Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Los Angeles: Take a local art break

James Franco at Art Platform LA

This holiday season find time to explore art in your neighborhood, as local support is what keeps the visual and performing arts viable.   
Galleries: Although numerous art galleries have closed or moved in Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Echo Park—Thinkspace to Culver City for one—many of those that still dot the neighborhood follow a hybrid model of artspace plus commerce. Give them some love this holiday season and give yourself a visual treat.

Sancho in Echo Park at 1549 W. Sunset Blvd.
Two new storefront galleries opened this year. Weekend (at 4634 Hollywood Blvd.) is an artist run gallery. Look for Jay Erker’s multi-media collages at photographs at This is So Much Better, which opens Dec. 2. Sancho, at 1549 W. Sunset in Echo Park, showcases new artists inside and new bands outside at its small backyard performance space.

Celebrating 25 years, a visit to Wacko's La Luz de Jesus Galley in Los Feliz is a step into the wild and imaginative work of talented illustrators, comic book artists and animators and well-known artists such as Shag and Gary Baseman.  Selected by owner/curator Billy Shire, there’s always a twist to every exhibition.
Subliminal Projects in Echo Park had a thrilling year of exhibits from Art, Access & Decay: NY 1975-1985 revisiting the highly original 1980s downtown New York art scene to the current show of painter and collagist Billy Al Bengston’s latest work (through Dec. 11).

Alias Books in Atwater features a single artwork show

Bloom at M&A on Silver Lake Blvd. 

Materials & Applications (M&A): Since 2002, a Silver Lake Boulevard courtyard has been home to an art lab of inspiring architectural and sculptural installations. Bloom is M&A’s current installation—a 20-foot tall metal flower with solar petals that open and close in response to the sun’s heat. 

Stop by and watch the sculpture bloom.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Museums Link Up for Pacific Standard Time: Art in Los Angeles 1945-1980

Charles & Ray Eames @ LACMA

 [Excerpted from November 2011's Los Feliz Ledger]

A grand retrospective of post-war art to the 1980s—that also encompasses architecture, design, street and performance art and more—the Getty Foundation-sponsored Pacific Standard Time is well underway with dozens of exhibitions across town. As mixed media snapshots of an era, the exhibitions reflect differing emotions from sunny post-war optimism to the disaffection of the late 1970s punk rock era.
Take home a souvenir Barbie

At LACMA, California Design, 1930-1965: “Living in a Modern Way,” is a must see for fans and fanciers of mid-century modern design. The casual California way of life, where the gentle climate led to letting the outdoors in, impacted design and material culture.

There are some key contributions from Silver Lake residents such as furniture from both Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. “Silver Lake was an incubator of ideas,” advises Bobbye Tigerman, the museum’s assistant curator of Decorative Arts and Design.

Interesting Silver Lake-made pieces include a prototype for a  “Camel” desk (so-called because legs could be altered) from the Neutra-designed VDL house and rarely seen Rudolph Schindler furniture, crafted for the un-built Shep house. So many works on display are very familiar, from the first-ever Barbie and Ken dolls to Heath Ceramic tableware to Eames chairs, demonstrating the lasting power of good design.

The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA hosts "Under the Big Black Sun" (named after an “X” album) that surveys California art from 1974-1981. Dark is the only way to describe the mood of the show, as the art explored reflects the tumult of the 1970s and the questioning of sexual identity and gender roles colored by disturbing geo-political events. Large screens click through historic snapshots—slideshows of chaos. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s assassination, the fall of Saigon, the Jonestown mass suicides are backdrop to work by Mike Kelly, Ed Ruscha and Robert Arneson’s famed but long-hidden ceramic portrait of San Francisco mayor George Moscone.

Archival pieces are added in for context including President Richard Nixon’s letter of resignation. In a far corner, a video loop from San Francisco’s Target Video showcases seminal punk bands of the era and artist Raymond Pettibon’s flyers for Black Flag form a colorful collage. [Extremely amusing to those who may have lived through that era.]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Happy camping: Ultra Light campers on Silver Lake Blvd.

Ultra Light campers

* Upadated 1/7/12: Daily Candy profiles Happier Camper too.

Driving along Silver Lake Blvd. you may notice two colorful campers parked in the auto repair shop that belong to Happier Camper's Derek Michael.  Available to rent or to buy (the orange one only) the fiberglass campers are made to be towed by a car (both weigh less than 1200 pounds).  Interiors are compact but the windows and solar-powered fan keep them airy.  Derek is super-enthusiastic about his travel trailers that he restored--he's driven them to Yosemite, Big Bear and to beach BBQs.  You can too!

Colorful Ultra Light campers

Derek shows off the solar-powered interior.
More information at

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Social smarts: Spacecraft’s nightlife designs

Back patio at Mohawk Bend
If you've been out in Hollywood in the last couple of years, then you’ve probably been inside a building remade by Spacecraft.  Founded by Kristofer Keith, the design/build firm is responsible for Hollywood spots like The Bowery, Kitchen 24, Stout and Boho, which recently moved to the third floor of Hollywood & Highland.
Excerpted from the September Los Feliz Ledger:
In August, Keith’s latest and most ambitious project opened: the 10,000 square foot Mohawk Bend in Echo Park. Owned by Los Feliz’s Tony Yanow and his wife Amy, the already wildly popular gastro pub features a crowd-pleasing menu with savory vegan and vegetarian specialties, and a changing selection of artisan cocktails from California spirits, craft beer--72 kinds--and wine on tap.

I beams frame Mohawk Bends' interior

Mohawk Bend now occupies a 100-year old brick building that once was the Estudio Theater—longtime locals may recall how it sat empty and decaying for 26 years. To use the building and meet current building codes, Keith essentially built a building within the vast space.  The exposed steel I beams framing the interior are not only a design element but meet a structural requirement.

Vintage beer signs at Mohawk Bend

Although there are retro touches, Yanow’s personal collection of vintage beer signs for instance, Keith purposefully avoided a fake nostalgic look. “I didn’t want something too slick either,” he explains. “So I went for something down the middle, an industrial but stylized direction,” he notes.  Custom built seating is made from plywood (also exposed); upholstery has a mid-century orange hue. The floors are concrete and the kitchen is open to view from the long polished concrete bar cast on site.

Dividing the back third of the vast room from the main bar and dining area is a 20’ high mosaic glass wall. The patterned glass wall also defines Mohawk Bend’s interior patio, lit by skylights and a concrete fireplace. The room’s exposed brick walls help create an urban, citified vibe. As Keith explains, he wanted the space to recall restaurants he’s visited in New York and Toronto that have taken over and enclosed a back alley.

Naya will emerge from Tantra space

Among Keith’s other commissions is an ongoing transformation of Tantra restaurant, also on Sunset Boulevard.  To be renamed Naya,  Keith is reconfiguring the Indian restaurant, creating an all white dining room and an adjacent lounge in regal colors. There will also be a back patio for dining.  As with all his projects, he stays away from theme-y type designs or a signature personal style that doesn’t necessarily translate to every assignment.  “I like to create a sense of place,” he confirms.

Mohawk Bend
2141 W. Sunset Blvd.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Miranda July writes and directs "The Future"

Miranda July's "The Future"/Courtesy of Roadside Attractions
Excerpted from the Los Feliz Ledger:

Opening today (August 5, 2011) at the ArcLight, Hollywood.
All romantic relationships evolve. When there’s a crisis, there’s also drama. Performance artist, author, blogger, screenwriter and director Miranda July’s second film "The Future" investigates one of those pivotal moments couple’s face: when the future seems pre-destined and mapped out. Her approach, mixing abstract and literal, with sci-fi elements and a very engaging talking cat that narrates throughout, results in an original film that’s hard to summarize but emotionally true.

Although some of the film’s pivotal scenes were filmed just south of Sunset on Parkman Avenue, July does not try to make the Silver Lake location or the city a character in the film. Rather, "The Future" stays internalized and focused on character. “I’m never a huge place person,” she said. “I can barely find my way around and I’ve been here for seven years,” said July, who lives in Silver Lake. She finds it telling that when the film’s location changes to Tarzana, “it could seem like another planet.  And that’s so L.A., and is so different.”

Inspiration for the film came from a sudden break-up and the utter devastation of being broken up with.  The desire to stop time was a feeling that July wanted to address. “While nothing in the movie is literally true, I was trying to capture the anxiety of those new feelings and the finiteness of time,” she said.

Perhaps the most fantastical element to the film is a talking cat named Paw Paw, whose predicament weaves the film together. Paw Paw is quite the memorable feline. Protected by her own enthusiasm, July felt pretty bold about her talking cat. “You can’t hide it or downplay it,” she surmises. “And now we have the cat in the trailer.”

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tim Burton at LACMA

Tim Burton's site specific animated sculpture for LACMA

Edward Scissorhands costume by Colleen Atwood: magnificent in its details

Balloon Boy by Tim Burton at LACMA

Film fans, this one is for you. Tim Burton at LACMA is a not to be missed exhibition of 700 works (models, drawings, costumes and more) from film director Tim Burton.  Extraordinarily creative, Burton is one of the few directors who has maintained his singular visual style throughout his many films. Among the highlights are: Johnny Depp’s costume for Edward Scissorhands (which showcases the talents of costume designer Colleen Atwood), models from The Nightmare Before Christmas and storyboards for Burton’s upcoming film Frankenweenie. Now through Oct. 31st

Friday, July 8, 2011

Art walking in Culver City

Pagoda by Zhang Huan at Blum & Poe

From the Los Feliz Ledger:

Culver City’s annual art walk (held in June this year) was a revelation. Not only was there a vibrant street scene and eclectic galleries, the art was inspiring. Thinkspace Gallery, which moved from Sunset Junction, is now there too and thriving in what has become L.A.’s contemporary art Mecca. On La Cienega’s Gallery Row you’ll find the city’s most renowned and impressive contemporary art space: Blum & Poe. Chinese artist Zhang Huan’s 49 Days exhibit (now through July 9th) features monumental gray brick sculptures throughout the museum-sized gallery. His work Pagoda, which recalls a stylized Buddhist stupa, is a massive piece and centers around a taxidermied pig and occasionally emits smoke.

LeBasse Projects is presenting street artist Shark Toof’s first solo show: a series of dense and layered paintings that mix graffiti and animal portraiture. If you can’t make the trek to Culver City, the gallery recently opened an annex on Chun King Road in Chinatown.

LeBasse Projects Chinatown L.A. gallery

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gardens at the Huntington: a brief photo interlude

Japanese garden at the Huntington

Chinese garden at the Huntington

Saturday, May 28, 2011

MOCA's Art in the Street rules


Excerpted from the June Los Feliz Ledger: 

Street art fans: this show is for you.  From graffiti art’s origins to contemporary works by Shepard Fairey and Banksy and dozens of other artists, MOCA’s sprawling Art in the Streets appropriately spills outside the Geffen’s front door and even covers the museum’s wall facing Temple Street. Colorful, vibrant and loud—there are a guitar, drums and a wall of amps that can be played in one gallery—the exhibition is the first to organize these oftentimes outlaw artists’ works into a crowded, somewhat garish and very fun show.

The show is loosely laid out chronologically; there’s some historical information and a photo retrospective of New York’s subway cars covered in graffiti. New York’s Fun Gallery is reconstructed; a Jean-Michel Basquiat hangs in the window. The on-site MOCA store has been imaginatively re-decorated by Subliminal Projects’ Shepard Fairey. Unlike most major exhibitions, this one allows photography. So bring your camera. If you’re not a street art fan, this show may change your mind.

Art in the Streets now through August 8th, 2011 at the Geffen Contemporary.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

David Edward Byrd: Creator of iconic pop culture images

Silver Lake artist David Edward Byrd and his iconic Godspell poster art
Excerpt from May 2011 Los Feliz Ledger:

Jimi Hendrix. Woodstock. The Fillmore East. The Who’s Tommy. Do you associate certain images with these rock-n-roll legends?  Illustrator David Edward Byrd is the man behind some of the most iconic album covers and poster art of the late 1960s and 1970s rock era.

A graduate of Carnegie Tech., Byrd got his start serendipitously: his friend worked for promoter Bill Graham who needed some posters made quickly for an upcoming show. And the rest is rock-n-roll history, as Byrd went on to design Jimi Hendrix’s poster art for his headlining show a the Fillmore East in 1968, posters for the Grateful Dead and the Grammy-award wining album cover art for The Who’s Tommy.

For the past 15 years, Byrd has lived in Silver Lake along with partner and mosaic artist Jolino Beserra. Their 1928 bungalow is a colorful pastiche of inlaid mosaics and hand-painted furniture. Stepping inside the house is like walking into a three-dimensional sculpture as mosaics cover many surfaces. “To me it’s important; art is your life, what you touch and see every day,” said Byrd. Also gracing the wall is Byrd’s original line drawing for the classic program cover art for the 1971 Broadway musical Godspell that depicts Jesus with cascading, intertwined locks.“I never felt I had a style, but everyone thinks I do,” said Byrd of his prolific career. “I let the job tell me how to do it.”
His other distinctive art deco-tinged images are found on posters and playbill cover art for original Broadway productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Stephen Sondheim’s Follies and the poster art for the film Day of the Locust.

Byrd continues illustrating today and his once throwaway rock posters are highly collectible. Beginning June 11th, Glendale’s Brand Art Library Galleries will host a 40-year retrospective of Byrd’s work aptly entitled: The Byrd Show: 40 Years of Art & Design.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Silver Lake meadow opens

Official opening of Silver Lake Meadow  4/2/11

I went to my first community meeting about the Silver Lake Meadow in 1999. It seemed rather far-fetched at the time that one day there would be walking paths and the long-closed open space--home to coyotes-- would open to people.  Happy to be there on Saturday to see the day finally come. Council member Eric Garcetti gave a special shout-out to the tireless efforts of the Committee to Save Silver Lake Reservoirs, now renamed the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy.
Think Georges Seraut: the meadow is dotted with people immediately.
Still to come is the completion of the walking path on Tesla Ave. Locals have already weighed in on the meadow. It's a hit. Sunday saw bocce ball and croquet players, loads of families and posts that the park might stay poop free.
Silver Lake Meadow rules: no dogs, bikes or vending. 

The far side of the meadow, closest to the reservoir, is indeed a quiet place.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Neutra Architectural Practice @ 85 to be celebrated in Eagle Rock and Silver Lake

2440 Neutra Place. Photo by Don Higgins courtesy of Dion Neutra.

Lovell Health House, Los Feliz
Upcoming on April 10, 2011 is a rare chance to tour 10 buildings designed by architect Richard Neutra and his son Dion Netura in Los Angeles, including homes in Silver Lake along Neutra Place.  Los Feliz's Lovell Health House (a memorable location in "LA Confidential") will also be open to the public as well as the Neutra Architecture office on Glendale Blvd. The tour is one element of a busy weekend commemorating the 85th anniversary of the practice organized by the non-profit Neutra Institute for Survival Through Design.  Activities on Friday night and Saturday will be at the Eagle Rock Recreation Center Clubhouse, also designed by the firm.

Richard Neutra's VDL Research House II, Silver Lake
Saturday night there will be a reception at the VDL Research House II, which is now owned by the Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design. The last time there was a public tour of many of these homes was in 2001.  Don't miss out on this chance to look inside these iconic modernist structures that helped establish Silver Lake's reputation as an architectural enclave.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Retro Banksy in honor of Oscar week: Banksy's 2006 Downtown L.A. show

Welcome to Banksy's September 2006 downtown L.A. show  

Yes, there was a painted elephant in the room. I was one of thousands who toured British street artist Banksy's warehouse show in September 2006. Follows are some samples from that exhibition in honor of the still anonymous artist who is painting the town this week in Los Angeles, in one of the most chronicled Oscar week publicity stunts of all time. The elusive auteur is nominated for directing the documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop." 

Poster for Banksy's documentary "Exit through the Gift Shop" from Fairfax Ave.

Whoever he is, he's definitely having some fun and has a wicked sense of humor. Banksy's website chronicles his official works. Good luck at the Academy Awards. Bravo!

Love the Banksy shop.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Previewing 2011 Palm Springs Modernism Week

A home by E. Stewart Williams in Palm Springs, Calif.
Excerpted from the Los Feliz Ledger:

The crisp, clean lines of modernist homes look fine in Los Angeles but out in Palm Springs’ brilliant sunshine, they gleam and appear of-the-moment. Attributes such as post-and-beam construction, walls of glass that bring the sagebrush closer and the requisite shimmering swimming pool are highlighted in the desert climate. For those that are fans of the style, Palm Springs Modernism Week (February 17-27) is an increasingly popular salute to the genre and its esteemed architects like Richard Neutra, Albert Frey and William Krisel.

More than 16,000 attended the fan fest for all things mid-century in 2010 and this year organizers expect to welcome even more to the 10-day event. Activities range from a Modernism (design) show with 80 dealers, daily architectural tours via double-decker bus, several exclusive home tours, a design-related film series (including Doug Pray’s documentary Art & Copy), a vintage travel trailer show and a retro-styled martini party and fundraiser for the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation.

Jacques-Pierre Caussin, board chairman of Modernism Week, notes the show draws participants from across the U.S. as well as Australia, France and Japan—all interested in the architectural and design style that defined the post-war era. Home tours this year provide a rare glimpse inside some pristine examples such as the E. Stewart Williams-designed Edris House perched on a promontory in the Little Tuscany Estates or his estate for Frank Sinatra with its iconic piano-shaped swimming pool.

E. Stewart Williams-designed Edris House, Palm Springs
Although numerous buildings of the era have been torn down—most famously Richard Neutra’s Maslon House in nearby Rancho Mirage—many have been energetically restored. For those seeking a revived mid-century experience, check out the King’s Highway diner (once a Denny’s) at the Ace Hotel.  Built by the firm of Armet & Davis, which also built Silver Lake’s 1958 Googie-styled, Astro Family restaurant, the flagstone walls have been sandblasted clean, the original terrazzo floor revealed and the booths restored in dark leather all under a dramatic vaulted roof.

Googie architecture restored: King's Highway at the Ace Hotel
If you can’t make it out to Palm Springs for Modernism Week, get a modernist fix locally via annual home tours conducted by the CSSLR.  Upcoming: Dion Neutra is planning a Richard Neutra site tour for April 10.  Or check out Silver Lake News and graphic artist Nate Schulman’s online map that carefully cites more than 230 modernist and modern homes in the area.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Explore Los Angeles via hidden staircases and urban hikes

Silver Lake Reservoir

From the Los Feliz Ledger:

Thanks to the path around the Silver Lake Reservoir, it is so much easier to “walk the lake.” The opening of the meadow will soon add a scenic loop that will open up views of Silver Lake’s hills.  When some out-of-town visitors recently asked for a Silver Lake walking tour, I gave them the fifty-cent tour—an easy amble along the west Silver Lake Boulevard side of the reservoir path and a detour to Neutra Place, with a quick look at the Cove Avenue stairs, and a short break and cup of chai at LA Mill.

Silver Lake resident and writer Charles Fleming has formalized those kinds of tours, adding much historic information via his recently published book Secret Staircases: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles. A detailed guide to 42 walks from Pasadena to Santa Monica, more than half the guidebook looks at stairs and points of interest in Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Hollywood and Echo Park. Most of these public staircases were built in the late 1920s to connect residents in hillside neighborhoods to streetcar lines. Fleming also leads hikes once a month. The next scheduled walk is February 6, 2011. Sign up for the email alert.

“People who come on the walks are doing a lot of things,” Fleming said. “They are into exercise, they want to explore their city and are fascinated by architecture and history,” he said. Each of his tours starts at a cafĂ© or restaurant and is typically an hour-and-a-half loop; the number of staircases involved determines the hike’s difficulty. “People are touched to find out about these public pathways that harken back to another time,” Fleming said.

The Los Angeles Conservancy conducts eight guided walking tours each month principally of downtown’s historic core and one in nearby Angelino Heights. Open to the public, reservations are suggested.
Bradbury building interior, downtown Los Angeles

I have my own downtown historic walk I give visitors beginning with breakfast at the Nickel Diner, then traversing the Old Bank District to the Bradbury Building, a walk-through the Grand Central Market then a ride on Angel’s Flight railway up to the California Plaza with a look at MOCA and the Walt Disney Hall.
Walking the L.A. River, Red Car River Park, Atwater

Walking path along the L.A. River, Atwater
Also worth exploring: the Atwater side of the Los Angeles River where a paved path extends both north and south of Los Feliz Boulevard. Close to Los Feliz Boulevard, plaques suggest yoga poses to try while stopped in one of several pocket parks planted with native sycamores. And for those needing more inspiration, writer Eric Hiss has put together dozens of urban hikes in his book: City Walks Los Angeles: 50 Adventures on Foot.