LA artist Adam Mars tours gallery openings in Culver City and finds a few diamonds of contemporary art amidst the scene.

JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, the art galleries of Bergamot Station and Chinatown were all the rave, luring thousands of art admirers out of their caves for a quick dose of culture. These days it’s the Downtown Art Walk, with its eclectic mix of lowbrow and middlebrow art, and Culver City, with more established middle- to highbrow art, that draw the huge crowds.

However, as I strolled the current epicenter of Los Angeles’ art scene, I was left wondering if what the galleries around La Cienega are serving up is worth all the hype. Take away the free drinks, cigarette friendly environment, and the beautiful freaks, and maybe more people would stay home and view something truly free and entertaining, like porn.

I scoured the hipster haven hard and sifted through the rubbish. Here’s what I found.

Tomokazu Matsuyama — Mark Moore Gallery

This project space featured a mix of paintings stuffed with technicolor gestures and wildly chaotic compositions. His playful use of Japanese iconography immediately triggered thoughts of LA fixtures like Gajin Fujita and Sush Machida Gaikotsu, who also create fresh incarnations of Japanese classics. But Matsuyama’s work excels by allowing his painterly elements to reign supreme, pushing the historic referents far enough back to let your eyes party in the moment before your brain sends you back in time.

Exhibition dates: Sept 8 – Oct 27, 2012
Website: www.markmooregallery.com/

Thomas Burke — Western Project

Not as heavy on the eye candy, but still a visual treat, were the works of Thomas Burke. His paintings bring Op Art to the Xbox generation with a mild dose of hallucinogens to get you off the couch. Their smooth tonal gradations and slick geometric lines display a particular crispness that begs for a closer look. And up close, they’re clean. No leaks, bleeds, or misfires of acrylic to spoil the moment and fall short of any preconceived online expectations. I wish more painters would realize that website jpegs can turn even the ugliest duckling into dating material. At least Thomas got the memo.

Exhibition dates: Sept 8 – Oct 6, 2012
Website: www.western-project.com/

Friedrich Kunath — Blum and Poe

After wandering through a dozen other prime real-estate galleries with shows primed for an early exit, I found one worthy of a repeat visit at Blum and Poe. Friedrich Kunath’s show was packed with wall-to-wall paintings, a video installation, and a floor covered in sculptures. I felt like I, and more importantly the exhibition, was in the right place.

A loafer shoe built for Robert Wadlow waited outside the main gallery room, alerting viewers that big things were just around the corner. Kunath’s mostly large-scale mixed-media paintings offered a buffet of diversely rendered subjects that required a truly patient eye to get a proper meal. Beyond the impressively constructed paintings, his series of sculpted loafers (filled with such things as mushrooms, fruit, and cigarette butts) and vibrantly colored carpeting provided a much-welcomed weirdness to the neighborhood.

Exhibition dates: Sept 8 – Oct 27, 2012
Website: www.blumandpoe.com/