Monthly Archives: December 2016

Happy New Year!!!

A very happy new year to you and yours! Here’s to hoping 2017 is the most awesome year ever (and, if not that, then to hoping that at the very least it’s better than the craziness that was 2016)! We’re marking the occasion with this yummy 2017 chocolate cupcake and some Champagne.

What is Miracle Mile?

We never tire of revisiting this minimalist masterpiece by artist Robert Irwin at LACMA in Los Angeles. The colorful installation of fluorescent lights has a permanent home in a large ground-floor gallery at LACMA’s Broad Contemporary building. The title of the artwork is “Miracle Mile” and it is specific to its location.  

The museum is on Wilshire Blvd. at the heart of an area named Miracle Mile, which was originally planned as an alternative urban district to Downtown LA in the 1920s. Wilshire eventually became one of LA’s main east-west traffic and business corridors and the “mile” area has since become a kind of “museum row” for the number of other large galleries and museums nearby.

Irwin’s artwork, in its length, geometry and brightly illuminated presence, is a visual metaphor for the commercial strip and aptly is displayed on a wall that faces and runs parallel to Wilshire Blvd itself. A long floor-to-ceiling window in size and proportion similar to the artwork separates the gallery from the boulevard and makes “Miracle Mile” a kind of symbolic mirror.

“Going Everywhere Fast” by D*Face

The British artist Dean Stockton, a.k.a., D*Face, has developed one of the most recognizable and epic bodies of street art to grace the world’s urban landscapes. His work evolved from the a series of noteook doodles of weird, comic, anthropomorphic humaoid creatures. Then he started making stickers of this artwork, eventually moving on to the more familiar and popular street art medium of wheatpaste posters and, later, paintings, massive murals and sculptural objects. A prime example of one of these larger-than-life murals is the one pictured here in Culver City, in Los Angeles. It’s titled “Going Everywhere Fast” and can be found on the side of the Corey Helford Gallery on Washington Blvd.

DFace’s work reminds us a lot of the post-modern pop art of Roy Lichtenstein. The parallels in the graphical, comic style are unmissable. Where Lichtenstein found inspiration and material from the inky, pixel-dotted soap-opera comics of American newspapers of the 1950s and ’60s, Stockton’s style has the smoother look of the contemporary graphic novel and its richly-printed rendering of scanned drawings. Lichtenstein often made the texts of the comics a crticial part of the artwork. He included the characters’ short dialogues and internal monolgues that appeared as speech and thought bubbles in the comic. This added a dimension of irony, drama, commentary or amusement (sometime all at once) and gave deeper meaning to the visual. D*Face’s works, on the other hand, usually don’t have speech or thought bubbles. It is left to the viewer to imagine what the chacacters are thinking.

Some visual themes have emerged in DFace’s style. A lot of these recent murals features a man and a women, a couple with their relationship implied but unclear. There are cars or motrocycles included. Motion and speed are suggested in the compositions. The woman is a pale blond bombshell. A sad or worried expression is on her face. She displays freakish antler-like white wings sticking out from the sides of her head, which refers back to the charcaters of D*Face’s earliest drawings. The man is shown as slightly grotesque, his skin green like a Frankenstein and his face serious and etched with hard wrinkles.

The popular appeal of DFace’s artwork is obvious. It is an easy visual read, accessible and poignant. He has benefited from having his work exposed to an audience beyond the galleries and streets, beyond followers of contemporary art or street art scenes. Fans of American pop-punk band Blink-182 will recognize D*Face’s artwork on the cover of their recent 2016 album “California.” 

Hot Mess

“Hot Mess” is the title of an artwork by Doug Aitken that features a beautiful photograph showing an aeriel view of the Las Vegas strip at night.  The image is displayed as a back-lit circular framed object mounted to the gallery wall. At the center of the photo, just above the bright lights of the city, is the title of the artwork in a standard serif font.

There’s humor in this artwork, one of dozens currently on view as part of the artist’s massive retrospective exhibition “Electric Earth” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a.k.a., MOCA, in downtown Los Angeles. “Hot Mess” is part of series of circular photographic works that marry text and image in intriguing and ironic ways. In the case of this piece, the words evoke and connect several notions about Las Vegas.

Vegas is a unique and strange city among America’s big cities, and for that matter it’s unlike any city in the world in ways that are both obvious and not-so-obvious. As a tourist  in the unlikeliest of geographical places, Vegas has traded on its image of being home to several forms of legalized vice, and an image of moral laxity when it comes to this. Gambling, partying, hotel resort travel, and various types of adult entertainment (in addition to entertainment in general), plus a slew of massive trade shows and conventions, and flamboyant, whimsical architecture — all in the middle of the desert — make the city singular and a kind of “mess” culturally and symbolically.

The term evokes the idea of somebody or a thing that is scattered, disorganized, troubled and possibly pathological. Vegas can seem like that. And much like a freshly spewed pile of vomit — for which the term “hot mess” can also be applied — reeking on the pavement steps from its source, a drunken college student who’s chugged too many Jager shots at a strip club, Vegas is very much like that, too. But, hey, that’s only one facet of this multi-faceted metropolis.

And yet, it has its own beauty. Seen from afar, like many cities and in the photo in Aitken’s artwork, Vegas appears like a glittery jewel, a Milky Way galaxy of neon and LED coalesced into a distant blur of energy, enterprise, and urbanized humanity. From a distance, un-vomit-like.

Locals Only

    Last weekend, we stumbled upon this throw pillow with the words “Locals Only” embroidered on it at the Mollusk Surf Shop in Silver Lake in Los Angeles. The pillow is a funny, cute mash-up of old-school, cliched surf-culture sentiment and a folksy, homespun style more fitting in grandma’s living room than a surfer fort at Lunada Bay. It’s not the kind of item that the average surf shop would stock, but then Mollusk is not an average surf shop and Silver Lake is not your average surf shop locale. It’s not a laidback seaside surf haven. That there’s even a surf shop in Silver Lake at all is an anomaly.

    Mollusk originated in San Francisco where it made a name for itself that traveled far beyond the Bay Area. It established a style and a reputation for great taste. And for selling interesting, quality surfboards from shapers who made their boards by hand and were influenced by retro designs. Whether it was a shortboard, longboard for a 1970s-inspired “mid-length” board with a single fin, by and large many of these surfboard makers themselves appreciated design and style and their aesthetic tastes were reflected in their boards. (And, by the way, yes, we surf and we enjoy nerding out on this stuff.)

    Then Mollusk opened up branches in LA. One is in Venice, LA’s infamous and gritty (if now largely gentrified) beach town. It’s not a mecca of great surfing nor great waves. In fact, the surf at Venice Beach sucks most of the time. But it is a block from the beach and central for the greater LA metro area, and it’s a hub for a creative surfer community. Surfers still paddle out into the waves at the Venice breakwater most days in spite of the poor surf conditions.

    Then there’s Silver Lake. It doesn’t have Venice’s location or vibe, but there’s a niche demographic overlap. SLake is home to a class of fashionable creative types (music, film, art, advertising, design), both the moneyed kind and the less-moneyed aspiring kind, and it’s a magnet for a generation of hipsters, some of whom surf or pretend to. Mollusk is right at home here and yet it’s also totally legit, albeit with those ironic, stylish “Locals Only” throw pillows strategically placed in the store.

    “Locals Only” has come a long way.  It was the kind of thing that one often encountered back in the ’70s and ’80s in the form of crudley spray-painted graffiti near remote or hardcore surf spots along Pacific Coast Highway or at a handlulf of certain “localised” beaches in the string of seaside communities up and down the California coast or in Hawaii. It was a warning to outsiders, one tinged with menace, not to surf that beach … or else. This localism was the harder-edged face of surf culture. So to see those words rendered on the kind of soft, cuddly pillow you might cozy up to on a sofa while sipping a cup of tea and savoring the prose of a Maya Angelou novel, well, it’s funny and brilliant.  Its trick is how it both deflates the inherent threat and danger associated with those words while in another way making those words even scarier.

     

    Death of a Clown

    The first time you see “Death of a Clown” by artist Liz Craft, you can’t help but want to get up close to and examine it, to bear witness to its texture in detail, as if to confirm that the woman lying on the sofa is not real. You know its not a real person, you assume she’s not real, but a part of you thinks she could be, like those street performers who pretend to be statues. It could be a real person, lying deathly still, forezen underneath a thick coat of ghostly-pale make-up and improbable orange hair. And you can’t help but think of Sleeping Beauty. And of a character in a Hayao Miyazaki anime film. Unreal, yet rendered in three dimenions, life-sized, in the actual physical space of a gallery at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

    But this is a sculpture, an object. There is no performer.

    Craft is a Los Angeles-based artist who runs the Paradise Garage art space and collective in Venice Beach. Her faux-naive sculptural objects and installations have a whimsical, fantasy quality, though, as in the case of “Clown,” there’s a sense of realism baked into the layer of dreamy, fantastical imagery. The colors beguile, at once bright and muted, at once like saturated and then over-exposed like some old polaroids discovered in a shoebox at a flea market. 

    Warm Minimalist Shelf Architecture at A.P.C.

    The Parisian clothing and retail brand A.P.C. recently opened a shop in Silver Lake in Los Angeles. Like may of this French fashion label’s stores, whether it’s in Tokyo, Paris or New York, this new LA outpost has its own distinct interior design aesthetic, different from all the other A.P.C. stores, yet inscrutably “on brand” in its warm minimalism.

    A.P.C. stores embrace the constraints and quirks of the space they occupy and subtly absorb the character of the surrounding neighborhoods they’re in. At the Silver Lake store, the tiered shelving system is the foremost feature of the space. It’s a piece of architecture in and of itself within the shop space, built in smack in the center of the store and easily eating up much of the architectural footprint. Customers can walk through it.

    The plain distilled earthiness of the wood suggests a casual, clean organic aesthetic in sync with the Southern California “canyon spirit” style, but the thin bars of LED lights augment this with a restrained hint of the Hollywood glamor. All in all, it sweetly aligns with the the clothing brand’s style of fashion.

    Graffiti Artwork in Progress in Venice

    On Tuesday, we spied this beautiful work-in-progress graffiti art on the side of the Davy Jones Liquor Locker, a famously no-frills liquor store in Venice, Los Angeles. We’ll go back to see the completed work in a few days and post pix here, but judging from what we see, there’s a local beach theme with palm trees and summery, sunny colors on the “wild style” lettering. Even in its half-finished state, the artwork is beautiful. This spot has been a canvas for a lot of other commisioned graffit art and street art over the years.

    DIY Taco Stand Architecture

    This taco stand popped up at the biannual Echo Park Craft Fair in Silver Lake this past weekend. It seems you can’t drive a block in Los Angeles wihtout seeing either a small taco joint, truck, take-out window or improvised stand. But this one is unique in a couple of ways, most notably in its architecture and construction. The do-it-yourself quality to the construction and use of materials is clever. Long wood boards have been slotted into the gaps in a stack of wood pallets. These pallets form columns and the boards function as shelves and a counter. The menu items are written in chalk on the side of the pallets. White fabric has been thrown over the contruction to form a roof. Then there is the decor. There’s a Tibetan Buddhist-style string of colorful flags strung along the top of the stand. Woven Mexican bowls on the columns add color. Potted plants accent the facade and rest on heavy wood blocks that help support the columns. It’s brilliant, though one wonders how structurally sound it is and whether it’s “up to code,” as they say.


    Crisp Street Art

    Epic new artwork by Crisp on a fence in the alley behind Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, Los Angeles. There’s a series of large-format street art pieces along this back-alley fence. Each segment of the fence has an indivudual artwork. What’s unusual about these is that the artwork itself is on a tarp-like material sized and tied to the sgement of chainlink fence. You can find these on the block between Santa Clara and California avenues.

    Entrance to MOCA / Geffen Contemporary 

    We’re not religious. But museums are our cathedrals, our churches and temples, our shrines. MoMA may be the modern art world’s Vatican, but in terms of pure open space, MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles comes closest to a giant cathedral like Notre Dame with its massive, cavernous structure. We’re not saying that this museum is equivalent to Notre Dame as far as degree of architectural achievement and historical significance. We’re saying that it is a big fucking space and one that invites reflection and a kind of awe.

    The Geffen was kind of a happy accident. The building wasn’t purpose built to be a contemporary art museum. The structure is in LIttle Tokyo in Downtown LA and was originally built in the 1940s for the city as a warehouse and LA Police Department garage accommodating hundreds of vehicles. At the time, MoCA’s use of the space was purely practical.

    While the main landmark MoCA branch was being built on nearby Grand Avenue in the early 1980s, the warehouse/garage in Little Tokyo was used as a temporary exhibition space dubbed the “Temporary Contemporary.” Its purpose was to host art shows until construction of the new main MoCA would be completed. The acquisition of the building made sense. The Temporary Contemporary was a success.

    It was repurposed as a permanent exhibition space and extension of MoCA. Architect Frank Gehry led the effort. The Geffen’s location is walking distance to the main MoCA location in Downtown LA, and the former LAPD garage offers the kind of space that allows for sprawling exhibitions and epic, large-scale sculptural artworks and installations that might be more diffciult or impossible to mount in other museums. 

    What Would Kanye Think?

    WWKT? What would Kanye think? We’ve recently been seeing a lot of these wheat-pasted WWKT posters around town. The one pictured here was on construction hoarding along Abbott Kinney Blvd. in Venice, in Los Angeles. The question is In the vein of “What would Jesus do?” In this case, it’s Yeezus.

    So what If we actually take the question posed in this hilarious poster seriously and spend a few minutes ruminating on it, what might out answer(s) be?  What would Kanye think?

    First, with regards to the poster and question itself, Kanye being Kanye, he’d probably have something to say about it for the sake of saying something about it and the chance to get some attention. Otherwise, he couldn’t care less. He wouldn’y think about it all. Maybe he’d feel flattered. A mild ego stroke.

    WWKT about Donald Trump? He’d think Trump was great and, had he voted, would have voted for Trump. But Yeezus didn’t vote election day.

    All the many things that one might want to know what Kanye is thinking about … Well, it’s endless.

    WWKT about Greek yogurt? WWKT about the news Star Wars film, Rogue One? WWKT about getting for Kim Xmas present? WWKT the latest song by the Chainsmokers? WWKT about bicycle lanes? About who will win the Super Bowl? About climate change? About cilantro? Charter schools? Solange?  The Electoral College? Brexit? 

    New JGoldcrown “Lovewall”

    Here’s yet another beautiful “Lovewall”(a.k.a., “Bleeding Hearts”) mural by British street art rockstar JGoldcrown. This one is new and on the wall behind the Groundwork Coffee cafe at the corner of Montana Avenue and 16th Street in Santa Monica, in Los Angeles. 

    . . .

    この壁画のタイトルは「ラブウォール」(「愛の壁」)です。 それはロサンゼルスのサンタモニカにあるアーティストJ Goldcrownによって作成されました。

     

    The Amazing Drawings of Toba Khedoori

    The artwork of Australian-Iraqi artist Toba Khedoori leaves a distinct impression. Her works are primarily finely detailed, photo-realistic pencil drawings in monochromatic lead or color on massive sheets of waxed paper. The drawings tend to be focused on discrete, single objects set in a vast emptiness — a chair, a fence, a door — or a piece removed from its larger architectural context — rows and rows of seats from a theater or, as in the example pictured here, a fireplace. It’s one of a series of drawings of fireplaces currently on view as part of her solo show at LACMA in Los Angeles. The drawing has a trompe l’oeil quality but has none of the cheap gimmickry of that anachronistic decorative conceit. Looking at the drawing from afar, it appears as if there’s an actual fireplace recessed into the gallery wall.

    . . .

    これらの大きくて、詳細で、現実的な図面は、オーストラリア – イラクの芸術家トバ・ケドゥリ氏によるものです。 これらはロサンゼルスのLACMAで展示されています。

    Monrow at Dusk

    The clothing brand Monrow will soon be opening a retail concept store in this tiny, old California-style bungalow near Venice Beach in Los Angeles. As standard retail practice, the windows of the house-turned-shop are covered with paper to provide privacy while the final interior build-out is being completed. The Monrow signage is up and the lights are on, so the brand has announced itself in the neighborhood. It will be interesting to see what the company does with the space.

    . . .

    ここにファッションブランドのモンローの新しいショップがあります。 この店は、ロサンゼルスのヴェネツィア近所の古い家を占有しています。

    Street Art as Office Decor

    We recently went to a series of meetings at a creative agency in Southern California. The walls of the conference room where the meetings were held were covered in wheat-paste street art. Most of the artwork was boldly illustrated black-and-white poster cut-outs of hand-drawn graphics in a comic style. Our favorite was a large graphic of a masked Mexican “lucha libre”-style wrestler. The artwork gave the conference room a lot of energy and a sense of fun, while showcasing the tastes of the company’s creative team. 

    . . .

    この会議室は、カリフォルニアの広告代理店にあります。 会議室はストリートアートで装飾されています。

    Muhammad Ali Mural

    This powerful street art mural in Venice, Los Angeles depicts late boxing legend Muhamed Ali. The image is based on a photo of Ali and references the famous 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match he fought. The match was held in Zaire (now Congo), where local supporters cheered Ali with the Lingala phrase “Ali bomaye!” which is written on the wall in red paint.

    . . .

    この壁画は、有名なボクサー、ムハメド・アリを描いています。 アートワークはロサンゼルスのヴェネツィア地区にあります。

    Surf Photography Books

    On a recent visit to the Arcana bookstore in Culver City, in Los Angeles, we checked out some beautiful coffee-table books on surfing and surf photography. Among these was a book titled “Surfing San Onofre to Point Dume: 1936-1942.” It’s a collection of sepia-toned photos by Don James documenting his surfing experience and his surfer friends and their lifestyle in Southern California during the pre-World War II era and early war years. The photos reveal what the surfing life was like in its first idyllic golden age when the Hawaiian “sport of kings” was still novel and taking root in California.

    . . .

    これらのクールで美しい本は、サーフィン撮影に関するものです。 これらの本は、ロサンゼルスのカルバーシティにある有名なアルカナ書店で見つけました。