(Photo by Omar Rashad/Los Angeles Times HS Insider)
West Torrance High School

UCLA’s Hammer Museum: A ‘Cultural Hub’ for Diversity

Along busy Lindbrook Drive, surrounded by sedans, pedestrians, coffee shops and corporate skyscrapers, sits the blue-and-white-striped Hammer Museum. Featuring the diverse work of local artists from the Greater Los Angeles Area, their pieces are displayed as part of the “Made in LA” 2018 exhibit.

The curators of the Hammer Museum visited more than 200 studios, picking only 33 artists to be represented in the fourth iteration of the biennial show. With the artists’ age range spanning from 29 to 97, the “Made in LA” 2018 exhibit focuses on the varying depictions of identities and experiences.

“Diversity, of course, is something we are all thinking about,” curatorial associate MacKenzie Stevens said. “I honestly can’t imagine organizing an exhibition like this and not having it be diverse in every way because there are so many artists living and working in this city.”

“Made in LA” 2018 revolves around representing artists living in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Although only one locale, Los Angeles is known for its diverse salad bowl of cultures and backgrounds as the exhibit includes artists who hold unique beliefs and originate from different parts of the world. Moreover, beyond representing Los Angeles’ diversity, Stevens mentioned how the Hammer Museum has kept up with the constantly evolving art scene.

“I’ve been in Los Angeles for almost a decade and it’s changed exponentially, and I think the show is very reflective of that change and of that growth that’s happened in our city,” Stevens said. “We’re kind of a center, kind of a cultural hub for the area and for UCLA, but of course also to Westwood residents.”

Following suit with the notable theme of diversity and change, the exhibit also features work across different media including installation, photography, painting, performance, weavings and video. Much like Diedrick Bracken’s tapestries, made from woven tea-dyed cotton and nylon yarn, or Luchita Hurtado’s oil on canvas paintings, showcased art conveys compelling stories via intricacy and detail.

img 3370 UCLA’s Hammer Museum: A Cultural Hub for Diversity
One of Deirdrick Bracken’s many tapestries on display at the “Made in LA” 2018 exhibit at the Hammer Museum. (Photo by Omar Rashad/LA Times HS Insider)
img 3372 UCLA’s Hammer Museum: A Cultural Hub for Diversity
A self-portrait by Luchita Hurtado; part of a collection of works displayed in the “Made in LA” 2018 exhibit at the Hammer Museum. (Photo by Omar Rashad/LA Times HS Insider)

At the surface, Bracken’s weavings seem like an array of color and careful design; as the only fiber artist in the show this year, Bracken tells a compelling story regarding his previous experiences with race and masculinity.

“[Bracken’s] process is very interesting in the way he incorporates African and European weaving techniques in his work to think about a formal representation of African American identity,” Assistant Curator Erin Christovale said in an email.

Hurtado’s paintings depict her exploration of presence and power through symbolic imagery coupled with the juxtaposition of nature and human body parts. Despite being a 97-year-old painter, her exhibition career is relatively new since her work “has been overshadowed for various reasons,” as Christovale mentioned.

“She still has a daily art practice and we think her dedication to her craft is extremely inspiring,” Christovale said in an email

Like the works of Bracken and Hurtado, there are hidden meanings and messages in each of the pieces displayed. However, when preparing for an exhibit, curators must begin a dialogue with artists so their work is displayed in the intended manner.

“The most difficult thing about choosing the work was working with the artist to ensure that it could all be realized in time for the show and working through various iterations of projects that would work within our production timeline,” Christovale said in an email.

Hence, with a consistent correspondence between curators and artists, both are able to agree upon the best way to display each specific piece. Christovale mentioned how the work that goes into producing an exhibit is often overlooked.

“I’d encourage spending as much time as you can with each work,” Christovale said in an email. “A lot of the works may allude to an idea based off of ‘face value’ but upon further inspection, [they] are extremely layered and conceptual.”

The “Made in LA” 2018 exhibit at the Hammer Museum will be on display until early September.

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