Meet LA’s Art Community: Adam Piron Says Art Was “Never Something Separate” From Life

Adam Piron

Welcome to the sixth installment of the interview series Meet LA’s Art Community. Check out our past interviews here.

Adam Piron (Kiowa/Mohawk) is the Assistant Curator for Film at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). He is also a member of the Sundance Film Festival’s Short Film Programming Team and serves on the Board of Trustees and Programming Committee of the Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, a media arts organization devoted to the moving image. He has also served as an Associate Film Programmer for AFI Fest and a film programmer for the LA Film Festival. From 2014 to 2017, he was a manager for Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program. His film Gutk’odau (Yellow) debuted at Indie Grits 2019 and his most recent film (co-directed by Adam Khalil), Allapatah, debuted at Borscht 0 in November 2019.

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Where were you born?

I was born in Columbia, South Carolina, but raised in Phoenix, Arizona.

How long have you been living in Los Angeles?

Discounting a few periods of living back home and two brief stints in the Bay Area, I’ve been in LA for roughly 15 years now. It’s only been about a year since I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea of identifying myself as an Angeleno.

What’s your first memory of seeing art?

I grew up with a lot of Southwestern and Native American art in my house. It was a mix of weavings, a lot of beadwork, some pottery, and a good amount of prints that my mom would collect from Native Art markets. I’m Native American, and I think it just kinda comes with the territory of how a lot of our culture gets integrated into your family’s lifestyle. Art is always there and chances are that you probably have someone in your family that practices some type of traditional art. It’s never something separate that you kind of just discover on your own. You’re raised with it, to some degree.

Do you like to photograph the art you see? If so, what device do you use to photograph?

I generally try to avoid doing that, mostly because it always ends up being disappointing compared to seeing it in person. That, and I’m pretty bad when it comes to remembering to take photos in general.

What was your favorite exhibition in Los Angeles this year?

Tough question. I’d say it’s a split between Between the Lines: Typography in LACMA’s Collection and Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain at the Autry.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

Pasolini: A Biography by Enzo Siciliano

Do you prefer to see art alone or with friends?

Alone at first. It helps me gather a lot of my thoughts in a way that’s different when I’m around others. I’m less likely to have my opinion influenced from the get-go. That said, I like the communal aspect of seeing it with friends, so that second.

What are you currently working on?

Outside of my programming work at LACMA, I’m also a filmmaker. I just wrapped a short documentary that I shot earlier in the year that was commissioned by the Borscht Corporation in Miami. It’s about alligator wrestling and the Seminole Tribe of Florida and their history with the practice. It was co-directed with my friend and a brilliant filmmaker, Adam Khalil. It’s part of a first effort of COUSIN, an Indigenous film collective that we co-founded with Sky Hopinka and Alexandra Lazarowich. It’s been a pretty wild and great experience making it and it screened at Borscht 0 in Miami as part of their showcase of commissioned work on November 22.

What is one accomplishment that you are particularly proud of?

Last May, Film at LACMA had a screening of the Cannes cut of Southland Tales. It was a pretty crazy set of circumstances that led to securing that film, but Richard Kelly was very gracious with getting all of the pieces lined up and it was by far one of the best screenings that we had last year. Not only was it the first time that version of the film had played outside of its infamous Cannes screening, but Richard informed me and the audience that evening that it would be the last time that version would ever be screened publicly. Because of that, it was a really special event and it was really fulfilling to see audiences re-evaluate the film 13 years later and to take part in its continued relevance. Its fanbase came out in full force too and it got a really great response.

Where do you turn to for inspiration for your projects?

For film programming projects, I’m always blown away by Ashley Clark’s work at BAMcinématek in Brooklyn. In terms of my own film work, it comes from many channels, but I’ve been drawn to Sergei Parajanov’s filmmaking style over the past few years. I wouldn’t attempt to mimic what he did, but I find how he developed this radical method of using film as a visual medium specific to the culture he was capturing, rather than a narrative tool, to be particularly inspiring and something to strive for.

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