You tap your fingers, look at your feet, give the person standing next to you a half smile. “Which floor are you?” Offer to press the button so no one’s reach has to awkwardly extend into someone else’s personal space. The elevator is a special place where people get to experience being enclosed with strangers. It’s a unique opportunity (or awkward dilemma) in a city like Los Angeles, where many of us live a lifestyle of metropolitan isolation. We are confined together in a windowless metal box without phone service as we wait in turn for our floor. This element of dislocated social paradigm made an elevator the perfect place for Don Edler to begin a curatorial and social project space.
At the start of this year Don Edler, who is primarily a sculptor, was faced with the disappointment of several show cancellations. The let-down from these circumstances made him interested in creating a space in which he held control. He had worked on several curatorial projects in the past and wanted to give himself and others the opportunity to curate exhibitions in Los Angeles. In the back of the downtown warehouse where he shares studio space with other artists was a broken freight elevator used for storage. With a determination born of frustration Don transformed the forgotten 4’ x 6’ x 10’ elevator into a white-walled exhibition space within a few days and made plans for the first show. Paying respect to a tradition of Monday night barbeque gatherings at his studio, Don decided to have his shows on Monday evenings. By using a day the commercial art world discards he could differentiate his purpose as a sustainable artist-run venue. And like that, “Elevator Mondays” had its inaugural opening in February 2017. Since then there has been a new show in the space every month.
“do sensibilities have sides,” the Elevator’s most recent group exhibition was curated by Don Edler and Hannah Karsen. The show featured works by Jenalee Harmon, Hannah Karsen, Pauline Shaw and Joshua West Smith.
The size of the elevator, which could be a challenge, is something Don takes advantage of. With the works in such close proximity you cannot ignore the tensions and harmonies they create. As viewers, we are inevitably in between all of them, noticing how our physicality works in their space. Don is most interested in the potential for dialogue created across work in two to four person exhibitions, which is about all the elevator will hold. The size of the space forces attendees of the opening to actaully intimatley engage with the art if they want to be able to say they saw it. This isn’t a space where you can give the pieces a quick glance from across the room. Because only a few people fit in the space at once you must wait your turn to have a few minutes to see the art. If you really want it have an intimate experience with the work Don can pull down the gate and shut the heavy elevator doors.
People come to Elevator Mondays to see the art, and stay to drink beer and talk. Matt Taber discusses his work with people who have come to see the opening of NAKED EARTH.
Don has a vision for how he wants to curate shows, and holds this as a serious art form in itself. He is most interested in small group exhibitions where exchanges between the works create new phenomena within the show. While the pieces may each maintain individual meaning they are now part of larger vision. We agreed that the potential of curation to evolve new didactics is often not realized in solo shows or lost in large group exhibitions. As my conversation with Don carried into his own work it became clear that he had developed many of his ideas about the interactions of objects in space within his own sculpture practice.
Don walks me from the elevator to his own studio space in the building. The set-up with the artists who work in the space is at first hard to decipher as some do not demarcate their area with enclosed walls and doors. It is a sense of social community that reflects into the Elevator Monday openings.
In Don’s studio is a series of pastel planks that look like hieroglyphs. They are covered in familiar and unfamiliar shapes that he achieves through casting and carving. Across the platforms exists a tension between abstract mark and familiar object. The reference to hieroglyphs heightens a desire to “read” the shapes, to delineate some sort of narrative through their semiotics. Most of the planks are mounted to the wall to create larger planar pieces, but some are constructed more three dimensionally to look like chaise lounge chairs. Don tells me he uses wood as a base and covers everything in surf wax. The hieroglyph reference has met its Californian material edge. The scale of all Don’s word references the human body. From cast sex toy to wax-encapsulated steak knife to chaise lounge, we are given the opportunity to decipher our physical affair with a brief history of modernity.
plywood, OSB, hydrocal, styrofoam, iphone, calculator, pingpong paddle, credit card, sunglasses, liquid nails, paint roller, latex, surf wax
12 ft x 10 ft x 2 in
plywood, OSB, styrofoam, ultracal, sex toys, syringes, male enhancement pills, birth control pills, knife, body latex, surf wax
dimension variable, 80 in x 48 in x 2 in
Elevator Mondays is one of the newer members to a rich culture of artist-run spaces in LA. This community, which functions outside of but perhaps parallel to the commercial gallery scene, is a place for artists and curators to develop shows that bring people together for art’s sake. These projects and spaces often depend on clever ideas of financial sustainability like rent-sharing (or use of forgotten broken elevators) to forgo a need for sales-oriented programming. As with the start of many creative spaces Don is uninterested in handling sales. He says he’s sending anyone who’s interested to deal directly with the artists.
The current show in the Elevator, ‘NAKED EARTH,’ is the collaborative effort of Matt Taber and Scott Nadeau. The two artists drove across country from New York, developing the work they would install upon arrival to LA. Scott performed for the entirety of the opening on July 3rd.
NAKED EARTH is part of a larger body of work the artists are developing together called My Name is Everybody that will find its final form in a film.
The show for August will be something new for this space. I found out about it at the end of our interview when I asked Don if he had anything else to say. He said he’d actually like to come to my studio for a visit as he’s planning a group performance show for the Elevator.
Thus my information for Elevator Monday’s next show will be brief and inevitably self-promotional. Come see four performances in the elevator on the four Mondays of August:
Monday August 7, 7-10pm: Lara Salmon
Monday August 14, 7-10pm: Kim Ye
Monday August 21, 7-10pm: TBA
Monday August 28, 7-10pm: Georgia Lassner
Elevator Mondays is located at 1026 Venice Boulevard, enter through the alley.
You can see Don Edler’s work in the group show “The Useful and the Decorative” at The Landing from July 14 – Sept 2, with an opening reception on July 14 6-9pm.
By: Lara Salmon