This is the second article of a Four Part series about the 2023 Los Angeles Art Week by Brooke Harker
CLICK HERE for article # 1 (An Artist’s Perspective);
CLICK HERE for article # 3 (Frieze & Spring/Break art fairs);
CLICK HERE for article # 4 (LA Art Show);  

We all look at art as differently as we see the world. As an art collector and artist myself, I view art with a spirit of play and adventure. I’ve made a game of discovering art treasures that keeps me entertained and excited about what others create instead of overwhelmed and obligated to look at everything. We each only have so many breaths to take in on the planet, so why not choose where you want to focus your energy?

Hollywood Roosevelt pool – Felix Attendees arriving; photo by Kathy Leonardo; courtesy of ETG

I attended LA’s Art Week in February 2023, which included four annual art fairs. My first stop on my 2023 Art Treasure Hunt during LA Art Week, occurred at the Wednesday preview for The Felix Art Fair at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. This iconic location set the stage for art galleries to inhabit cabanas rooms around the pool, while other art patrons waited in line to gain elevator access to visit suites on the eleventh and twelfth floors.

The dimly lit corridors of this historic venue offered a maze to follow and the surprises of what would be in each hotel room. The galleries utilized every opportunity to display art from walk in closets to art hanging in showers and in prominent positions above toilets. There is something very fun about this set up as the rooms in the hotel are already each different in structure. How often does one get to see so many unique rooms in such a famous hotel unless they work on the cleaning staff?

Brooke Harker with Summer Office (56 x 44 oil on linen) and other works by Keiran Brennan with Charles Moffet at FELIX; photo courtesy of ETG

The first painting to catch my attention, “Summer Office,” (56” x 44” – oil on linen) by Keiran Brennan Hinton, most notably beamed with the artist’s ability to capture light and much to discover in brushstrokes with color so pure that there is something cleansing in looking at his work. Originally from Canada, Keiran Brennan Hinton is represented by Charles Moffet Gallery in New York. 

Next, I noticed, “Off the Table,” (44” x 60”- acrylic on PVC Panel) by Kristin Baker with James Fuentes Gallery in New York. This work, fluid in form, captured a luminescence in vibrant colors that seemed to depict an abstraction of a table setting layered in a technique I’d never seen before. As described by the gallery, “in a painterly process akin to collage, Kristin Baker assembles her largely abstract, light-infused paintings using squeegees and metal dry wall knives to manipulate successive layers of paint…”

The result of Kristin Baker’s work evoked a sense of curiosity in me with a spark of joy, a valuable state for an artwork to be able to draw people into.

One might find themselves in a similar state of joy walking into a field of flowers or into a room adorned with the work of New York artist, Marc Dennis who brought the flowers in his large-scale floral work, “Everything” (80” x 48” -oil on linen) on exhibit with Gavlak Gallery out of Los Angeles and Palm Beach. His towering painting commanded attention where it hung between two large windows in the suite, and in a way formed a window itself that brimmed with evidence that Dennis’s paint brush had put on many miles to arrive at his skill level.

Art viewer with “Everything” by Marc Dennis 80 x 48 on exhibit with Gavlak Gallery, FELIX; photo by Brooke Harker; courtesy of ETG

There is an ability in art to help viewers travel into a different state of being, this can be both a gift or seemingly a punishment depending on what is on display. As I tend to value being transported to a state higher than my past tendencies to go into rabbit holes of over-thinking, I especially appreciate art that transcends being lost in inner turmoil. This isn’t to suggest the omission of struggles and depth from artwork; this wouldn’t be possible as there is always duality in the creation process. What I refer to, is an energy that radiates out of artwork, regardless of what is embedded in the stories that motivated the art’s creation. Understanding this may be experiential and is certainly subjective.

The display that moved me the most at Felix occurred when I entered the suite occupied by the work of one artist represented by Residency Art Gallery out of Inglewood. The vivid paintings of LA based artist, Devon Tsuno felt like a breath of fresh air after being held under water. No photos I took captured the energy these paintings emitted. The presence of his creations extended, in my opinion, beyond their surfaces, enveloping the room with an air of magic and can only be experienced in person.

Entrance to Devon Tsuno’s exhibit with Residency Art Gallery, FELIX; photo by Brooke Harker; courtesy of ETG

At the time of seeing Tsuno’s artworks, I was so amped up with gratitude for the joy I felt upon entering the force field of his collection that it was only later when I learned where his work stemmed from. As a Japanese American, Tsuno created a body of work which marked the 80th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, a time when 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States were relocated to concentration camps, including his grandfather.

As described by the gallery, “Tsuno’s paintings of agriculture serves as a record of the historical impact labor, beauty, migration and displacement had with the Japanese diaspora. Taking stories from his own family and working directly with the families of survivors, Tsuno paints abstract memories from their past and present. Tsuno’s new body of work is a rare historical look at labor as a means of survival and solidarity, celebrating the beauty of cultural preservation.”

In reading about this collection, tears formed in my eyes. In the moment of seeing Tsuno’s art, I wasn’t ready to take in the stories in a logical way. Tsuno let me keep the joyful state that bubbled up and told me he appreciated my enthusiasm. When I asked the gallery director Rick Garzon for more information about the art, he referred me to the QR code, which is perhaps the smartest thing he could have done. He let me walk away with the gift of how I felt around those paintings without an agenda to jar me with the horrors of history. Both the artist and gallery had a respect for the viewer in those moments which magnified my respect for them.  Now I’m wondering what it must be like for them, to know the history of what inspired the art and then watch people’s reactions as I wasn’t the only person to be mesmerized by that exhibit.

Artist Devon Tsuno with his paintings represented by Residency Art Gallery, FELIX; photo by Brooke Harker; courtesy of ETG

The energy of art speaks regardless of what our brains know. The senses pick up on the stories embedded in the paint, whether hidden or obvious. Frequency can’t be faked. Devon Tsuno’s art managed to transcend the heaviness of historical events, and paid tribute to the stories of those people without dragging viewers into a dark state of mind that art can help us escape from. In doing so, I believe Tsuno’s work gave a voice to so many, to the beauty of them. People are always more than what has happened to them.

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