Gary Fong, Los Angeles, See — April 2, 2012 at 9:17 am



Chor Boogie


LOS ANGELES – Back in the day, the only art venue in Downtown was the Museum of Contemporary Art (or MOCA) on Grand Ave.  This is no longer the case.  The art offerings in the area have become numerous and varied, creating an art scene that is not only vibrant but, in a city that tends to focus only on the entertainment industry, quite refreshing as well.

Some of the most welcome changes have been at MOCA, which has recently stepped up its game in a big way.  First, they’ve increased their available exhibition space (which was always an issue at the Grand Ave building) by adding the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in the Little Tokyo area of Downtown (and the MOCA Pacific Design Center across town in West Hollywood); and second, they’ve appointed respected New York art dealer Jeffrey Deitch to run things.

Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

The impact of these changes has been obvious and immediate.  Instead of a single important MOCA show every few years (e.g., Richard Serra in 1999 and Robert Rauschenberg:  Combines in 2006) MOCA now offers a broader range of shows, and more often and, at least to many, with more compelling subjects.  Examples include are MOCA’s recent Art in the Streets exhibition, which was the first major show about street art by a major US art museum, and its photographic essay on beach lifestyles California Song by former Dior Homme head Hedi Slimane.  Both of these shows had an obvious New York aesthetic to them, specifically street art and fashion, which is rare in the LA art world.  Even the Geffen Contemporary’s current show, Under the Big Black Sun:  California Art 1974 – 1981, while overly ambitious in it’s narrative, has a unique edge – it paired the show (which focused partially on the LA punk movement) with a live concert by the bands X and the Dead Kennedys, providing an uncommon opportunity to experience, first-hand, the art itself.

How & Nosm

Then, there is the LA Arts District (LAAD).  If MOCA is the anchor or the parent to Downtown LA’s art scene, then LAAD would be considered the rebellious offspring.  This other key part of the Downtown art scene, located in on Traction Avenue and originally developed as an artist community (which still seems to be the overall vibe), is perhaps what NYC’s SoHo was in it’s early days or what Melrose Avenue in LA should have become:  a mix of name street art, lofts, galleries, and enough cafes/restaurants where you feel like you have a real choice. While there always seems to be something interesting happening when we’re there, be it a gallery opening or some sort of event, pop-up or otherwise; it’s LAAD’s street art that we love and what keeps us coming back. A few of the street artists whose work can be found there include Shepard Fairey (of Obey and Obama hope fame), twin brother street muralists, How & Nosm and the colorful images of Chor Boogie.



Beyond MOCA’s and LAAD, the areas surrounding Downtown also have their own burgeoning art scenes.  If you’re open to a short drive, you might also want to check out the Chinatown arts district just north of Downtown; or the Lincoln Heights area (also close by), which is home to the Big Art Labs collective and one of those amazing Herakut street murals (

The little things that make Dowtown’s art scene worthwhile:  Stumbling across an unexpectedly awesome piece of street art, be it in the LA Arts District or at MOCA.


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Photos:  Gary Fong

Author:  Gary Fong



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