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.
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.
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.
The original location of the iconic and legendary bodybuilding mecca Gold’s Gym is a block away from the sands of Venice Beach in Los Angeles. The painted logotype signage on its facade is faded, and that, coupled with the simple architecture of the building, suggests the gym’s vintage and no-nonsense austerity. This is where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained as a bodybuilder in the 1970s and ’80s before launching his action-film career. A few blocks away stands a much larger and modern Gold’s Gym where the bodybuilding tradition continues.
The cafe at Menotti’s Coffee is a third-wave espresso joint and a friendly little hub for the legion of caffeinated locals and a certain stylish subset of Silicon Beach worker bees in the heart of Venice in Los Angeles. The baristas are serious about their coffee game but with zero pretension, in spite of the smattering of hipster accoutrements. Sure, there’s a skateboard and fixed-gear bicycle propped against a wall inside the cafe, and there’s beautiful, curated art photography on the wall, but its presence seems more a natural byproduct of taste than strategic. Across from the cafeteria is the famous, epic-scaled Venice “Touch of Evil” mural. On a slow day, we’ll cruise over to Menotti’s on our bikes for a long break and a flat white cappuccino.
Among our favorite places in Los Angeles is the Arcana bookstore in Culver City. It’s specialized in “books on the arts,” and its collection of books on art, design, photography, architecture and anything aesthetically significant is vast, comprehensive, and well-organized. They seem to have everything. Though Arcana is a business, its ambiance, interior design and space give it a feel that’s more like a library, albeit a handsome, spare, minimalist, post-modern library in a former industrial space. There are long communal tables upon which customers can lay heavy tomes of art and page through these books at a leisurely pace. It’s one of the best bookstores in the world. If GlobalGraphica was an actual place, Arcana would be our preferred physical manifestation of it, though with a kick-ass espresso machine and a rack full of surfboards included.