With a New Home and a New Name, LAXART Returns as “The Brick”

LOS ANGELES — Two years after the nonprofit arts space LAXART closed its former Hollywood location, the organization is unveiling its new home on Western Avenue as well as a brand-new name: The Brick, referencing both the exposed red material of the former furniture showroom it now occupies and “the idea of a building block that is part of a larger whole is paramount,” in the words of Director Hamza Walker.

This sentiment is echoed in a mural on the facade by the Los Angeles-based 3B Collective, continuing the tradition of exterior artworks by artists begun at LAXART. Inspired by public art all over LA honoring the late basketball star Kobe Bryant, The Brick’s mural takes as its subject artist Pope.L, who passed away last December at the age of 68. Depicted in the middle of one of his iconic “crawl” performances, Pope.L is rendered in a vernacular style common to memorial murals throughout the city, speaking to both the “local community” and the “art world” and calling into question the distinction between the two.

An inaugural series of programs continues the sense of cultural heterogeneity that LAXART was known for, beginning with two nights of performances by avant-garde jazz saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell this past weekend. A weeklong garage sale from the home of late photographer Allan Sekula and his widow art historian Sally Stein will begin on Sunday, June 23, featuring books and other personal items. The first exhibition, Greg Bordowitz: This Is Not a Love Song, will open on July 14, with a new film by the veteran artist, writer, and activist co-produced by The Brick and Palais de Tokyo. The show will be followed in September by Life on Earth: Art & Ecofeminism, a group exhibition curated by Deputy Director Catherine Taft as part of the forthcoming PST initiative Art & Science Collide. Exploring the intersection of environmental activism, feminism, and art “ranging from ideas around reproductive health to witchcraft,” Taft told Hyperallergic, the show will present the work of 16 artists including Carolina Caycedo, Institute of Queer Ecology, Maria Maea, Alicia Piller, Suzanne Kite, A.L. Steiner, and others. All events are free and open to the public.

The year 2025 will see exhibitions of work by Todd Gray, Ray Anthony Barrett, Elizabeth Paige Smith, and Nancy Buchanan, culminating in the long-awaited Monuments, organized in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which will include decommissioned Confederate monuments alongside work by contemporary artists. Among them will be a commissioned sculpture at The Brick by Kara Walker, who co-curated the exhibition with Hamza Walker and MOCA Senior Curator Bennett Simpson.

LAXART was founded in 2005 by Lauri Firstenberg to showcase and support emerging and under-recognized artists in Los Angeles. In 2015, it moved from its original Culver City location into a former recording studio on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, and the following year Hamza Walker took over as director after 22 years as curator and director of education at the Renaissance Society in Chicago.

In March 2022, driven in part by rising rents in Hollywood, the organization acquired its new one-story, 5,000-square-foot building in an area of LA referred to alternately as East Hollywood and Koreatown (or sometimes Melrose Hill, though the name isn’t widely used by locals). In June of that year, LAXART closed down its previous space. The Brick sits next to a Buddhist temple, on the southern end of a busy stretch of Western Avenue that has turned into a bustling art corridor virtually overnight, along which local galleries and out-of-towners including Sargent’s Daughters, Shrine, Morán Morán, James Fuentes, and David Zwirner have put down roots. In interviews with Hyperallergic last year, some members of the local community raised questions about gentrification and how and whether these new art spaces would engage with existing residents.

The Brick’s building has 4,000 square feet of gallery space, nearly double that of the previous location, in addition to a 1,000-square-foot outdoor courtyard. A $5 million building campaign received a major boost in October 2022 with a $1 million grant from Jarl and Pamela Mohn, whom the exhibition space and courtyard are named after. Considerable structural upgrades and renovation were undertaken by board member John Frane of HGA Architects, who left the concrete floor, brick walls, and wooden ceiling exposed, while adding 14 large skylights that required the ceiling to be completely re-engineered. “It’s wholly purpose-built,” Taft said. “We’re rising to meet artists where they are.”

With its new space, new name, and new logo, The Brick is starting a new chapter in its nearly 20-year history while still attempting to retain a connection to “the tradition of alternative spaces from the 1970s in which LAXART was founded,” as Taft notes.

Bringing it back to the Pope.L mural, Walker stressed how the artwork spans the micro and the macro, the local and the international.

“The art world, that’s down the street,” he said half-jokingly.

240519 Renderings of main gallery space and courtyard by John Frane of HGA Architects. Images courtesy of The Brick. 1
Rendering of courtyard by John Frane of HGA Architects (image courtesy The Brick)

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