.Assemblage, Stop Frame, and New Life.

*This is from my Downtownster Archive*

I did it, I got into Pharmaka, 101 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

I swore to high heaven, last art walk, that I would not step foot near that gallery on the second Thursday of the month. Tonight, standing in front of a locked down Bert Green’s, I felt the pull, the force field that draws practically every hipster to this too tiny gallery.

Tonight, I’m just bowing my head and plunging through the crowd, I thought. I was determined. Turns out, once you elbow past the crowd on the sidewalk and clogging the door, the gallery is actually maneuverable. Once inside I was rewarded with these pretty collage creations in the shapes of dresses, by Georganne Aldrich Heller. They were playful and intricate and completely worth the fight to get in the space. That was my first new experience of the evening.

I set out for the art walk on this cool June evening with the intent of experiencing it from another side. I was jaded with seeing the same galleries, hitting the same eateries and viewing the same art. Before I wrote off the art walk as being one-note I decided to change my very narrow approach to it and see if, maybe, I was the problem.

On my way over to Infusion and The Hive I spotted the Andy Worhol look-a-like again and decided tonight would be fun, different at least.

I ducked into Infusion Gallery, 719 SOUTH SPRING, Los Angeles, California, and was greeted by, incense swirling around the door. I stopped at Jung Ji ‘Masa’ Lee’s creations, mixed media tracing paper drawings. They were dynamic, full of movement, but rang a little ‘art school’ aesthetic.

Next stop was Crisofo R. Fraine paintings of downtown. They were along the lines of Carl Ramsey, but not as interesting. Ivanka Dukic caught my eye next with minimal lines, echoing Rothko. Her color scheme stayed mainly in the oranges and blues, my favorite, not to mention this is my favorite style. Ill spare you the rambling of reasons why, just read my previous articles. I turned my back to the business man playing electric guitar and came face to face with my favorite artist of the night, Lindsey Shepard, whose crafty, layered, bright pieces had a childlike playfulness. There seemed to be an infinite amount of neon layers that allowed the eye to linger for a while and pretend.

I left the child in me in Infusion and headed over to The Hive, 729 S. Spring St. Los Angeles, CA 90014. There I was greeted my Ron Pete’s ‘Strangers with Candies’ a large, smooth, shiny painting that looked more like a screen print than acrylic. While the colors and line quality suggested a light playfulness, the subject matter was just the right touch of creepy to offset the sweet. On my way out I was captivated by Sara Brums small scotch tape tiles with decorative touches that looked like bindi’s.

I headed out and followed people with folded balloons straight to Arty 634 S Main St. Los Angeles, CA 90013, where I came face to face with the most frightening clown I have ever encountered. I pushed my way past his ear to ear smile and drank in the two artist statements near the door. The gallery sang with the songs of canaries and art-walkers one or two glasses too many. The ‘Canary Suicides’ by Catherine Coan, co-owner of Arty, featured varying bird cages containing canaries and “Each cage is unique and contains hidden money, a suicide note, the canary’s own pet and many other surprises”. The buyer can request whatever they want in their own cage. The show caused the viewer to “Think on captivity, embodiment, the pet as a fetish, and relationship between death and delight” explained Coan in her artist statement. I was so relieved to see something other that painting featured at art walk, and assemblage of all mediums. I love assemblage but could never attempt to make it. I don’t have the eye for ready made sculpture, but I think they are treasures.

Also featured at Arty was Kathryne Layne Paxton, whose tiny memento photographs in delicate family frames added a wonderful heart to the show. I have a strange fascination with photographs from an era passed. It intrigues me that these people were real, had real problems, made real choices. Paxton’s work stirred all of that mystification in me and I left Arty wholly satisfied.

I hurried past the Phantom Galleries, Pacific Electric Lofts, 610 S. Main Street, Los Angeles, to Blu L.A. to grab a mocha and a brownie, which turned out to be incredible! On my way past Phantom, which I had decided to skip since I frequent it so much and tonight was a night of ‘new’, I noticed something drastically different, a massage therapist. I made a mental note to stop in and see what it was all about. Turns out, Phantom Galleries turned their space into a quasi farmers market for the arts. In one corner a photo shoot was set up for anyone who wanted to participate. That anyone happened to be a shirtless tattoo covered man when I passed by. In another corner was a plethora of beauty products and t-shirts for sale. Backed up against a wall were two separate photographers, one who did weddings, another who was a classical soul who captured architecture beautifully. This definitely was something new.

My next surprise? At 109 5th Street in the small studio of a printmaker (I believe) was a hilarious short stop animation film playing entitled “Don’t Juice and Drive”. I stayed and watched in wonder for a while, absolutely soaking in the new turn art walk had taken, or I had taken with the art walk.

Then I saw it. Embarrassingly I admit, last art walk I had seen this party in Fine Arts Building, 811 West 7th Street Los Angeles, CA 90017. It was on the second floor and I wanted in, but I am a bit directionally challenged and never ended up there. This time, obviously, I just followed people headed into the building and it led me right to the upstairs party at Create.Fixate. Directly across from the staircase was Jason Macaya’s beautiful desing-heavy stained glass style paintings in cool color schemes, sticking mostly to green.

Scattered throughout the space was the melancholy work of Dustin Otterbach, who creates grey landscapes with organic shapes and stunning muted tones. Through a small door was a collection of jewelry artisans, one of which was Otterbach. His bracelets were daring, architectural and stamped with words like ‘animal’, ‘adventure’, and ‘energy’. I left the gallery party on the second floor feeling quite proud of myself and stumbled upon a gallery in a truck, yes, a truck. It was parked near a giant floating chicken and open for perusing. It was full of stencil paintings and sculptures. I asked the man handing out fliers, Eder Cetina, from rehab studios at 4958 West Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016,

“Do you have a permit for this?”

“Of course…or it would be illegal” he said with a wink. I wrote that down, he cleared his throat, and I explained I was with downtownster.com. He cracked a smile and continued on about knowing people in the right places and they will smooth things out. I let him know I was going to quote him and he smiled with ease and said,

“That’s fine”.

Thus ended my night at the new art walk, new for me. It may have been the curators, it may have been the artists, it may have been my different approach to this second Thursday, but there was new life breathed into the art walk last night.


.Pharmaka: Hook Line and Sinker.

After a debunked trip to the MONA (closed on Wednesdays), I gave up and headed home. Article pitches streamed through my mind as I plundered through the unusually strong wind, the same wind that turned my attention to Pharmaka, 101 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. As I attempted to pull my hair out of the grips of the wind I looked up to see that Pharmaka was gloriously open. Not only could I see art today, I could get out of the ‘cold’.

Upon taking my first step in I new it; I love this show! Though I currently create installation work, I rely heavily on minimalist influence. Many call their goals lofty, even pretentious. I fell for their ideals hook, line and sinker. The minimalists or literalists were formally about line, shape, and very specific color. Conceptually, they wanted to do away with all things metaphor. Anything in a visual piece that could reference something in real life was off limits. For example, if a succession of lines were arranged in such a way that they resembled a book, the viewer may look at said lines and recall the most recent literature they had read. That, in turn, would evoke whatever emotion that book made them feel. The piece of art then becomes personal to that viewer.

Minimalists believed that art should be unifying, and the only way to do so was to eliminate metaphor, visual cues. Art could rest, then, entirely on objective beauty and they could unite the world with art, and therefore surpass the need for it. Who wouldn’t love that?

I am a believer, simply for the beauty of the dream, which was far from pretentious. So with a little bit of the dreamer in me revealed I give you the show at Pharmaka, ‘TRANSformal’.

This show of nine international artists, all part of one collective, is a lofty one, full of delectable ideals. It explores abstract painting in an era without direction, at least in the art world. “Having traveled through so many isms, painting is now free to be about itself”, states Shane Guffogg of Pharmaka. The group of artists, TRANS, struck a cord at Pharmaka, both hungry to discuss and deepen the knowledge of the role of painting in contemporary art. In a world of heavy-handed metaphor and overly emotional imagery, it is so refreshing to see a show where a painting is just about painting. The viewer can walk into Pharmaka and relax. There is no desperate search for hidden meaning, it is about the beauty, the form, and the color. In your enjoyment of those elements you have discovered the illusive meaning. Let your mind relax and fall out of focus and just let the art evoke in you what it will.  A nugget of wisdom from Guffogg may help, “It bypasses our mind’s sense of logic and goes straight to the source of our being, urging us to ask questions, for without a question, the answer would be meaningless.”

This show comes down May 2nd, so you have plenty of time. Just don’t let it slip your mind and miss an opportunity for a truly beautiful experience of art!


.Wontons and Hipsters.

Bummed from missing the last art walk downtown, I was primed and ready to gallery crawl when I caught wind of Chinatown’s art walk. The only two ‘walks’ I have ever frequented have been Downtown L.A.’s and Chelsea’s in Manhattan. While both are versatile, brilliantly energetic, I didn’t mind adding another art walk under my belt.

Off to Chinatown it was!

I arrived much later than fashionably and decided to get a bite to eat. Regretfully, I landed in the Foo Chow Restaurant, 949 N. Hill Street. It was, to put it plainly, awful. I know I’m not a food critic, that I know and write art, but readers should be warned, this food was terrible. The overly greasy egg rolls came with ketchup and spicy mustard just squirted onto the plate; no sweet and sour sauce in sight! My orange chicken was chewy and devoid of any real flavor. I ate two bites, denied the offer of a doggie bag and hit Chinatowns newly debuted art walk.

Foo Chow was right on a courtyard of sorts, with a DJ right outside and hipsters streaming by. I followed them directly into the gallery next door, The Fifth Floor Gallery 502 Chung King Court, which was featuring a show put on by the non-profit, Humanity Uniting. The art was a little sappy but the cause was good. I braved the very narrow staircase and headed up to the little loft, where I found little treats of handmade good, thrown bowls and funky toothbrush holders. I took my time picking up the pieces, playing with the zippers and enjoying the craftsmanship that went into these fun, pocket-sized works of art. My favorites were these little pouches called “Um Bags” by Josh Jakins. These amazingly well priced ‘purses’, if you will, unzipped to lay flat, and were made of a felt like material. I pulled myself away from these trinkets and headed back out to Chung King Court, the hub of the art walk.

It was packed with live performers, DJ’s, videos, and plaid. Given that the Chinatown art walk is not yet mainstream, the crowd was manageable. That meant that I was able to meander gallery to gallery and actually see the art. While I love a good art walk for the networking, the crowd, I do get a little frustrated at how little I get to see that actual work. Last night I had the opportunity to spend as long as I liked with each piece. Though I also realize that the more press this event gets the quicker the viewer will lose that artwork-viewer time.

While in one gallery I stumble upon a striking pink staircase. Should I go down there? Why not? When viewing art my theory is, just do it until someone says don’t, so I headed down the vibrant stairs and stumbled upon woven yarn pieces and paintings on tracing paper with human hair. It sounds strange, definitely, but the pieces were too pretty without it. The artwork of Alison Foshee and Katina Huston made this Jancor/McCorkle Project sing with little kid excitement. There were bright colors and fun, overstated textures.

This kind of attitude permeated the art in Chinatown. It was fun, it was loud, it was installed in the middle of the floor. I went on to rest in front of Michelle O’Marah’s fabric rainbow and stare up at baguettes hanging from a boat in “Picking Up the Pieces” by Jeremy Mora. Never before have I seen such a concentrated amount of assemblage and fiber art, and I absolutely loved it. It was hip, and contemporary, and just plain fun. These galleries, these artists, didn’t take themselves too seriously, or try too hard and the whole night felt effortless.

I ended the night getting everything I wanted in Steve Lamberts new show. His work is like pop art meets the MONA meets Lawrence Weiner. He made these huge signs lit by bright light bulbs, with brilliantly catchy phrases like “everything you want, right now” and “look away”. I left Chung King Court with the distinct feeling I had just had the most fun I’ve had in over a year at an art event. I didn’t leave pondering the meaning of life or the place of painting in the contemporary art world, but I did take away a basic satisfaction art should, but rarely does provide.