M+B: DIVIDE & CONQUER

By RACHEL MANY
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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

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