C California Style

Art Type

by C California Style

Mara McCarthy breaks down assumptions with every move she makes

MARA McCARTHY. Photography by Jason Underhill.

In person, Mara McCarthy, owner of The Box gallery, doesn’t tick any boxes. She’s warm and casual, cool with her wavy red hair, black leather jacket and scarf—kind of the opposite of the stereotypical sleek, unapproachable gallerist. “I’m not really coming from a space of sales,” she admits over a cup of tea near her gallery on L.A’s  Traction Avenue. “And I like my beat-up door.”

Exhibitions at The Box push buttons; some play with the idea of intergenerational resonance between artists, others attempt to educate galleryphiles by showcasing challenging work from nonprofits such as the Los Angeles Department of Poverty—which highlights prison overcrowding and settlements, refugee camps and gated communities.

BARBARA T. SMITH’s St. Marten: Paragraph, 1990. Images courtesy of the artists and The Box, Los Angeles.

Smith’s St. Marten: Index, 1989.

“Art can be information and it can challenge you emotionally, physically, formally,” McCarthy says. And it’s not surprising that cross-generational dynamics would be a source of interest to her, either. She’s the daughter of Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy and grew up in a milieu where art talk was always in the air.

This year, her first as part of the selection committee for Frieze New York (May 5-7), McCarthy has sought work that’s a little more esoteric and a little less well-known. “I think that in some way I was invited to bring that perspective and balance,” she notes. For her, pieces from West Coast galleries such as Anglim Gilbert impress because they’re “smart in a quiet a way.”

EUGENIA P. BUTLER’s Does making a membrane = making a quantum field?, 2000. Images courtesy of the artists and The Box, Los Angeles.

Smith’s Home: ! , 1991. Images courtesy of the artists and The Box, Los Angeles.

And for her own booth, McCarthy is sharing a highly curated group of three artists: Frenchman Julien Bismuth, L.A. superconnector Eugenia P. Butler and Pasadena-born artist Barbara T. Smith are all in some way related. “The work has a conversation with each other,” McCarthy says. 805 Traction Ave., L.A., 213-625-1747; theboxla.com; frieze.com.

JULIEN BISMUTH’s Bricole, 2013. Photography by Emile Ouromov.

Written and edited by ELIZABETH KHURI CHANDLER.

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of C Magazine.