The sound of Dr. Martens boots on the concrete faded into the loud reverberating music at the entrance to MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Grand Avenue. Neon lights flashed. Masses of youths indulged in the upbeat hip-hop, and a cotton candy machine distributed clumps of pink sugar, which infiltrated the dance floor like glowsticks.
On Mar. 27 at 10 p.m. at the annual MOCA Teen Night in downtown Los Angeles, hundreds of teens socialized, ate and enjoyed an art and and music show featuring contributions from local students between the ages of 14 and 19.
The commotion of students paying and getting stamped at the entrance was soon replaced by a social crowd of teens scattered in the quieter area of the outside patio. Inside, some students crowded around the DJ group Knockstudy, while others surrounded the t-shirt-making tables. The rest of the crowd flooded through the spacious halls of the museum, walking downstairs to the teen art section.
Jerry McKenna, a visitor service representative, said the night was intended to give the youth in Los Angeles an opportunity to come together and share their passion for art.
“It’s a great start to life, to see what’s out there, maybe network with other artists and find out what’s going to happen in the future. It’s rewarding to see how excited teens are about art. That’s the future to me,” McKenna said.
The event was organized by a committee of MOCA apprentices, including Ari ’14, who are part of the Louis Vuitton Young Arts Program, a selective internship for juniors and seniors with interest in the arts, funded by the clothing brand Louis Vuitton. The apprentices also worked with artists such as Retna and Edgar Arceneaux, who help guide the high school students in their own artistic careers.
According to the MOCA website, the Teen Night exhibit “explores the modern-day definition of reality by means of physical and digital manipulation in cyber and real space.” Inspiration for this theme came from the work of renowned contemporary artist Urs Fischer, who uses the media to portray the transience of art and the human condition.
The exhibit also featured student movies, which combined classic Kubrick films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining with Disney and foreign horror films to further express the theme of subjective human perception and the manipulation of reality. These films were created by MOCA apprentices who were mentored by Edgar Arceneaux.
Ari and a few others interns also collaborated on a triptych, or three related and adjacent paintings, that portrays young adults growing up in Los Angeles and was displayed at the event.
“We were all really tentative about starting the painting because with so many creative minds we were scared of having contrasting ideas. Our mentor, Retna, encouraged us to just start painting. He started by splattering paint on the canvas,” Ari said.
Ari said that she found the project rewarding but faced a few challenges over the course of the night, including a malfunctioning cotton candy machine, which leaked sugar all over guests, and a rap group whose music contained offensive lyrics.
“I told them that we understand [that] the use of profanity is essential to their art form, but if they were planning on spurting sexist lyrics I gave them the option to mumble or I would turn the volume down,” she said.
This year’s Teen Night featured live performances from all over Los Angeles, including DJ’s and high school bands such as Alexander The Grape, a folk punk group, and The Aquadolls a garage-surf-punk band. As each group took the stage, the assembled teens responded by crowd-surfing and forming twerk teams.
Wesley ’15, who also attended last year’s Teen Night at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, said she enjoyed this year more. “It was cool how it was a different location from last year. They had a lot more… interactive space, whereas last year there wasn’t as much to do,” she said. “The cotton candy was really good!”
Some students, however, found this expansive, larger event changed the atmosphere too much. “This year’s was nice and put together, but I really liked the original feel of last year’s Teen Night at the Geffen. It felt like more of a street-art-walk-type event rather than an organized production,” Alex ’15 said.