"Human Condition" Places Figurative Artwork in an Abandoned Hospital

Art advisor and curator John Wolf sourced works by more than 60 artists including Jenny Holzer, Mira Dancy, Marilyn Minter, and others for a show in the now-defunct Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center.


Art advisor and curator John Wolf at the former Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center.

Art advisor and curator John Wolf at the former Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center.

“The international art scene is having a love affair with Los Angeles,” John Wolf says exuberantly. “We’ve all witnessed the delightful onslaught of European dealers setting up shop in L.A. People pour into this city to pursue a dream—I did. Neighborhoods are being reborn: Investment capital is growing the infrastructure to create a cultural capital.” 

Wolf, an L.A.–based art advisor—whose career began in the corporate technology sector—became an avid collector after first experiencing the work of pop-surrealist Camille Rose Garcia at an opening in La Brea. This passion eventually became his vocation. “I was eager to talk about my love of these acquired artworks, and my circle of friends began to ask for advice.” 

This month, Wolf transitions to the position of curator and producer, organizing a group show called “Human Condition” (through Nov. 30) around the theme of the figure. He brings together an impressive list of artists, with both newly commissioned and existing pieces, in a venue that is as memorable as the works it will house: the former Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center in the West Adams neighborhood of the city, which has been empty since 2013, when the hospital closed after a series of scandals. 

“The hospital was the perfect setting to explore the human condition,” Wolf says. “Here’s an abandoned building where so much plays out in a person’s life—the joy, pain, trauma. And here are works of art that channel those emotions.” 

One of the empty rooms of the building even became an installation in itself. “A green-tiled surgery room with an eerie patch of gray paint over a light-box” is how Wolf describes the scene, one he feels is perfectly aligned with the works shown in the space. X-ray boxes will display the works of photographer Owen Kydd; Matthew Day Jackson’s skulls will be (appropriately) installed in a former surgery room; Brendan Getz will line an entire room with over 500 works on paper. More than 50 artists spanning various mediums have contributed to the show, from emerging favorites like Mira Dancy and Nick van Woert to established names like Marilyn Minter, Marlene Dumas, and Robert Mapplethorpe—all exploring the figure. 

“This show is about transcendence,” Wolf says. “I want Joe and Janet the Angelenos to be sitting on their couch four years from now and reminiscing about that phenomenal exhibition in the most unlikely of places. I would like someone to be moved to tears, a memory or longing elicited. Out of feeling our human condition comes transcendence.”