Benjamin Godsill

Benjamin Godsill is a curator, writer, and bon vivant based in New York

What was the impetus for your Greater LA show?

In looking at my generation of artists and a half generation just before, without realizing it at first, many of those that I was most drawn to happened to live and work in LA – but they were never referred to as “LA artists”. This was strange to me. It feels like we live in an age when the art world, as in many other sectors, has become so internationalized that we often lose the notion of the local scenes from which practices emerge. Very simply, this exhibition is an attempt to insert some notions of geographic specificity into the dialog. And, of course, to show how bad ass what is currently being made in LA is and how much the city as a whole deserves credit for the evolution of art in the post-war period.

How does the art scene differ between NY and LA?

I think geography plays into it a lot, or, really the ways that divergent forms of urbanism have emerged in both. LA is a horizontal, diffused metropolis while New York is vertical and jammed. On the most basic level this affects the scale and materiality of work being made – it’s easier to go big in LA. But more than this plastic difference, what occurs to me is that the gestation time that artists allow themselves in LA is much longer; the time between graduate school and showing commercially seems to be much more relaxed in LA than New York. In general, the commercial world seems much more removed out west, it comes up much less in conversations with artists out there than in New York. Though, I am sure this is, to a degree, the idealized view of an outsider.

How did you get into contemporary art?

I realized that I enjoyed working with people and objects much more than just words on their own. I was doing a lot of writing and thinking about politics and culture in an academic context with an eye towards becoming a professor and realized that more and more I was using the work of contemporary artists (as opposed to philosophers) to illustrate my essays. Beginning to work in contemporary art was a natural extension of thinking about how culture is formed and experienced and wondering how I could support and affect change in this context. And I found artists were much more stimulating to hang out with than academics.

What do you collect personally?

Mostly memories and regrets, both equally cherished.

An artist or two more people should know about?

I am a huge fan of Graham Durward, the Scottish born, New York based painter who makes delicious portraits. And Vaginal Creme Davis – an LA native now living in Berlin and making the world a more insane and interesting place.

Specific advice to young collectors beyond “collect what you love”.

Focus, Focus, Focus. The tighter your constraints, the easier it is to develop a collection with a point of view that is a reflection of your values and your vision. Even if the constraints are not spoken out loud it is important to speak them to yourself loudly.

An artist quote or anecdote to live by?

Good art should elicit a response of “Huh? Wow!” as opposed to “Wow! Huh?” -Edward Ruscha

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