One of Los Angeles’s great landmarks is the Griffith Observatory, an architectural gem that mixes art-deco and Mayan aesthetics. It’s perched on a ridge in Hollywood Hills above Los Felix and provides a stunning, wide view the L.A. basin. It naturally is a major tourist draw, with thousands upon thousands of people winding their way up the hills and canyons each day to visit this icon of La La Land. It’s a functioning observatory and as such there are working scientists, astronomers, educators, and space enthusiasts, et. al. — nerds! — congregated and fussing about amid the tourist hordes snapping selfies along the viewing terraces.
The street art of the artist who goes by the moniker Made of Hagop never ceases to impress us with the aesthetic vision of his work. We recently came across this newer piece in Venice.
Salt Fish Surf Co is a surfy boutique in Venice, in Los Angeles, run by the effusive and friendly French surfer Romaine Goudinoux, who designs and sells branded t-shirts, caps, accessories, and leather-and-fabric surfboard bags hand-crafted in Mexico. But, to be clear, his small second-floor store is not a surf shop. In fact, Salt Fish hardly feels like retail space at all, but rather a beautiful shabby-chic, hipster-surfer living room (dubbed “La Casa Saltfish“). It’s fillwd with Mexican blankets and rugs and a few surfboards propped up amid a tiny selection of merch for sale. The space and vibe is so cozy and chill that you don’t ever want to leave.
We were in Silver Lake, in Los Angeles, stopping by a popular espresso bar for a quick coffee, driving around and around looking for a spot to park when there it was staring at us: A poster by artist Shepard Fairey. A little later, on a recent visit to the Arts District in L.A. to grab a quick lunch, again while driving around the block over and over again seeking an open parking space, there we found another Fairey artwork, its gaze bearing down on us. This past weekend, we drove into the Sawtelle area (a.k.a., “Little Osaka”) of Los Angeles on a mission to pick up some boba teas, and there, yet again, was another of Shepard’s iconic red-black-and-white portraits, a wheat-paste poster on a utility box, staring at us. Shepard Fairey, you’re everywhere. Why can’t we quit you, godammit!
Capitalism and art. They’re not the best of friends. Sometimes they look at each other with roiling contempt. The fact is they need each other, albeit, to a point, and — deep down — they’re in love with one another, because each has something the other desperately wants: Money and cultural cachet. They help each other out in a symbiotic relationship that brings funding and artists together and makes culture happen on a grand scale.
Go into any major art institution and there are the plaques and signs on the walls and in the beautifully printed exhibition programs with the names of billionaire industrialists and entrepreneurs who have become art-world philanthropists, and see those names next the corporate sponsors and logos of the various companies — often Wall Street powerhouses and global Fortune 500 corporations — and the words “made possible by” or “with the generous support of.” At the major museums, at art fairs and events, that sponsorship and acknowledgement of support is par for the course.
Indeed, money makes the art world go around, though not necessarily art itself. The streets are a different matter. The very fact that street art is often illicit and seen “in the streets” is because there is no financial support or patronage or sanctioned art space for that work. Street art largely bypasses the gatekeepers, the curators, collectors, gallerists, and financial patrons. Granted, that the work of many street artists does not have a home in the galleries and museums is often because most street art is not great. Really, it’s mostly kind of lazy and sucky. From an art world perspective, it doesn’t warrant being on a gallery wall unless it is really great or there is at least the potential to co-opt it for financial gain or cultural profit in doing so. And if it is really great, it often only works in the context of the street. Once it’s on a gallery wall, most street art loses part of what made it special in the first place. It loses that context and its inherent subversiveness, aside from whatever its content or message may be. In any event, capitalism is not in a direct agreement or relationship with street art.
But sometimes artwork that is on the street is in a direct relationship with commercial patronage, for example, when it’s commissioned and given a dedicated commercial space well-suited for exhibiting the artwork. An advertising billboard is such a space, and it’s the location of the wondrous and evocative images of Taiwanese artist James Jean, whose painting “Schrodinger’s Kitten Rescue” has been rendered on a large billboard above in the Sawtelle neighborhood (a.k.a., Little Osaka) of Los Angeles. Here capitalism and art have come together to make a cultural baby, a creator’s commercial-free vision imposed on the urban landscape in what is otherwise a commercial-filled space.
Architectural styles are subject to the tastes, fashion and trends of a given era. Some architecture stands the test of time. Some age less gracefully and can quickly, embarassingly look dated. Sometimes these become the targets of aesthetic derision, only to become “re-discovered” and re-appreciated decades later and once again deemed “cool.”
The futuristic “Googie” architecture of the 1960s is one example. It is both loved and loathed, but its historical significance cannot be overlooked, especially as time passes and surviving examples of it become scarcer and more fondly familiar landmarks.
Many examples of Googie can be found throughout Los Angeles and Southern California in the form of homes, diners, motels, gas stations, and car washes, like the one pictured here in Santa Monica. The car wash, that essential feature of L.A. car culture, was especially prone to expressions of Googie style.
Googie originated in Southern California, where it was influenced by the emerging space age, jet travel and ever more reliance on the car in the American post-War era. The style is a modern architectural offshoot of Futurism and part of the American Mid-Century Modern style.
It’s quiz times once again, savvy readers! Look at these photos. Is this a Home Depot or an art museum?
If you said art museum, you are correct. The third photo in this post is the giveaway and the wall placard in the first photo is a clue that this is a gallery in an art museum.
But without that context, this could be a Home Depot or a Lowes or whichever American DIY home-improvement superstore chain you prefer.
These wooden objects are part of a series of sculptural works by the German artist Imi Knoebel titled “Vivit” and “Vivimus” and are part of the permanent collection of the Broad Museum of Art in Los Angeles.
This is brilliant. In this short promotional video for the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles, actor-comedians Will Ferrell and Joel McHale take a VIP tour of a conceptual-art exhibition at the museum with its curator. The exhibition is called “Stories of Almost Everyone.” Ferrell and McHale are funny as they’re introduced to various artworks, make comments, and ask questions. The larger gist of the video short is that contemporary — and especially conceptual art — and art museums can be approachable for everyone and are places to ask questions and start conversations about what you see, rather than feel intimidated or confused by the art.
Hey, you know JR, right? The French street artist who has become something of a worldwide phenom over the past decade?
Yes, that JR. The one who takes black-and-white photos of people, their faces, close-ups of their eyes and mouths, and then prints them up at massive, mega-blown-up scale and wheat-pastes them on the sides of entire buildings, on the roofs of houses and on the sides of trains.
Yes, that’s the JR we’re talking about.
Well, that JR is the subject of some local speculation with regards to a recent work of street art that appeared on fashionable Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice Beach. See pic above.
Or, rather, the speculation is about who put up this street art. It has all the makings of “a JR.” But is it? Is it some other artist? Is it a JR wannabe? A copycat?
And who is the subject of this artwork? Is it, as one commenter on our Instagram feed asked, a photo of octagenarian French filmmaker Agnes Varda? The face, the eyes and the haircut — especially the haircut — have all the makings of Varda.
These are questions we want answers to, savvy reader. And we have answers!
The art was put there by JR (or by his assistants / minions / 3rd-party contractor). The image is of Agnes Varda. It’s placement and timing are not an accident.
As some of you savvy readers may already well be aware, JR and Varda collaborated on a documentary film project called “Faces Places.” The film was a critical success and garnered a 2018 Academy Award nomination. The street artwork appeared around the time of the Awards ceremonies in March, which, of course, are held each year in Los Angeles. Varda herself was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy last year.
So there you have it.
We stumbled upon this commissioned mural by the Los Angeles-based artist who goes by the moniker “Bumble Bee Loves You” in the corporate office space for an anonymous entertainment/film production company near West Hollywood.
“Shaka” or “Shaka, brah!” Maybe you’ve heard this expression. Maybe you’ve uttered those words in earnest salutation or ironically. Maybe you’re a core surfer living on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, and these words are your go-to, standard form of salutation. You use it all time without even really thinking about it. (For example, when you stride into Ono’s in Haleiwa for a pork sandwich, you offer a shaka to staff at the counter.)
In any case, the word “shaka” and its utterance are but only part of the communications protocol here. Those words are said with an accompanying hand gesture that might be more familiar to many readers than the words.
The shaka hand gesture, sometimes referred to as the “hang loose” sign, is similar to the “devil horns” gesture associated with heavy metal music. But with the shaka, the pinky finger and thumb are extended outward from the palm while the index, middle and ring fingers are bent down into the palm.
With fingers configured as such, the hand is then raised or extended and often given a little back and forth wiggle or shake, a motion functioning like a wave of the hand, to emphasize and visibly highlight the message to its intended audience.
The gesture is one of positivity. It’s loved by most surfers but also loathed by some surfers, hence the use of the “ironic shaka.” The shaka is undeniably a part of surf culture and has its modern usage and cultural origins in the birthplace of surfing: Hawaii.
But culture and its symbols evolve. The shaka in the pic above is part of a two-page graphical spread in the zine Can’t Steal Our Vibe that show the gesture altered as a mash-up with the standard “f*ck you!” middle finger gesture.
In this new versions, the extended pinky of the shaka is pulled in, and the middle finger is extended. On first try, it’s not an easy gesture to make with natural fluidity, compared to the shaka.
But no matter. It’s what the gesture means that’s important here. And what does it mean? That’s the beauty of it: For now it’s subject to interpretation. And if the creators have a denotation for it, its esoteric.
We love that the “F-You-Shaka” hybrid brings together the insouciance, anger and insult of the middle finger with the friendly, laidback “everyone’s a bro” vibe of the trad surfer shaka. These are opposing sentiments and may confuse.
The mashup, we think, is more ironic and captures even more accurately the contemporary core of surf culture: Its rebel semiotics and its knowing cues and tribal codes.
Can’t Steal Our Vibe, BTW, is a zine published occasionally by Lone Wolfs (sic), a surf brand and shop and music studio in Venice, Los Angeles, that uses the new “F-You-Shaka” as a kind of logo on stickers. The title of the zine is taken from a graffiti-like, spray-painted message written on a panel that covered a door that had been shattered in an attempted burglary at Lone Wolfs in 2016. The shop has also spray painted the phrase as a tagline on the side of the store.
Can something be too Instagrammable? That is the question, savvy reader. Our initial thought is, “Yes, yes something can be. ‘Too Instagrammablity’ (TI) is a thing.”
But then, upon further consideration, doubt creeps in, and we wonder further, “What does ‘too Instagrammable’ even mean?” It’s a binary, yes-or-no issue in terms of whether anything is Instagrammable at all. It either is or isn’t. And really, anything is Instagrammable by virtue of anybody taking a picture of something and posting it to Instagram. Continue reading
These paintings by artist Ellen Gallagher speak to us in deep, immediate, profound ways. The black abstractions of these canvases are beguiling in their darkness and textures. They change hue and tone as the viewer inches closer to the artwork and the reflection of light off the surface of oil paint brightens and reveals previously unseen layers of shape and color. These are on view at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Los Angeles’s Arts District. Another one of her “black” paintings is on display as part of the permanent collection of the Broad Museum a few blocks away in Downtown Los Angeles. The artwork pictured here is titled “Kapsalon Wonder.”
You are looking at this photo and you’re thinking “WTF?” Maybe you’re even mouthing the letters as you think them, a just barely audible sound escaping between your lips.
Maybe you’re vocalizing the question with the actual words instead of the initialism: “What the F*ck?!?!” with an emphasis on the last word. (Assuming you’re at work, your co-workers are glancing towards you for a half-second after you utter this.)
All of these are proper, reasonable responses to the subject of the photo pictured here: A hairy, furry beach-cruisey bicycle parked at the bike rack at the popular Superba restaurant in Venice, Los Angeles.
This hirsute bicycle is either a large fashion accessory, a sartorial lifestyle statement piece extended to one’s transport and/or an art project. Perhaps there’s some functionality — the ride is somehow “softer” (?). Perhaps it’s all these things. In any case, it looks as if Chewbacca took the form of bike and sprayed Sun In all over his over-follicled body. Amaze.
The hyper-aesthetically single-minded and stylistically dialed-in guys who started Lone Wolfs (sic), a surf shop and brand in Los Angeles, are also musical creative types with bona fide pedigrees in music composition and production for big-brand advertising campaigns.
Behind their Venice surf shop, there’s a full-blown recording studio. It’s called Wolf at the Door. And it is sick, dope, boss, fire, Bible, lit AF, etc.
We recently got a private tour and chance to spend some quality time appreciating the studio spaces filled with musical instruments, mixing boards, gadgetry, gear and good lighting. We were enraptured in the presence of such a cool and fun space.
We won’t lie, savvy reader, we did indeed experience many emotions upon feasting our eyes on this studio.
One feeling welled up most strongly: Lust. We were wholly possessed by a powerful urge to just pick up guitars, turn on amps and start making sounds, leaning hard into indulgent audiofile ecstasy.
Just look at these pictures we posted here (below)! LOOK! Don’t these just make you want to start a band right now?!?!?
“I don’t play a musical instrument and I can’t sing,” you plead.
What? Are you kidding?!?! That’s no excuse. It doesn’t matter. Start that fucking band right now! Do it!
A few months ago we posted on the phenomena of shops and restaurants upgrading their space with the simple act of adding a surfboard as decorative object or artwork to that space. Many pix were included in the post as examples of this trend. This past weekend we discovered yet another example at a casual seafood restaurant in Newport Beach, California called Bear Flag (killer fish tacos, btw). There, mounted on the wall, is a beautiful, vintage single-fin longboard surfboard with the restaurant’s California-inspired Bear Flag logo laminated onto the bottom of the board.
There’s really no excuse for this. Unless it’s a college dormitory or your parents’ basement or the living room of a pro skater or the place of business for somebody connected to the skateboarding industry (and by extension the surf industry), skateboards as decorative wall art is no bueno, brah!
You see, savvy reader, once you’re past a certain age and a certain living circumstance (i.e., you’ve moved out of your college dorm room or parents’ basement into your own apartment or one-bedroom condo) your choice of decor and artwork should show that you’re adulting, and we mean adulting hard! Continue reading