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Summer 2003
Art Nouveau
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“The series has transformed the Hammer from a sleepy university museum to a red-hot center of the local art scene.”

There’s definitely a buzz among people on the street as Linnenbrink works. It’s a buzz that resonates throughout the arts community both in the United States and abroad, one that starts whenever James Elaine, the curator of Hammer Projects, invites a rising star with a huge talent but little name recognition in the West to unleash their creativity on the wall for no commission and only a small budget for materials and travel.

Hammer Projects was launched by Director Ann Philbin when she came to the Hammer in 1999 to infuse vitality into a museum that had gone slightly stale. It is a showcase for the work of emerging artists who have never shown in a museum or on the West Coast — and perhaps have never even had a gallery showing. Unlike other artists who have years to prepare for a full-blown exhibition, Hammer Projects artists may have as little as two months’ notice to do one piece for a program that’s nimble, adventurous and flexible.

So successful has Hammer Projects become under the leadership of Philbin and Elaine, who worked with Philbin at The Drawing Center in New York, that it has energized the entire museum and given it a new profile as a welcoming place that’s willing to take risks on artists with little or no track record.

The Los Angeles Times has dubbed the program “one of the most adventuresome in Southern California.” And writer M.G. Lord wrote in a recent New York Times article: “The series has transformed the Hammer from a sleepy university museum to a red-hot center of the local art scene. Crowded openings attract international collectors, eminent older artists and younger artists scrambling for recognition.”

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