She finds inspiration in surface as a sociological obsession. And as an extension, she is also fascinated by the literal surfaces and textures of the city in which she works.
“The physical appearance, cultural history and the sometimes extremely oppressive climate of Los Angeles are mirrored in the paintings I make,” she explains.
Kim also finds a great deal of inspiration in fashion and music, to the point that she does a lot of brainstorming when she is listening to music while driving. She will take the thoughts from a brainstorming session back to her studio and begin making several collages out of small clippings from newspapers or magazine pages.
Installation shots of her series Magazine Paintings, from Made in LA 2014 at the Hammer Museum.
“The quality of the original scraps and the subsequent paintings made from them reflect the effect the Los Angeles sun and heat have over time on materials. The constant sunshine and warmth deteriorate much of the city’s surfaces, revealing states of impermanence and dissolution,” Kim explains. In the end, her paintings are interpretations of the initial collages she creates.
In her work Magazine Paintings—Water, Kim illustrates the influence that light can have on a surface. In this case, the light is being absorbed by and reflected off the water, moving across it with a liveliness that somehow makes the frozen image feel as though it is in motion. Perhaps this energy is the work’s spirit, demanding to be acknowledged in its fight against the elements.