On View Now: Pre-K(ontemporary)

April 1, 2013

LACMA announces its newest exhibition, Pre-k(ontemporary), highlighting five emerging L.A. artists—Maria, Tyson, Olivia W., Henry, and Olivia G.

"This is a new generation of artists," says special guest curator Tyson's Mom. "People often say 'my kid could do that' when they see a Pollock. I am of a mind that if they could do it, then they would. Pre-K is not about finding the inheritors of Pollock's ideas; it is about new forms and new ideas. It is about peeling the layers of thousands of years of art back to its true, totally unformed—and uninformed—essence. The minimalists reduced art to what they thought of as its most basic fundamentals—the line, the circle, the square. But these young artists have gone a step beyond, to something even more primal—the squiggle.

Maria, "Untitled (frog and a bird and a dolphin and a bird), 2013, gift of the artist's parents Maria, "Untitled (frog and a bird and a dolphin and a bird), 2013, gift of the artist's parents

Pre-k sees each artist working in a variety of media. Maria, for instance, works mostly in ink on paper, while Olivia W. prefers water-based paints. "But their styles could not be more different," says Tyson's Mom. "Maria uses one color—usually black ink—and sticks to one area of the paper, insightfully highlighting the negative space. Olivia on the other hand eschews pens or brushes altogether, choosing to make broad strokes across the page, pressing her hands directly to the surface."

"Both ways are equally special," Maria's dad adds.

Tyson, who also prefers paint on paper, sets his work apart through innovative color mixing. "Tyson uses every color available to him to make all of his work brown," says the curator. "It is a bold comment on race in America—and a challenge to fundamental notions of diversity on both the left and the right. All the colors don't make a rainbow."

Also remarking on Tyson's work, Olivia W.'s mom said nothing.

Olivia G., the only artist in the exhibition to work exclusively in three dimensions, uses her work to challenge the conventions of language. "It's a school bus," she says of one piece in the show. “But it’s green,” her father adds. “It’s a school bus.” “It’s sort of mound-shaped, and there are no wheels.” “It’s a school bus.” “And you tore it into two pieces.” “IT’S A SCHOOL BUS.”

The final artist, Henry, may be the most controversial of the group. Resisting the boundaries of canvas or pedestal, Henry paints directly onto the walls—and in one provocative piece, across the back of a sofa in a single, long, dark streak. “If you’ll come over to the other side of this piece,” says Henry’s mom, “you’ll see that he also used scissors.”

Pre-K opens today, April 1. It is on view in the Boone Children’s Gallery through the end of the afternoon, or until the artists choose to go home for nap time.

Scott Tennent