Ours is a City of Writers displays dynamic art

Nestled atop a scenic hill in Barnsdall Art Park, the concrete walls of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery have long served as a harbor for public art and community discourse on Sunday. In a twist on traditional exhibitions, the gallery premiered its showcase of Ours is a City of Writers, a project exploring the intersectionality of contemporary art and writing.

Through March 26, the space will host a variety of installations with accompanying texts, replete with complimentary refreshments and spontaneous performances. The free exhibit was organized by guest curators Suzanne Hudson, Simon Leung and James Nisbet, who invited writers and various types of artists alike to contribute.

“We decided we would invite artists and writers who have some kind of relationship with writing and interest in the intersection between writing and art,” Leung said. “We reached out to them and asked them to further select people they’d like to work with. We didn’t put any restrictions so in some cases, people we invited selected people to also be in the show or collaborations developed as artists and writers worked on pieces together.”

The profound and unique freedom the curators gave the artists and writers meant that in the end, there was no cohesive theme or message to unite the pieces. Rather than a chronological display, the pieces were grouped throughout the exhibit according to medium, with sculptures on one side, installations on another and multimedia pieces in individual rooms.

“There was no one theme. [The curators’] main goals were art and writing and how they come together,” gallery intern Adriana Luna said. “It’s kind of a collaboration between artists and writers, and the theme kind of just happened through that.”

LAMAG posed an interesting challenge to the curators in addition to being the quintessential venue at which to hold the exhibit; it remains one of the few municipal galleries in the city and allows open conversation between artists and the community in a public space.

A previous coronation of the project exploring the relationship between art and writing was featured this month in The Brooklyn Rail, but the curators thought it apposite to establish an exhibit in Los Angeles.

“Los Angeles is a city where people in the art world have some relationship to education or exist in institutions, so on a very real level, people are parts of communities where they have sustained discourse, or some way of talking about art,” Leung said. “Art writing in Los Angeles is also very organically tied to art production. The reality is that writing very much fits into how we work as artists.”

Although the curators’ venture is young, it has already garnered widespread attention and appreciation from peers in the art and literary worlds as well the general public. Leung hopes to continue growing the collection of writings on the gallery’s website and eventually expand to more cities because he believes so strongly in the message the project encapsulates.

“One of the things I’d really like to convey [through the exhibit] is that there is a contemplative dimension to the works which reflects back on the relationship between art and writing,” Leung said. “Another thing I wanted to emphasize is how something like friendship is, in fact, productive for making new work and how we develop a conversation among [artists and writers].”