Tuesday, May 29, 2012

'Spaceland' opens at Bermudez Projects gallery in LA June 2

Bermudez Projects Celebrates 1-Year Anniversary with Six-Artist Group Show: “SPACELAND – Los Angeles Vast, Light, Modern”

It's probably safe to say that no start-up gallery in downtown LA has ever had a first year to match Bermudez Projects, which included not only packed openings and sold-out shows, but earned recognition from the Getty Foundation … all accomplished by someone the establishment would consider an outsider.

Bermudez Projects, celebrating its first birthday this month at 117 West 9th Street, in a blazing white, light-filled space up on the 8th floor, is owned and operated by Julian Bermudez. A new gallerist should keep his expectations manageable. But, “Wow,” Bermudez says, pausing with a hammer and level in his hands as he hangs pieces for yet another show, “It's been a tremendous year,” from the belly-to-belly crowd at the gallery's first show, photos by KPCC radio host John Rabe; to two sold-out shows by the Empress of Collage, Amanda Beckmann; to the weirdness of Gordon Henderson and the abstractions of Enrique Castrejon.

But the biggest feather in the brand new gallerist's cap was when the Bermudez Projects exhibit of works by LA printmaker David Weidman, “Modern Master: Prints, 1967-1974,” was accepted as a Pacific Standard Time exhibit in January. “For years,” Bermudez says, “David was categorized as a pop culture illustrator. Now, all of a sudden, he was rightly recognized as an artist who contributed to an era – Southern California's landmark post-War period. It was wonderful for David, and also reaffirmed what I’m trying to do at the gallery.”

Bermudez’s goal is simple. He says, “I want to find the next great American artist. I’m looking for art that I haven’t seen before. That’s all. Some galleries specialize in particular genres or won’t take artists who don’t have an MFA. I don’t care about their bona fides. I care about their art. If it makes me laugh or cry, it’s something I want in my gallery.”

Julian Bermudez wants to spread art. Good art. Art that stirs emotions. Art that's affordable. And he wants to provide a space for artists who share that vision.

Come to a Bermudez Projects opening and you never know what you'll find. Kids and adults were fighting to buy art at Beckmann's exhibits, “Failure is an Option” and “Hasten Slowly.” George Takei was posing for photos with shirtless waiters at Castrejon's “Waifs & Strays,” an examination of queer subculture. The LA Times’ Steve Lopez and photographer Gary Leonard were rubbing elbows at Rabe’s “Vast Wasteland,” a collection of Hipstamatic photos of discarded TV sets. “That's my business model,” Bermudez says. “Bring in exciting artists, bring in exciting, engaged people, and let the creative sparks fly!”

Thinking back over the year, Bermudez beams when he talks about his artists. “Enrique can measure anything, and I’m always amazed by the time he invests in each piece. Collectors always ask me, ‘Is he crazy?’” Gordon Henderson “could do ‘pretty’ if he wanted to. But he chooses to be very Outsider. His works draw me in, and when I’m in them, I feel odd.” Amanda Beckmann, he says, “Is one f---ing badass artist, with no official training in art!”

Bermudez earned a BA in art history from UCLA and worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, and Pacific Asia Museum. At the latter, in 2009, he co-curated one of the most popular exhibits in PAM’s history, “The Samurai Re-Imagined,” a groundbreaking examination of the parallels between ancient Japanese art and modern manga and anime. It was a show that drew multi-generational audiences and was emblematic of Bermudez’s passion.

Bermudez Projects is celebrating its first year with “SPACELAND,” a group show by all the artists who participated in his first year, plus new artists who will have full shows in coming months. “I wanted them to capture LA, so I simply gave them three key words that sum up LA for me: Vast, Light, and Modern.” Rabe and Henderson are supplying new works, Castrejon and Beckmann are constructing site-specific installations, and Johnny Taylor and Carlos Ulloa are showing large-scale paintings on vellum and mixed-media collages, respectively.

Before he went back to laying out the new show, Bermudez paused at his 8th floor window and looked out over the bustling Fashion District.

“Downtown LA is the perfect place for me. I have to hand it to visionaries like (architect) Wade Killefer who saw the potential here, and then worked to make it viable for people to live here and open businesses here.”

The public opening is Saturday, June 2 from 7-10PM. To attend, please contact Julian Bermudez at julianbermudez@hotmail.com

Bermudez Projects is at 117 W. 9th Street, Space 810, Los Angeles, California 90015. By appointment only. For more information visit www.julian-bermudez.com

The mission of Julian Bermudez is to discover and cultivate emerging artists, inspire creativity and imagination, and promote the appreciation of art by presenting art outside museums and galleries.

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