Food & Drink

A Form of Currency: UCLA Graduate Open Studios

dscn1970-e1276139717586It’s all too easy—especially in a city permeated by the entertainment industry and material gain in general—to forget that there are still many artists out there committing their lives to their craft without the slightest hope of a monetary reward, and that there are a vast amount of studios in operation that have absolutely nothing to do with film or television. In fact, at the UCLA Graduate Open Studios in Culver City this past Saturday, I found that there were at least 30 dedicated artists at work who were not only putting their pieces up without price tags, they were most likely taking out student loans to do it.

This is not to say these young practitioners were exercising pure artistic selflessness; the hope, I gathered, as I traversed through the maze of sectioned-off galleries amidst packs of the hippest and most attractive art crowd I’ve seen in some time, was that people would notice the stand-out work, that they would pay attention (as opposed to money).

And attention can be a form of currency in itself. My colleague Helen, who I attended the event with discovered this fact in the most literal sense. We were vocally admiring the work of Max Rain (a stand-out artist, for sure)—in particular, a photograph of his that shows a piled arrangement of 20 or more dead and deformed rodents he collected as an employee of an animal shelter, the result of which amounts to a kind of macabre yet beautiful collage—when Max himself approached in the most amiable, non-egotistical manner possible in that situation. Helen told Max that if she had money, she would put the piece above her bed, to which he replied, “Really? If you promise to put it above your bed, I’ll give you a print for free.” He wasn’t lying. The mere idea of someone posting his work in their bedroom was, to him, compensation in itself.

I did, however, get a hint from another one of the artists, Sarah Dougherty—an incredibly talented painter who pieces together large LA-set landscapes with found objects, tapestry, and other pop-up book-esque features—as to who the real target audience might be. “We had our professor critiques this week,” she sighed in exasperation to me, going on to explain how most of the reviews were positive, but one in particular had her completely devastated.

Being in the “real world,” or at least the world outside of collegiate critique, it may seem difficult to relate to Sarah’s (or even Max’s) point of view. Who cares what a professor thinks? They’re not making any money either. But when you think about it, our art world—at least the part of it I’m interested in—is not so different from that Culver City rat maze I danced around on Saturday night, snatching up complimentary cheese and wine where I could find it. All artists, for the most part, are not looking to feed their wallets or even their ego. That’s not why they spend hours upon hours, day after day, inside tiny white rooms, experimenting with pigments or tweaking the electrical feeds on video installations. Why do they do it then? The truth is I don’t know. I’m tempted to say sex, but it probably has more to do with communication, putting something out there that’s you, says you—and how can something not be you when you spend that much time and energy on it?—then having someone else come up, take a look, and say, you know, I’d like to post you above my bed. Maybe it does have to do with sex.

- By Joshua Morrison

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Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Culver City, Film, Food & Drink, Galleries, Installation, Mixed media, Neighborhoods, Painting, Performance, Personalities, Photography, Video Art No Comments »

Steampunk Football

image4At LACMA on Saturday night, a girl in a white Victorian dress sat on a bench with her hands folded, looking pissed off. A photographer from the clothing company Clockwork Couture stood a few feet away.
“Want to sit in her lap?” the photographer asked me.
“I think I’m okay,” I said. The girl looked so familiar, I had to ask. “Have you ever watched True Blood?” I asked.
She stared at me. “I know what you’re going to say,” she snapped. “Lorena, right? I hear it all the time.” She looked coldly into the camera as it flashed.
I guess I don’t blame her for being pissed off. I would be too, if I had to pose with bystanders at the fourteenth annual LACMA Muse ‘Til Midnight event, where the clothing was Victorian, the food supplied was chips and salsa, and there was an open bar. The tickets were $40 for non-members, $25 for Muse members, and it was hard to see what all the fuss was about.
The event sounded great, in theory: a neo-Victorian dress-up night at the museum, coinciding with the Thomas Eakins and Catherine Opie show, Manly Pursuits. Eakins painted wrestlers and rowers in intimate situations in the late 1800-early 1900’s, while Opie currently photographs teenage football players and surfers. Connecting the two artists requires a stretch of imagination, but the show is a valuable statement about the forced efforts and vulnerability of masculinity.
However, the Muse ‘Til Midnight event didn’t have much to do with the show, or with anything at the museum. The event was described by a Yelp user like this: “A full line-up of entertainment with open bar in an unique environment for $25-$40? On a Saturday night? In Los Angeles? Even including parking? Do I need to keep asking rhetorical questions?” Unfortunately, the event became a Los Angeles situation in which too many good ideas were not executed properly, with too many people in attendance to leave such margin for error.
After waiting in a long line, guests were ushered into the museum’s main plaza where Dusty and the River Band played and video projections flashed on the walls. Two performers on stilts made their way through the crowd, surrounded by a thick circle of photographers, documenting the “insanity” for various nightlife blogs. Two stilt-walkers, a couple of dancers and some people in costumes didn’t seem like enough to justify paying $40, but let’s not forget about that open bar, which included “100% Agave Tequila, Blackheart Spiced Rum, Hpnotiq Liqueur, Pernod Absinthe, and FIJI Water.” It seems that people will spend any amount of money to get sloshed while wearing a corset.
Maybe next time, LACMA should make dressing up for the event mandatory, as the people who were wearing full neo-Victorian garb looked to be having the best time. Many people wore costumes from Clockwork Couture, a “steampunk” line that mixes Victorian clothing with modern touches, while others had improvised their own costumes. A thin blonde woman and her chunkier date wore matching top hats and lace-up boots, trailing long feathers behind them. Another woman wore a corset and a matching flowered neck brace, and many men (and women) sported fantastic moustaches.
At ten o’clock, everyone was ushered into a much longer line leading to the roof of the Penthouse suite, only accessible by an elevator. (Too bad for the claustrophobes.) The roof offered a nice city view of the Variety building, along with some mysterious devices, including a giant telescope and various contraptions used to “measure electrical phenomena.” A stage was set up for a burlesque show, and a dancer in chalky makeup tiptoed around the crowd en pointe as flashbulbs popped all around her.
Nearby, a man wearing suspenders rested his foot on a stack of pillows. “I sprained my foot, but this is awesome,” he declared, looking at the dancer. “Look at this. Look at her. Can you believe it?” I could believe it, though next time I would prefer to look at photos of the event rather than attend. Despite the congestion, chips and salsa, long lines and limited number of performers, it seemed like many people had a wonderful time. Never underestimate the power of a little absinthe.

- By Cassandra McGrath

For mose information about LACMA, and any upcoming Muse events, please visit www.lacma.org/membership/Muse.aspx, or call 323-857-6000.

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Instant LA Summer

Bizarro-PicassoI met artist, curator, and all-around art enthusiast Esteban Schimpf when he came out to the FineArtsLA: Panel of the Muses event we hosted back in June. He was there to support his friend, panelist, and co-board member of the Chinatown gallery, Actual Size LA, Lee Rachel Foley. Schimpf made himself known as the first—and most voluable—volunteer of the after-panel Q&A session. His passion for supporting art and artists was intense, genuine, and immediately recognizable (he railed against the idea that the physical limitations of Los Angeles—traffic, isolation, etc.—should in any way prevent an artist from doing their job). Following the discussion, he was quick to introduce himself, revealing a chummier, more casual side of his personality, yet still brimming with that same passion.

On Thursday, August 19th, at 7:00 PM, Esteban opens his (to my knowledge) first personal exhibition in Los Angeles at the Carmichael Gallery in Culver City, and not surprisingly, his own work is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Schimpf, with the help of Stefan Simchowitz, has chosen to spotlight the work of fifteen other young, up-and-coming artists in an ambitious group show he has titled “Instant LA Summer.” Upon names only, I was admittedly unfamiliar with the artists on view, but after some instant LA research, the show looks to be extremely diverse in mediums and theme, but cohesive in pure enthusiasm. Essentially, it’s Esteban without Esteban. Here’s a quick, flip-through preview of what’s in store, but don’t hold me to it:

Los Super Elegantes: this musical duo, one male and one female, present three of their own videos, which are as much a part of their overall presentation as are their costumes, their on-stage theatrics, their public demeanor, sexual chemistry, and of course, their music—a Latino-influenced type of pop that owes a lot to show-tunes. Their videos, too, remind me of low-rent movie musical numbers (in one, a romantic, garbage-man Romeo belts out his love to a passing, balcony-perched Juliet).

Eric Yhanker: his piece, “Bizarro Picasso,” is a charcoal and graphite depiction of an old, wide-eyed bald man who looks kind of like the titular painter, but, in its tactility, more like something Jan Svankmajer would mold from clay. Photographic in its Chuck Close detail and sense of perception, the close-up portrait briskly departs from realism with its over-sized, features, namely the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears—the portals to our senses.

Josh Mannis: works in a variety of mediums, but his series of HD videos are the most striking. Like Yhanker, they concentrate on the frozen exaggeration of facial features, but in the style of a Japanese advertisement. Bright pastel colors, fleshy and freaky masks, limited body movement, and intense repetition characterize such works as “If You Don’t Know Anything, You Don’t Know This.”

Charles Irvin: a multi-instrumentalist as they say in the music world. He draws, paints, performs, makes videos, and simply exists. His works tends to be cartoonish, extremely colorful, and detailed, but in a soft way. It’s dream-like, psychedelic, and in-your-face. No subtleties here, save the man behind the man.

Kenneth Tam: another video-maker, but of the Dadaist ilk. His mundane, often single shot slices of life tend to take place in one setting, have a documentary feel to them, and are so direct and normal that they border the line on the absurd.

Maya Lujan: to look at pictures of her large-form, graphic patterns—architectural in nature—one would be quite surprised to hear that her installation in a 2008 UCLA exhibition was taken down due to the fact it included a simplified mandala that bore striking similarity to a swastika. In actuality, the piece was more akin to a kind of apocalyptic spacecraft, and it’s this exact questioning of shapes and patterns that shows up in most of her work.

Sarah Sieradzki: speaking of the architectural, her work presents mashups of varying shapes, materials, and textures—wooden frames, cement blocks, photographs—that look like models for massive monuments of future post-modernism (whatever that is). She seems to take joy in chaotic geometry, as well as the re-contextualizion of basic structures.

Pascual Sisto: also a multi-platform artist, he appears to specialize in playing with and subverting the viewer’s expectation. Much of his work starts off as a seemingly one-note image/idea—cursive neon lettering, a single-shot video of a motionless fruit tree—but will then either climax unexpectedly in a sudden spasm of movement (as with the fruit tree video) or double-back on its initial meaning (as with the phrase in neon: “Let us be Cruel”).

Daniel Desure: in his prints and photographs, there’s a cold, stillness that tends to break down time into single moments, whether its a car crash refracted into centrifugal prisms, or a can of paint in the midst of spilling. Desure seems to distill catastrophic moments into the way we often remember catastrophic moments: as single images.

Emily Mast: time is of the essence to this choreographic artist as well. She sets up complex, theatrical installations utilizing actors, props, lights, and costumes, which collide into a kind of Beckett-ian sense of nihilism. But within these dramatic interpretations is a clear sense of narrative, which is inherently married to time, and thereby, meaning.

Emily Steinfeld: a sort of found object artist who seems to enjoy the accidental/purposeful layering of solid things—how one thing can mold into another as if a chemical compound. Her series of structures entitled “Covert Cells” utilizes sheeting to cover objects like wine bottles and telephones so that they may be confused for a single entity.

Simon Haas: mainly primitive, muted browns and melancholy. As the title of his piece “A Brief Moment After a Bath” suggests, he finds subtle beauty in the skipped-over moments of life. The lead surface and the wide, gestural brush strokes of this oil painting have a wavy, watery feel to them. Like waking up from a dream and dealing with its immediate aftermath.

Mark Hagen: intricate, graphic designs made for specific technological uses. He designed a 360 wrap, for instance, to be hypothetically used on the antiquated bowling shoe so as to maximize arch support for the bowler. As a child, he helped his father part out and restore Post-War Studebakers, and he seems to have been elaborating on this work ever since.

Sean Kennedy: also works in design, but in a much more tactile sense. He builds layers of both abstract designs and found objects to create geometric patterns that are simple at first glance, yet wildly complex upon inspection.

Orlando Tirado: exotic, striking photographs and/or collages of imagery. The title of his piece, “ShamanColash or Land, Sea, and Air (Self Portrait)” speaks to the bizarre juxtapositions framed in the would-be tired genre of self-portraitry. To borrow a reaction once used to describe the first artist on this list (Los Super Elegantes), Tirado “[makes] the audience nervous. Nobody does that anymore.”

-By Joshua Morrison

Stefan Simchowitz presents “Instant LA Summer,” an exhibition by Esteban Schimpf, runs until September 10, 2010 at the Carmichael Gallery. The opening is  on Thursday, August 19th, at 7:00 PM. For more information, please visit www.carmichaelgallery.com, or call 323.939.0600.

 

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You’re Just Projecting

450Randy and Jason Sklar, better known as the Sklar Brothers, even better known as the hosts of the only ESPN Classic show I’ve ever watched on a regular basis—Cheap Seatsand possibly best known as the Cain and Abel of Hollywood agents in HBO’s Entourage, got their comedic starts amidst the burgeoning “alternative” comedy scene of mid-90’s New York. Back then and over there, such now-defunct clubs as the famous Luna Lounge used to hold regular open-mic nights, where names like Marc Maron, Greg Fitzsimmons, Louis CK, Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, and many, many more once tuned their respective crafts. The Sklars didn’t immediately fit in. In fact, they stood out, and in a bad way. They’re identical twins, which, in the eyes of the comedy club weary, was synonymous with hacky—not far off from ventriloquism, as both shticks tended to traditionally rely on the straight-man/wacky-man dynamic. In interviews, Randy and Jason have talked about their initial struggle against this assumption, not so much with their audiences as within their act. They had to work hard to eventually to find their patented rhythm of completing one another’s sentences, riffing on topics the other brings up, never disowning their uncanny likeness, yet never relying on it either. Basically, they had to find their true collective self, a feat which simply would not have been possible without the open-mic.

These days, the Sklars still perform almost everywhere in Los Angeles, but have also transitioned into the world of film and television, an industry with lots of microphones (as well as projectors, the mic’s visual equivalent), few of which are “open,” almost none of which are free.  Hence, “Open Projector Night,” hosted by Randy and Jason Sklar, this Tuesday, August 17, 8:00 PM at the Hammer Museum. Free popcorn, cash bar, and a first-come-first-serve policy for any under-ten-minute film or video out there, these semi-regular nights have developed a reputation for rowdiness, rudeness, and yes, even the occasional cinematic gem. Come screen-test your private masterpiece (submissions begin at 7 PM), or just support your local filmmakers by getting drunk and voting them off the docket completely.

The Sklar Brothers, more than most, know what its like to struggle for an identity, and they’ve kind of made an on-screen career out of it (not to mention, paved the way for stellar teams like the Walsh Brothers). So if you’re tired of being constantly confused for someone you’re not, of having to dress different to stick out, of explaining the subtle yet imperative dissimilarities between you and that other idiot, just leave it in the hands of Sklars. They may not love your work, they may make some clever jokes at your expense, but they’ll at least give you a mic.

For  more information about “Open Projector Night” and Hammer Public Programs (all of which are free), please visit www.hammer.ucla.edu, or call 310.443.7000.

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Extra! Extra! Tickets to Planet Earth With LA Phil at Hollywood Bowl

Bactrian camels, Arctic wolves, Pakistani snow leopards, oceanic whitetip sharks, and one coat-tailed conductor; that’s a lot to pack in anywhere, even the Hollywood Bowl. But this Friday and Saturday at the legendary amphitheatre, the LA Philharmonic will perform live musical accompaniment to selected footage from the spectacular BBC television series Planet Earth. Conducted by none other than the shows’ composer himself, George Fenton, the orchestra promises to match the stunning high-defition footage, as projected onto the Bowl’s big screen.Planet Earth, which first premiered on the BBC in 2006, and was re-broadcast in the U.S. in 2007, compiles extraordinary, cinematic scenes of nature from all over the world, in eleven different habitats. It’s probably the best reality show you’ll ever see, if only because it’s completely devoid of humans. Yet, the series is without a doubt a distinctly human feat, and would be half as exciting were it not for the power of a fully human, orchestral score.And yes, Fine Arts LA has two tickets to give away to hear this score performed live by the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl this Friday, July 23rd at 8:30 PM, alongside footage from BBC’s Planet Earth. George Fenton conducts, you and your date cuddle up, while the entire audience is transported to the places far beyond even Hollywood’s imagination. Just write in your first name, last name, and e-mail address into the form below, and you can be eligible to receive these Planet Earth passes, as well as the next three ticket giveaways we do. Safe travels.

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What’s What in the Art World at Large (And What To Do in LA)

yves_saint_laurentWe may be geographically far from, well, everywhere in the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep up with all the arts endeavors across every which pond.  So here’s a bit of news (for the very serious and elite readers) and a bonus round of what’s going on in LA that really deserves your attention (for those who care about little outside LA county).

First, a stop in Paris at the Petit Palais.  The Parisian museum brings to the fore the artistic achievements of none other than Yves Saint Laurent.  Curated by Florence Muller and Farid Chenoune, the exhibit, called Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective features gowns, menswear, some of the designer’s treasured personal items used in creative pursuits, and it highlight themes used throughout the many collections in Saint Laurent’s illustrious career.  One ticket to France, please! {Global Post}

Onto Italy.  In Milan, our very own Placido Domingo’s Operalia competition has commenced.  Founded in 1993, Domingo’s opera competition is meant to find the cream of the crop amongst new talent in opera.  The singers represent not only a range of vocal categories (from coloratura soprano to the lowest bass), but also an array of countries around the world.  The competition ends May 2 (this Saturday), so you’ll have a new vocalist’s career to follow starting Sunday, May 3rd.  We have a feeling it will be meteoric.  {Culture Monster}

Not to shower the French with too much attention, though they don’t mind, Sotheby’s has made quite the announcement prior to the upcoming auction season.  The storied (and once thought lost) private collection of legendary Parisian art dealer Amrboise Vollard is set to meet the auction block.  His career was spent promoting such up-and-comers as Picasso, Cezanne, and Renoir and Vollard’s collection includes not only paintings, but such enticing items as prints, drawings, and artist books.  The sale will be held in London on June 22, so brush up on your British colloquialisms.  {ArtInfo}

Back at home, there is much to celebrate.  Dig into your pockets just a bit to buy yourself a ticket to the Architecture and Design Museum’s official Grand Opening!  For $75, you’ll mingle with a veritable who’s who of the architecture and design world in LA at the reception tomorrow night (April 27), (hint: you can also find them anywhere from Father’s Office to Tar Pit on weeknights), check out the first exhibit, and bid on things at the silent auction.  {A+D Museum}  Also, if you haven’t uploaded his schedule into your iCal already, Gustavo Dudamel has returned to the LA Phil – he’s conducting pretty regularly from now through May 8 on a number of concerts all worthy of splurging for tickets.  {LA Phil} This is your last chance to see LACMA’s exhibit Renoir in the 20th Century.  The exhibit closes May 9. {LACMA} Last, but certainly not least, turns out that parodies of Wagner and his Ring Cycle abound.  LA Times’ Culture Monster shows us the best of the best. {Culture Monster}

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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.

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Fart-ing

People tend to forget about food when talking about art.  In fact, food isn’t even allowed in most museums, as if the paintings would get jealous.  And although much ado is made out of drugs, nobody ever asks what an artist was eating at the time of their masterpiece.

Of course, like most artistic discourse, this is all backwards.  The oldest surviving cave paintings, which in all likelihood are the first known pieces of human art, are all depictions of food (or sex).  Therefore, no conversation about artistic merit should begin without first discussing the work’s relationship to the “original” art, food art (or for short: ‘fart’).  One person who certainly knows the power of the ‘fart’ is Jonathan Gold, Pulitzer Prize winning food critic for LA Weekly.

In his much-celebrated column, Mr. Gold creates weekly pieces of art inspired by the best and worst food in Los Angeles.  Starting last month and running until January 23 at the Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex, various artists are doing just the same; they’ve even decided to pay tribute to ‘the Gold-en boy’ by re-using his column title: “Counter Intelligence.”  The work on display here, however, goes beyond the literary and into the realms of sculpture, photography, video, and performance, all in the name of the edible.

Because as any foodie like Jonathan Gold knows, you can’t make ‘fart’ without the food.

“Counter Intelligence” can be viewed until January 23rd at The Harriet and Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex in the Cal State campus. For more information please call (323) 343-6600.

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Winding Up The Holidays…

A good lot of us cannot wait to say good-bye to 2009 and the ’00s as a whole.  Sayonara, the aughts.  And hellooo, teens!

But there are a couple of us having a hard time letting go of the holiday spirit.  And if you happen to be one of them, keep your iTunes radio on the Christmas carol channel and bake those cookies just a couple more days.

If ice-skating is your thing, swing by Pershing Square for some outdoors ice with your sweetest.  Hot cocoa is not included, but the fee and skate rentals are  only $8. [Info]  Need a few drinks to ease the pain when the ice breaks your fall one too many times?  The W Los Angeles in Westwood offers a skating rink of its own for those who need a little liquid courage…erm, holiday cheer to accompany them. [Info]

Do you need lots of bright lights to stay warm and cheery?  The DWP’s Holiday Light Festival is going strong…until tomorrow night.  You don’t even need to leave the safety of your own car while driving down a mile-long stretch of ligh decorations gracing Griffith Park. [Info]  If you tend to trot the unbeaten path, head down to the LBC to see Phantom Galleries’ version of a holiday light show.  Aptly titled Let There Be Light!, twenty-eight exhibitions in 25 storefronts will be shining with various light-based works ranging from the subtle, abstract shapes to the bold and fluorescent. [Info]

You don’t have to say good-bye just yet to the holiday season, but since CVS has its Christmas display right next to Valentine treats, the countdown is on.

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Merry Christmas!

Well, dear readers… It’s that time of year again.  We want to take a moment to wish you a very happy holiday season filled with warmth, joy, and love.  Most of all, we want to thank you for being so loyal and supportive to us – we (quite literally) would be lost in cyberspace without you!

So enjoy your Christmas Day and let’s keep our fingers crossed that someone was listening as you dropped hints all year… “Ooh, I would just love to hang that print in the dining room…”

Happy Holidays, everyone!

xoxo FALA

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