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Go Behind the Scenes of the LA Art World with Brenda Williams


This winter we’re looking forward to working once again with Brenda Williams to offer Contemporary Los Angeles Art. Brenda is a local art adviser and independent curator specializing in emerging contemporary artists. Her class will meet over five Saturdays, and explore areas in the Los Angeles art world not usually accessible to the public. Visits will focus on private home collections, artists’ studios, and curator-led gallery tours. Each six-hour meeting will include multiple location visits.

To read more about the class, and register for winter, click here.

We spoke with Brenda about her background, and what artists she’s watching now.

How did you get interested in art collecting, and what were your first experiences in the art world?

My first collecting experiences were record albums by cutting edge artists like New Birth, Mandrill, Parliament Funkadelic and Betty Davis.

After college I moved to Italy where I worked for Marilena Bonomo and honed my taste for contemporary art. I worked with many emerging artists (at the time) during my tenure at the gallery: Julio Paolini, Sol Lewitt, and David Tremlett to name a few.

Upon my return to the states I became interested in and began collecting African Art and textiles. I fell in love with the masks of the various tribes of west Africa. The techniques of textile makers from around the world were so amazing like ikat and intricate embroidery, I couldn’t resist their beauty. I had to have as many textiles as my walls could hold. I’ve also collected complete tea services in porcelain, tin, and glass and paper: which are teapots, cups, sugar/cream receptacles and trays.

What artists or galleries are you excited about right now?

Lava Thomas is an artist from the Bay area who I have recently worked with and am excited about. Her work comes from many avenues; drawing, painting, printmaking, and photography to sculpture and site-specific installations. Her work is informed by feminist discourse, alternative approaches to portraiture, secular and religious ideas of the sacred, and African-American devotional and protest traditions. Thomas considers themes of social justice, female subjectivity, current events and the shifting tides of history when she begins her projects.

Carolyn Castana is another local artist I’ve recently worked with and her work is so inspiring. Her bold and colorful painting draw inspiration from her Columbian ancestry. She’s a fan of landscape paintings, 19th century botanical illustration and modernist architecture.  Her current work mixing geometric forms with pseudo tropical landscapes are beautiful and inspiring.

What books are your reading?

OOOOh that’s a great question. I’m on a quest to read (actually listen to) one book a month. I recently completed, Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Valley of Amazement, by Amy Tan, The Sellout, by Paul Beatty and currently listening to some serious 40’s pulp fiction by Ross MacDonald called the Moving Target. Next on my list is “Becoming Michelle Obama”.

What do you feel is something unique Los Angeles has to offer art lovers?

The unique thing LA has to offer art lovers right now is an overwhelming amount of resources to find new, emerging and established artists, galleries and museums. The city has exploded in art, museums and new galleries over the past 5 years. I feel we’ve replaced NYC and have become THE spot for young exciting artists. It’s incredible that you can see work by all sorts of artists in under a 25 mile radius.

Which collections or works are you looking forward to sharing with your students?

The African American Museum and the Fowler Museum top my visit list this year. The Wende Museum has recently opened their new space in Culver City and it’s a wonderful and amazing museum of post-cold war ephemera mixed occasionally with contemporary artists who riff off of that early material.

For those who are interested in learning more about the art world in Los Angeles, how would you recommend getting started?

Start by taking my class Contemporary Los Angeles Art this winter. Read art based publications like CARLA and Artillery. And if that leaves you wanting more, take my class Contemporary Los Angeles Art this winter.

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