On a rainy evening in Los Angeles, a wet crowd entered Roberts & Tilton's opening reception for New Babylon, a group show featuring fourteen local artists. Walking in, they immediately saw a bright blue sculptural framework of painted wood by architect Joakim Dahlqvist. The freestanding structure, which takes up most of the gallery, serves as a base upon which all the other pieces of art are displayed and even embedded, and its design allows viewers to wander in and out.
Curated by Michael Dopp, one of the exhibition’s fourteen artists, New Babylon takes on an unconventional way of displaying a varied cross section of art in LA. Speaking with Dopp, he mentions that all of the art pieces in the show–none of which are hung on white walls–are considered as one whole. If someone wants to purchase art from the exhibition, they’re going to have to purchase every single piece, along with the entirety of Dahlqvist’s structure. He mentions that the aggregate of artists, in this case, is not typical for LA. And he's right; both the work itself and its communal presentation are as refreshing as the night's rare weather.
As the guests trickled in, they lined up for their free cocktails, receiving them in one-of-a-kind works of art that are also part of the whole exhibition: Zombie Cups made by artist Shoshi Kanokohata. Each handmade ceramic cup (more like a chalice) had a copper straw through which guests sip a rum concoction. As the Zombie Cups lingered around the edges in and out of the blue framework, they were an ideal complement to the abstract pieces they were being held in front of.
Dopp did not choose what pieces to include from each artist, but prompted them to contribute and respond to the space and idea as they saw fit. Notable works include a metal sculpture of a baseball bat with a protruding nail, a silk chiffon print of a wallpaper from The Beverly Hills Hotel, and a clay sculpture titled "Spaghetti and Meatballs"–all of which hint at an underlying sense of leisure that percolates throughout; their shared connection alludes to Constant Nieuwenhuys’ "New Babylon," an anti-capitalist utopia that inspired the exhibition’s title.
New Babylon at Roberts & Tilton will show through August 15.