See the Childhood Artwork of Ed Ruscha, Catherine Opie, and More Art Stars at LA’s Underground Museum

Children’s art, the New York Times theorized a few years ago, may be the most popular genre of art in America. And for every parent who has ever thought that their tot’s jottings might make them a junior Georgia O’Keeffe, a new exhibition in LA courtesy the the arts education nonprofit ProjectArt may stoke the embers of hope. It is titled “My Kid Could Do That,” and it features the early work of several area art stars. And we say, “early work,” we mean very early.

Last year, ProjectArt gave viewers a glimpse at the nascent genius of some of contemporary art’s biggest names, with a benefit exhibition displaying work made when artists like Urs Fischer and Sanford Biggers were children. The success of that inaugural event, held at Red Bull Arts in New York, prompted the organization to make its West Coast debut, opening this weekend at the Los Angeles-based Underground Museum.

Along with limited editions, the show features the childhood output of some 73 contemporary artists who are active in the LA art scene, including big names like Doug Aitken, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kenny Scharf, Ed Ruscha, Jim Shaw, Diana Thater, and Jonas Wood. In addition to being just outright fun, the show also lets you discover some surprising continuities in the sensibilities of these figures. You might well glimpse the germ of a future style in the elementary school-era opuses of Ed Ruscha or Catherine Opie.

ProjectArt’s founder Adarsh Alphons started the program at a Harlem community center in 2011, and has since opened chapters in cities across the country. It seeks to provide cost-efficient, easily scalable models for improving arts education. In Los Angeles alone, the organization has partnered with four public libraries to host free arts programming for children ages 4–17. ProjectArt also offers practicing local artists studio space and grants in exchange for teaching art classes, as a way to strengthen their communities.

A worthy cause—and also, in the form of this fund-raiser, an adorable one (though be warned, these masterpieces are not themselves for sale; a variety of other limited editions are). Below, discover some of the best early work by LA’s art stars:

ED RUSCHA, AGE 7

Ed Ruscha age 7, Untitled (Santa) (ca. 1944). © Ed Ruscha. Courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

JONAS WOOD, AGE 13

Jonas Wood age 13, courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

JIM SHAW, AGE 17

Jim Shaw's <i>Comet Revolution</i> (c.1969–1970). © Jim Shaw. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

Jim Shaw age 17, Comet Revolution (c.1969–1970). © Jim Shaw. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

LISA ANNE AUERBACH, AGE 9

Lisa Anne Auerbach age 9, Jimmy Carter Puppet (made in 4th grade). Courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

PETRA CORTRIGHT

Petra Cortright, courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

GLENN KAINO

Glenn Kaino, courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

DIANA THATER, AGE 8

Diana Thater age 8, courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

TOMORY DODGE, AGE 7

Tomory Dodge age 7, courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

CATHERINE OPIE, AGE 9

Catherine Opie's <i>Self Portrait</i> (1970/2008). © Catherine Opie. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

Catherine Opie age 9, Self Portrait (1970/2008). © Catherine Opie. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

KENNY SCHARF, AGE 13

Kenny Scharf age 13, courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY, AGE 14 

Njideka Akunyili Crosby age 14, courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

ALEX ISRAEL, AGE 10

Alex Israel age 10, courtesy of the artist and ProjectArt.

The benefit reception is on Friday, April 6, and will feature guests DJ Mark Ronson, local DJ Chocolatebarbangs, and the Youth Orchestra of the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center; tickets are available online.

The public exhibition will be on view April 7–8, from 11 a.m.–4 p.m, along with free public programming for children at the Underground Museum, 3508 W Washington Blvd in Los Angeles. 

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