M+B: DIVIDE & CONQUER

M+B EMBRACES A NEW CHAPTER IN
THEIR CONTEMPORARY ART PROGRAM

It should come as no surprise that LAC shares a breath of the same artists as M+B. The gallery has remained a steady fixture on our radar, nurturing some of the most enticing new artists right here in our very own backyard. From our past features like Matthew Brandt, Hannah Whitaker, and Mona Kuhn, we’ve been pillaging (or rather, graciously and inspiringly appropriating) the M+B arsenal for a cool minute now. Can you blame us?

We were first introduced to M+B long ago when a collection of Andrew Bush’s “Vector Portraits” surfaced for what became one of our favorite exhibitions yet. Bush’s voyeuristic, large-scale photographs of man and his automobile were beautiful, humorous, and poignant, and fueled our curiosity about M+B as a whole. So when the opportunity arose to get up close and personal with the team behind the magic, we pounced.

M+B sits between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, in what appears to be a quaint and picturesque bungalow home. Beyond the front cottage with charming French doors, in a second (and equally inviting) space, lies the nucleus of the gallery, its traditional white walls and track lighting nestled within the ivy-coated driveway.

We sneak a walk-through of the property before Alexandra Wetzel, M+B’s Assistant Director, greets us. “It’s the perfect example of an indoor/outdoor California space,” she smiles. Indeed, the space is relaxing and comfortable, with a grateful lack of somber stuffiness or pretension. Through a mutual love for photography and general aversion for Pilates Plus (can you slow it down just a little?), Alexandra takes us through the gallery’s inception, its artists, and its evolution.

We bring on new artists when we see something amazing—an idea, perspective, or aesthetic that is unique and relevant to our time. Something we haven’t yet seen before.

At the helm of the gallery is Benjamin Trigano, who founded M+B in 2008 out of a deep passion for photography. Together with his team, M+B has spent its formidable years cultivating a roster of artistic mastery, not to mention developing a reputation for signing on undiscovered talent. “We bring on new artists when we see something amazing—an idea, perspective, or aesthetic that is unique and relevant to our time. Something we haven’t yet seen before,” Wetzel tells us. “LA is blessed with three of the country’s best MFA programs: USC, UCLA and CalArts. The number of artists moving to LA is greater than it ever has been.”

Recently, the M+B program, which has maintained a long-standing foundation in photography, has broken its own mold, transitioning into a wider understanding of the medium. The gallery announced its two-program split—with M+B, their newer, contemporary focus, and M+B Photo, their existing program that remains true to their photographic roots. “Almost all of the artists that we’ve shown in the past few years are contemporary artists. They don’t see themselves as photographers or particularly tied to that medium,” Wetzel explains. The need for the two programs became an obvious trajectory, with its former approach transcending its own limits of photo-based practices.

“This result was really about the artists and the work,” Wetzel imparts. “By always riding the edge and constantly pushing boundaries, the program reached a point where there were two different focuses and it was time to make that distinction.”

Now, with both M+B and M+B Photo under their belt, the programming is really taking off, shedding their more established ties to the lens in favor of prompting a new dialogue on the consumption of art in the digital age. So what’s on deck for the gallery? Soft Target, an ambitious group show curated by M+B artists Phil Chang and Matthew Porter and featuring a parade of artistic talent will be taking over the gallery until the end of August. Additionally, a stunning new body of work from Jessica Eaton is set to take shape (“It’s her first time working with
carbon printing,” Wetzel declares), and Mariah Robertson, one of the latest additions to the M+B roster, will have her west coast debut solo show in the spring of 2015.

We want to do something different and create a destination…where you can feel comfortable asking questions.

Evidently, this new chapter is slowly and steadily growing, filling the page with freshly innovative processes of artistic production—one that lies beyond the bounds of a once “traditional” medium. “We want to do something different,” Wetzel affirms, “and create a destination…where you can feel comfortable asking questions.”

photos + text RACHEL MANY

Q & A: Pants Off with OKGo

Treadmills, canines and visual trickery aside, the indie rock outfit OKGo simplifies to childhood friends who just want to “create stuff.” Since forming in 1998, the foursome have spent their career in a steady state of transformation that spans music, film and movement. Their forthcoming album, Hungry Ghosts, is set to debut this fall — preceded by an ambitious summer tour. While diligently prepping on a soundstage, front man Damian Kulash took time from the madness to share his perspective on their musical growth, ridiculousness in clubs and the right moves to sweep a pants off-dance off. Shall we shimmy on? OK… Go…

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LA CANVAS: We’re looking forward to catching you guys at The Echo on 7/23, and noticed that most of your tour dates route through intimate venues. Was that deliberate? And, what can we expect of your live show?

DAMIAN KULASH: We were particular in picking small clubs, but it won’t be small staging. We’re really attempting the ambitious with our live show… musically, visually, and the experience. We’ll be bringing big production on the road with us that small clubs don’t normally have. Think lots of computers, LED screens, projection mapping, and other insane things from this new crazy world of technology. We want to prove that rock shows can be ridiculous, especially since we’ll be touring for the next year or two.

LAC: Speaking of years, it has been quite some time since your last full album. Tell us how OKGo has grown, and about the process behind making this new album.

DK: So it has been about 4 years since our last album, which was a very electronic and deliberate record. I think we’re done being deliberate with songs. For example, with our first single “Get Over It,” there was a lot of nu-metal or bands like The Strokes out at the time. We asked, “what about glory?” and we set out to write a stadium rock anthem. Now when we’re writing, our songs have no starting point. It’s like playing in a sandbox. We’ve grown so much in embracing not knowing what it is that we’re making, and planning less. Being open has really evolved our voice, both the process and result is a lot more unique like that. I feel that these new songs and this new album sound a lot more like “us” than our prior records.

LAC: So, does your mom think you’re famous?

DK: You know, we’ve been together as a band for 15 years, I’ve never felt that we’ve become super famous. I feel like we’re known in creative circles but we’re not really a pop culture band. But yes, my mom does read all the comments online and wallows, she’s pretty proud.

LAC: The story is told that OKGo was sparked from meeting at summer camp many, many moons ago, what was 11 year old you like?

DK: Tim & I have been friends for 27 years. Wow, that sounds weird to say that out loud (laughs). Since age 11, our friendship has been based around making stuff together. We were just 2 camp kids with a guitar and sketchbook, and we still look at things as art projects. From being kids to our career now, it does feel a little  full circle. We’re lucky for this to be our day job. You have to be naïve enough to chase this, as it’s really a one in a billion chance. We understand that, and we do our best to work hard.

LAC: People know OKGo as a Chicago band, but you’re mostly LA residents. Any favorite places and things to do in the city?

DK: None of us have lived in Chicago in about 10 years, we are here now and LA’s a good place to be. Some of our favorite spots include the Magic Castle, for obvious reasons, and Griffith Park. I love being in nature with my dogs and it’s just minutes from the bustle of the city. We’re always hunting for food spots too, we are big foodies.

LAC: Spill on your top taco spot.

DK: Ok, but there are 2 calibers of tacos. If you want fast, cheap yet good, then you have to hit up Taco Zone on Alvarado. There are definitely much better places on York Ave in Eagle Rock though, if you’re willing to make the drive.

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LAC: To ease the drive during the next few months, what’s on your tour playlist?

DK: I’ve just gone through a period of only listening to 60s and 70s soul, now I’m back into Led Zeppelin big time. Some newer acts on my radar are Hozier, such a soulful singer songwriter, and I’ve been feeling Jai Paul. They’re both pretty awesome.

LAC: Your band has earned bonus kudos on your impressive choreography but if there was a pants off dance off right now, which member would win and with what move?

DK: Without a doubt, it would be Tim and he would win with a little move that I’d like to call the “Pelvic Rodeo.” It’s a very intense and specialized dance. However, I should note that I’ve just learned to Vogue. I’ve been watching videos with these guys hitting the floor, and it’s the coolest thing ever. So actually, I think I’d hit Tim with that for the win, he wouldn’t see it coming (laughs).

LAC: Other than music, videos, and dance-offs, what else is in store for you guys?

DK: Our goal is always staying creative and consistently making things… music, videos, and everything beyond! Presently, we’re working on 2 TV shows, and launching another app.

LAC: It’s half way through the year. Be honest, have you fulfilled your resolution yet?

DK: My resolution has been pretty effective, working harder and thinking less.

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This one’s a no brainer, come dance! OKGo performs at The Echo on Wednesday July 23rd. In the meantime, listen to the Upside Out EP for a small taste of what’s to come.