Katherine Brinson is Curator of Contemporary Art at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, where she recently curated a major retrospective of the work of Christopher Wool. Since joining the Guggenheim in 2005, Brinson has organized numerous exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, including solo presentations by Danh Vo, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Agathe Snow, Ryan Gander, Kitty Kraus, and Julieta Aranda. In 2015 she co-curated The Hugo Boss Prize: Paul Chan and the group exhibition Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim, and was the curator of the Guggenheim presentation of Doris Salcedo (organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago).

In November 2015, I traveled to Los Angeles as the visiting curator for Artadia’s Art & Dialogue series, a recently inaugurated program that aims to facilitate exchange between artists and curators across the country. I hadn’t had the chance to do many studio visits during my previous brief trips to the city, so this was a welcome opportunity to get to know new practices, as well as to deepen my insight into a number of L.A.-based artists I had long followed. My illuminating conversations with each awardee exceeded my high expectations, and while the work was resolutely diverse, I was interested to see that a number of connective threads emerged across an intense three days of visits—notably a common focus on the social fabric and natural landscape of California.

My first visit was with Nicole Miller. Having seen her mesmeric video The Conductor as part of the Highline Art program in 2009, I knew that her work occupies a space between documentary film, storytelling, and performance, exploring the capacity of the moving image for perceptual disjunction as well as narrative. Our discussion ranged across phantom limb syndrome, laughter therapy, and the daggering dance style, with a particular focus on her recent work Believing is Seeing, a collection of oral histories from L.A. residents commissioned by LACMA. Later in the day, my visit with Kerry Tribe touched on some related concerns, particularly the instability of recalled narratives and cinematic representation. I had seen Kerry’s riveting three-channel video The Aphasia Poetry Club at her solo show at 356 S. Mission Road the previous spring, so we focused on a number of other past installations and film works, as well as her forthcoming public project based on the Los Angeles River.

My conversation with Richard T. Walker, a fellow British transplant to the US, centered on the notion of the sublime and how it was parsed and amplified in his video, installation, and sound-based works. We viewed a work in which monologue, score, and tableaux of the southwest desert cohered into an eloquent exploration of the individual’s relationship to nature. In Melanie Schiff’s studio, I was excited to have the chance to see and discuss many of the photographs that had featured in her recent monograph at LAXART. Excavating the nuances of her domestic setting, the female body, and the quality of the Californian light, each of the images we viewed was quietly dense with meaning. I saw a similar consideration of the vicissitudes of the daily environment in the work of Ken Fandell, as we looked through a series of photographs that studied the cypress trees outside his living room window. Other subjects veered from the everyday to the cosmic, and a favorite memory from this visit was a series of witty collages created by merging cuttings from various books of canonic photography.

Allison Wiese is based in San Diego, where she Chairs the Department of Art at USD, so we met at a café to discuss her wide-ranging practice. We focused on a number of projects that activate and intervene in architectural spaces in performative ways, including some ambitious works in progress. My final visit was with the sole painter in the group of awardees: Nick Brown. Brown’s densely layered canvases take as their subject the forests and abandoned settlements that can be found in surprisingly close proximity to the city. Interestingly, these paintings were as immersive as any of the installation or time-based work I saw during other visits, with fragments of the compositions at times advancing beyond the conventional bounds of the canvas toward the viewer, in a merging of the pictorial and physical space—a bracing revelation rounding off a few days that had been full of them.

Image: Richard T. Walker