Money, influence, and hangers-on are descending on the LA art scene these days like vultures, turning it into a place that I barely recognize any more. Openings that were already crazy before are now completely unbearable, and at any given event, I’m more likely to run into wide-eyed escapees from New York crowing about how “things are much more possible in LA” than into the friends of ten years who used to populate the same events. It’s discomfiting, making it easy to think that the good times are over—yet another great grassroots scene ruined by its own popularity and inevitable gentrification.
But then something like Juicework happens and it gives me hope that maybe the truly great, unique, and beautiful stuff—the stuff that to me defines LA much more than any giant-warehouse-turned-blue-chip-gallery—can continue to co-exist alongside the annoying dreck. Michael Parker, an artist’s artist who is well known for beloved projects like Steam Egg and The Unfinished, has made another technically ingenious sculptural installation that also functions as a socially engaging participatory performance. It’s amazing, his knack for doing this, without ever falling into the ineffectual preciousness that mars certain other projects labeled as “social practice.”
Juicework is essentially an invitation to a gigantic community juicing party/spa. It is made up, first, of about 1,000 unique sculptures that Parker made himself, by hand, over a long period of time. There are raw wood tables, slung low, accompanied by little Flintstones-like wooden stools and cushions made out of shrink-wrapped fibers; a multitude of exquisitely knotty ceramic bowls and gouging tools of various sizes; bulbous, plant-like lamps that provide mood lighting; a dishwashing station composed of three cascading fountains/sinks made out of large bowls; and a hand-rinsing station near the entrance.