Bring Your Flask

La Vie En Rose: Jazz Legends at Fahey/Klein Gallery

various_ex_legends_01-216x300Capturing the magic of the jazz age can’t have been too hard.  From Duke Ellington at the piano to Frank Sinatra on stage, cigarette firmly in hand, it’s easy to see the je ne sais quoi that was ubiquitous in the days of bow ties and soul singers.  To read articles about jazz legends, to listen to their music, and to see photographs of their personal moments, we can catch a glimpse of the spirit of the music; the pain and the passion that made the jazz age so spectacular.

Not that you’ve ever needed a new reason to fall in love with Frank Sinatra or Billie Holiday, but on view now at Fahey/Klein Gallery are two exhibits by legendary photographers who got a chance to capture musical icons from jazz greats like Miles Davis to rock stars like Mick Jagger.  In the big gallery space, you’ll find a plethora of black and white images that make you wish you’d worn your white gloves and perhaps a broach.  One image that stands out among the rest is the one above, of Frank Sinatra in silhouette on stage in a smoky room – the photo is large and the effect washes over you.

In the smaller room, find brightly colored, bold, and marshall_ex_trust_08-300x202fantastical images of Jimi Hendrix on his knees on stage, the Allman Brothers sitting with their equipment outside a venue, and a young Santana in his element.  The photos in this room look like stories in and of themselves; if they were taken during indifferent moments, they surely created stories after having been captured.  The represented jazz photographers are such household names as Herman Leonard, William Gottlieb, and William Claxton with rock and roll photographs hailing from the lens of Jim Marshall.

If you’ve ever wondered what getting someone under your skin Frank Sinatra - Classic Sinatra - His Great Performances, 1953-1960 - I've Got You Under My Skin or what Billie’s “Stormy Blues” actually looks like, this exhibit is for you.  Walking through the exhibit, you may spontaneously feel like you hear a saxophone playing faintly or Ella Fitzgerald’s sultry voice.  You may wish the room suddenly became darker or filled with smoke and whispered stories about the scene at Musso and Frank’s or the old Dominick’s.  Good thing this exhibit’s a little easier to get into.

“Legends of Jazz Photography” and Jim Marshall’s “Trust” are on view at Fahey/Klein Gallery now through May 15, 2010.  For more information, please call (323) 934-2250 or click here.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Exhibitions, Galleries, Hollywood, Jazz, Personalities, Photography No Comments »

SAVE + MISBEHAVE: CalArts Get Free!

Along with the mild spike in sunshine this past few weeks, some of you may have noticed another influx in your area: college students, running free, wild, and naked in the streets. Spring break! Five days of release from the shackles of schooldom. Freedom. Monday, though, brought the party to an end, and students across the city are settling back in and setting their eyes on the home stretch. For Art and Photography/Media Graduate students at CalArts, though, the “home stretch” means one thing: running free, wild, naked in the streets. That’s right, folks—it’s time for the CalArts MFA Open Studios.
On Sunday, April 11th, from 2:00 to 7:00pm, more than 60 artists studying at the California Institute for the Arts will open their studios to the public. Each artist will be present and light refreshments will be provided—a great opportunity to hobnob with some of the city’s most promising creative minds. Or to just get some free food and look at cool stuff. It’s free of charge, free of pretense, clothing optional. Freedom!

By Helen Kearns

Please visit the website for directions and artist information. Reservations not required.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Festival, Film, Food & Drink, Galleries, Installation, Mixed media, Neighborhoods, Painting, Performance, Personalities, Photography, Save + Misbehave, The Social Scene, Video Art No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Ian Bostridge at Royce Hall


The kind people at UCLA Live have offered, exclusively to Fine Arts LA readers thank you very much, a discount on tickets to see that tortured, irresistible Englishman we wrote about last night at Royce Hall!  The man: Ian Bostridge.  The performance: Schubert’s Winterreise. The time: tomorrow evening, 8pm.

Click here to go to the event page and make sure once you’ve chosen your tickets that you enter in the following secret password: WINTERREISE.  That will get you 25% off — just cause you’re so in-the-know. Enjoy the show!  (The offer only lasts for a limited time and can’t be combined with any other offers.)

Posted in Bring Your Flask, Classical Music, Extra! Extra!, Music, Personalities, Tickets, Voice, West LA No Comments »

Oscar’s Evil Twin Found Atop Runyon Canyon

A while ago, we posted an article asking what you, dear readers, thought about the distinction between art and vandalism.  Skating the line, with a very charged political message, is British street artist D*Face who has installed two enormous and menacing Oscar statues atop two iconic LA locations: Runyon Canyon and Mel’s Drive-In in Hollywood.  Both statues have skeleton-like figures with bits of flesh missing from their arms and legs exposing Oscar’s blood and bones.  The one that sat at Runyon had a placard that read “Beauty Is One Snip Away,” while the other at Mel’s Drive-In said “Beauty Is Skin Deep.” They’ve both been removed since they were spotted yesterday morning, but the whole incident begs a whole host of questions, not least of which is: really? Mel’s Drive-In? We get Runyon Canyon, but that’s a strange choice.

More importantly, what do you think of all this? The two most basic sides must be: applause to D*Face for exposing a vanity-obsessed culture at a time when it’s at its most self-congratulatory vs. how petulant of this artist to criticize a sector of popular culture that he need not participate in if he finds it so disheartening.

Posted in Architecture, Art, Bring Your Flask, High Brow, Hollywood, Installation, Low Brow, Personalities, The Social Scene No Comments »

Don Henley is a Visionary?

dirty_projectors-walt_disney_concert_hall15-608x404The last time the Dirty Projectors played in Los Angeles was on Halloween at the Jensen Recreation Center in Echo Park, where frontman David Longstreth wore a ten-gallon foam cowboy hat and his upside-down guitar with the confidence of a newly minted visionary. Fans of the Projectors’ odd, brilliant, shimmering music had been waiting for the band to play at Disney Hall since November, anticipating their breakout hit, 2009’s Bitte Orca, amplified by a lush string section.

But on Saturday night, Longstreth looked small and befuddled on the Disney Hall stage, fiddling with the tuning of his guitars for a half an hour during intermission. Longstreth is 28, with the refractory brain of a brilliant twelve-year-old with attention deficit disorder and the composing abilities of Mozart on mushrooms in Africa. After Saturday night, the audience learned his musical influences include Ligeti, Wagner, Ravel, and Don Henley.

Don Henley might seem like an odd choice. The program notes include an earnest letter Longstreth sent Henley in 2005, accompanying a free copy of The Getty Address, Longstreth’s 2005 opera about materialism, the homogenization of FM radio, and Sacagewea, or something like that. “I have included a copy of it here for you,” Longstreth wrote to Henley. “The album examines the question of what is wilderness in a world completely circumscribed by highways, once Manifest Destiny has no place to go- but in the end it is a love story.” Clearly, this makes sense to only one person: Longstreth himself.

The program was divided into three parts: the Philharmonic playing alone, the Projectors playing The Getty Address along with the ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and the Projectors playing alone. The program began with selections Longstreth hand-picked for the Philharmonic. Highlights included Ligeti’s Etude No. 13, played by gray-haired John Orge, who lingered on the piano keys after the last high notes for a long, indulgent silence, and Ravel’s beautifully orchestrated Mother Goose Suite. After a long intermission, the Projectors emerged, wearing color-coordinated hooded jackets, to play The Getty Address in its entirety. And here is where the problems began.

dirty_projectors-walt_disney_concert_hall32-608x404Truthfully, the opera is an indulgent college project from a very, very talented student, with glimpses of the Projectors’ current, much more successful musical incarnation nestled in like raisins studded into a very wobbly gray oatmeal. In the first song (er, movement), “I Sit on the Ridge at Dusk,” the beat kicked in, and the Projectorettes (Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle, and Angel Deradoorian) wailed “got a world of trouble on my mind,” in an indistinct language, moving very slightly from side to side, like shy sirens. But momentum was lost on the second song, and the album is so complex, the time signatures so twisted, it seemed that no amount of practice could have nailed it down. It didn’t help that Alarm Will Sound had some spotty synchronicity and tuning moments. The long, drifting passages on “But in the Headlights” and “Gilt Gold Scabs” sounded misguided and naked, as though a player were missing. Some members played on wine bottles, and a base flute was involved, as well as lots of gratuitous hand-clapping, which sounded messy at times, perhaps on purpose. Many in the audience began to get restless, but the ensemble soldiered on to no avail.

After the opera finally ended, the Projectors (minus their drummer) took the stage for three songs: a very slow cover of Dylan’sI Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” as well as their own “Temecula Sunrise” and “Cannibal Resource” from Bitte Orca. They sounded good, and Longstreth’s singing sounded much more comfortable, but the band would have sounded much better with a whole orchestra backing them up. None of the women got to sing lead on any song, though Angel Deradoorian singing “Two Doves” would have sounded lovely in this acoustic setting.

All in all, the event demonstrated what the Projectors are capable of musically. It also showed that some misguided musical experiments are better laid to rest, no matter how brilliant their 23-year-old composer may be. As the Eagles said, “And I don’t want to hear any more/ No, no, baby/ I don’t want to hear any more.” Here’s hoping the Projectors stick to Bitte Orca from now on.

By Cassandra McGrath of CWG Magazine

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles.  For more information on upcoming shows, please call (213) 972-7211, or visit

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Classical Music, Downtown, High Brow, Low Brow, Music, Neighborhoods, Opera, Performance, Personalities, The Social Scene, Voice No Comments »

An Education in Moving Pictures

The Academy Awards are upon us.  Like St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Oscar weekend takes over the city of Los Angeles in a joyous display of self-congratulations.  Don’t get me wrong, being from Los Angeles makes it actually required (I believe it’s legally binding) that I watch and enjoy all that the Oscars have to offer each year.  Going into the final stretch before the big show, I feel an annual commitment to seeing all, or most, of the nominated films so that when yelling at the TV, I will be doing so with educated qualms.  The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood seems to have similar obligations, which must be why they are setting all of us up this week with a number of programs to get us good and ready for Sunday evening’s broadcast.

Before taking a look at this week’s programs, let’s just be clear – there are ten films up for Best Picture this year.  See whichever ones you feel drawn to; ten is a lot.  If, for example, you feel like you’ve seen District 9 once you finish the trailer, save your $10 or go see The Hurt Locker again.  Don’t be hard on yourself if you haven’t seen them all, I’d bet that there really are only 5 contenders anyway.

Over at the Egyptian Theatre, though, your pre-Oscar education can get underway with Fridat evenings show of Oscar-Nominated Short Films – Animated and Live Action.  You’ll get a chance to see shorts like “The Lady and the Reaper,” “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” “French Roast,” “Instead of Abracadabra,” and my personal favorite “The New Tenants.”

Head back into Hollywood on Saturday morning at 10am (no whining, this is Oscar weekend – we’ve got to get you in shape!) for their Invisible Art, Visible Artists panel with the Oscar-Nominated editors of Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, and Precious.  Stop off for lunch somewhere nearby, but don’t stray too far.  The panel with Oscar-Nominated Art Directors begins at 2:30pm and will give you the chance to discuss your ideas for set design with those creative minds behind The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Avatar, Nine, Sherlock Holmes, and The Young Victoria.

You’re all set and squared away.  You should feel very capable of making some educated bets – not that we encourage gambling… much.  Here’s to the Oscars – LA’s version of a national holiday.  (Good luck making a reservation just about anywhere in town this week, too.)

Click here to check out the Egyptian Theatre’s full calendar of events.

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Don’t Call Them The Fashion Police…

Kimberly Brooks had a great idea recently.  The local, Venice-based painter decided to look into the art that plays a role in our everyday lives and the people holding the cards behind it.  She looked beyond museum shows, beyond advertisements, and into the world of fashion that is so often considered less of an art form and more of a necessity.  The men and women working behind the scenes to make our world a touch more glamorous are artists who recognize that the necessity of fashion can be one of the more creative enterprises in our lives and it can be one that makes (or doesn’t make) the right impression.

In her latest series of paintings, called “The Stylist Project”, Kimberly Brooks scoured the world of stylists, costume designers, and Creative Directors to delve deeper into the minds of who exactly is dressing our most photographed celebrities and our most watched characters in TV and film.  She painted Vogue’s Creative Director Grace Coddington and Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant in their most comfortable settings (albeit in their most fabulous clothes).  She painted Elizabeth Stewart, a stylist for the New York Times Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar, with a gorgeous and colorful palette and she captured the nervy and frazzled essence that is Rachel Zoe.

We got a chance to sit down with Brooks to discuss just what went into “The Stylist Project” and the upcoming show at Taylor de Cordoba gallery in Culver City.  We learned very quickly that stylist is a pretty loose term to us amateurs, but in the business, a stylist can be anyone who fashions a photo shoot (often-times called a Creative Director) to someone who styles a celebrity for a red carpet event.  Brooks’ colors and masterful way with a paintbrush allows us into this inner sanctum of fashion via the world of art – it’s almost as if we know them just by looking at these paintings.

Check out our video interview and go say hi to your new friends (the stylists, of course) at the opening reception at Taylor de Cordoba gallery on Saturday evening (February 27).  The show runs through April 3, 2010.  For more information, please click here or call (310) 559-9156.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Culver City, Exhibitions, Fashion, Galleries, Painting, Personalities, The Social Scene No Comments »

Robo-Fusion: Artificial Intelligence Takes the Stage at SCREAM Fest

KarmetikI may be living in the “age of technology” here in 2010, with the smart phones and the talking GPS devices and the iTunes auto-DJ always at my disposal.  We’ve all become pretty accustomed to—and spoiled by—this kind of “smart” technology that’s taking over at such a rapid rate. But, to this day, when I hear “robot technology” or “artificial intelligence,” I still think of Rosie—the sweet, lovable, wheel-legged house-bot from The Jetsons. And that’s just what I was expecting when I attended the SCREAM Festival at the REDCAT this Wednesday night, where the KarmetiK Machine Orchestra performed a unique symposium of electronic North Indian music.

The Karmetik Music Orchestra is the creation of music director Ajay Kapur, production director Michael Darling, and a whole team of musicians and designers both within and without the CalArts sphere. Ajay Kapur is the Director of Music Technology at CalArts and the creator of KarmetiK, a body of artists and engineers working to redraw the line between music and technology. KarmetiK uses artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction technologies to create new digital works of art. This is more than just reinventing the sitar, though. This is a whole new man behind the sitar. I’m talking about robots, here. The researchers and engineers at KarmetiK have pushed the technological barrier so far as to create custom-built robotic instruments that can improvise with a human musician, fusing musical tradition and modern engineering.

Neat! But are these robot-musicians self-aware? Maybe not, but this was nothing like what I expected. At Wednesday night’s performance, five robots shared the stage with a dozen or so musicians. Two strange looking drum sets hovered on each side of the stage, roughly seven feet from the ground, with drums, bells, cymbals, gongs, strings, and shakers splaying from the center. A rain stick spun slowly on an automated pinwheel at stage left. There was a gamelan-bot, like the Reyong used in the Balinese tradition, with upside-down metal pots suspended on a wooden frame. Tammy, a master-bot of sorts, stood high in the center. Tammy was designed by the well-known instrument sculptor Trimpin, Michael Darling, and Ajay Kapur, and built by students in the Robotic Design class at CalArts. Made up of a marimba, a self-plucking drone device, and five bells—all recycled objects found in the electronics junkyard—Tammy stands 14 feet tall and is certainly nothing like my dearly-beloved Rosie.

The program consisted of music in the North Indian style, beginning with a sparse call-and-response piece, Digital Sankirna, demonstrating the performer-robot interaction, in which the robots seemed to learn and play more as the piece progressed. Amazing was the robot’s sense of restraint—it seemed to intuitively know just when to release. Accompanied by Ajay Kapur’s ESitar and Curtis Bahn’s most beautiful EDilruba, it made for an arrestingly haunting opening. A second highlight was the appearance of the Ustad Aashish Kahn, considered one of the greatest living sarodists in the world, for a performance of the an Indian raga Shivranjani. Finally, the dance of the dalem, in the Balinese masked-dance tradition, concluded the program, complete with five gamelan players, the Reyong Bot, and the dancing white-masked king.

So maybe we haven’t yet advanced artificial intelligence to the point where robots are self-actualizing, but after watching KarmetiK, I feel that we are frighteningly close. This is more than a simple case of deus ex machina. Music is one of mankind’s most primitive forms of communication, fastening us together on the most gut level. The technology powerful enough to create a robot that can tap into the human psyche on that basic plane may be the great equalizer between man and machine, and that is a loaded possibility. Rosie is with us, certainly more than we might have known.

- By Helen Kearns

To see the full calendar of upcoming shows at REDCAT, please click here.

Posted in Bring Your Flask, Downtown, Music, Technology, World Music No Comments »

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To The Forum…

Like many students upon graduating from college, I had big aspirations and dreams. In my particular case, my goal was to become an actress, and I was so certain that my name in bright lights was just around the corner. I was the stereotype of the young wide-eyed ingénue. Instead, I found myself sitting in corners of destitute rooms, amongst other actors, waiting to hear my name called for an audition, while clutching a copy of Backstage; the actor’s go-to guide for auditions. How I detested waiting hours upon hours, receiving competitive glares from other actors, only to find out that the part would go to one of my opponents! The worst was when the audition lines would form outside, in hypothermic weather. The holdup of the lines would sometimes be for 10 hours before I could get inside. By the time it was my turn, my lips were too numb to correctly speak my lines and I sounded like an extraterrestrial, which was not very helpful in acquiring a role. Every so often I would land an audition by appointment, where I did not have to wait with the rest of the acting cattle. Occasionally, I would even get a role; small parts in independent films and off-off Broadway plays.

My roles have ranged from a male truck driver, an injured tennis player and a nervous cashier about to get shot in the head, to a catty schoolgirl, a dominatrix, and a young homeless woman. The latter was a great challenge, especially due to my germophobia. When I was given my costume, which consisted of damp sweatpants with suspicious stains, and a smelly sweater with holes, I asked the wardrobe stylist where she found such convincing attire. “I don’t reveal my sources,” she replied. “Great, I’m wearing a dead man’s clothes,” I thought to myself. I wore a unitard underneath, so that my skin would not be contaminated by whatever filthy microorganisms inhabited the “costume.” The makeup artist placed dirt all over my face and hands, and I was asked to wear a grimy hat, at which point I was ready to faint. I wasn’t going to risk catching lice by wearing the suggested headcovering unworthy of its proper name, so I successfully convinced the director that it would be more fitting to the character if I simply messed up my hair and did not wear a hat.

When the time came to shoot my scene, I was given a cardboard box to sit in, which I’m sure was somebody’s stolen home—at least it smelled like it. I held my breath until the director would shout “Rolling!” and in between takes I would leap out of the box. At one point, I was asked to wait while the crew changed the shot, and a passerby threw some coins in my cup. That was the last straw, and at that very moment I decided that I needed to switch roles in life. After the shoot was over, I changed back into my clean clothes and took a cab to a spa uptown for an emergency sterilization, (also known in women’s circles as a mani-pedi), during which I pondered what I was going to do with myself. I’ve always loved to tell stories, primarily funny ones; why not give stand-up comedy a whirl?

My eureka moment had arrived as the manicurist applied a color named “Fed-Up.” The next night I went to Caroline’s On Broadway to watch Susie Essman’s comedy performance. I was so thrilled by the energy in the room, and knew that this was definitely the new path I would take. After the show, I stayed up until wee hours of the morning, jotting down whatever I thought was funny. I began to take a notebook with me everywhere I went, writing down any comical moments I witnessed; I felt like a comedy detective.

Once I had gathered enough material, I called the talent coordinator at Caroline’s to ask if they ever showcased new talent. “It depends, are you funny?” the talent coordinator asked. “That’s what I’ve been told” I responded. “Do you have a tape or a DVD so I can see your material?” I hadn’t thought of that. “No, sorry, not at the moment.” I was asked to go to Caroline’s for an audition instead. The very word “audition” sent a shiver down my spine, reminding me of the agonizing hours spent waiting to enter rooms with discriminating casting directors and their highly arched brows.

I arrived at the club, where Andy, the talent coordinator met me. “Alright kiddo, let’s see what you’ve got.” It was like a scene from a movie, except it was so much better than a movie; there was no waiting around on a set for infinite instants. I was given a few notes and the ultimate seal of approval: a performance date. I exited the club already feeling like a comedian. For my first show, I had beginner’s luck, a roaring audience and resounding applause. I was told by a comedian backstage not to get used to such a feeling because with comedy, it’s hit or miss, and sometimes beyond your control. I quickly learned that the comedy world is very democratic and upfront; you have ten seconds to win over your audience, and if they’re not laughing from the get-go, chances are you’ve lost them.

Unlike the acting world, in comedy you are representing yourself and not a part; which is terrifying but equally as exciting. I love to have control over my material, and I love to represent myself as a character, rather than playing odd and random parts that are not befitting of me. The anticipation before a show, especially the final moments backstage with other comedians, gives me the greatest adrenaline rush. Before my turn to take the microphone, Andy often says: “Kill ’em kiddo!” and being on stage, confronted by an audience, without a fourth wall, feels exactly like a duel, where my only shot at survival is to knock them dead with my humor. There are times when I fall victim to the audience, but when I return backstage, I often get a pep talk from other comedians who have dominated and surrendered to audiences for many more years than I have.

I receive a huge sense of fulfillment when I thrive at making people laugh, and one of the most gratifying aspects of stand-up comedy is to be able to tell my stories, in my personal style and to discover that even when the going gets tough, there is a glimmering group of aficionados who look forward to my turn in the comedy arena.

- By Flavia Masson

Flavia Masson is a writer, comedienne and TV personality based in New York City.

She has performed in clubs such as Caroline’s On Broadway, Gotham Comedy Club and  Comix New York.

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A Decaying Art Form

The job of a film archivist is a relatively new one.  It sounds silly.  (If my friend Pete has a massive DVD collection, is he suddenly considered an archivist?)  But what a lot of people don’t know is that film is a kind of living organism.  It decays quite rapidly over time.  And as depicted so graphically in the latest Tarantino venture, Inglorious Basterds, most of the movies made in the silent-era were shot on an ultra-flammable cellulose nitrate film base.  Due to this highly unstable stock, as well as the recklessness of early studio storage, a great many of the films made in America before 1920 are either lost, or have turned to dust.  In fact, no type of truly durable film base was even introduced into the movie-making landscape until the early 1990’s with the popularization of polyester.

Enter the heroic film archivist, whose job it is to preserve the ever-growing, ever-decaying amount of film stock from the grips of its natural demise.  Mark Toscano of the Academy Film Archive is one of these heroes, who most recently co-curated the REDCAT screening of Now You Can Do Anything: The Films of Chris Langdon.  This series of fourteen short, experimental films were all made within the period of two years, from 1973 to 1975, and would have easily been lost were it not for the efforts of people like Mark Toscano and fellow filmmaker/Angeleno, Thom Andersen.

Yet Langdon’s shorts, interestingly enough, seemed to work in spite of preservation.  The magic was in her apparent disregard for such preciousness.  Her film “Bondage Boy,” for instance, featured 16mm shots of a guy in a basement dressed in a woman’s slip and bound with ropes in various positions, all to the soundtrack of an uppity 1950’s swing tune.  “Picasso,” another one of Langdon’s works, was, in her words, “the first post-mortem documentary” of the famous painter, fully completed in four hours for a little under $5.

Langdon, who was present at the screening, addressed the audience afterwards.  And it was clear that her main motivation behind the 83 minutes of film we had all just sat through was simply to film something.  One piece was a joke, another was a bet, and one was just to get over the plain fear of wasting money through a camera.  In a sense, she was fueling the need for future experimental film archivists like Mark Toscano.  Because without artists with the courage to waste film, why would you need someone to preserve what’s special about it?

The Redcat is located Downtown at the Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater in the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  For information about upcoming screenings and performances, please visit, or call (213) 237-2800.

Posted in Bring Your Flask, Downtown, Film, High Brow, Low Brow, Museums, Old School, Personalities, Video Art No Comments »