Mixed media

deFineArtsLA Exclusive: Dave Hill’s Genuine Hipness

What is a hipster sense of humor? Surely it has something to do with irony—the hipster’s original sin—or at least the thin version of irony that exists in wearing a D.A.R.E. t-shirt, while smoking a cigarette outside of the Silver Lake Lounge. But even irony has lost its all-consuming flavor amongst UCB and Largo crowds. Hipster humor also has something feminine about it, non-confrontational in its satire; it’s about a style and a matter of intention more than it is the content of a joke. Absurdity is actually its most potent ingredient, a commitment to the weird, a detached joy in the randomness of things.

In a name, it’s interviewer/performer/writer/comedian Dave Hill, who will be performing his one-man show, “Dave Hill: Big In Japan,” tonight, at 9:00 PM at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Hill looks like the character of Dim from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and the pitch of his voice ranges from acid-trip-high to wallowing-drunk-low in a matter of seconds. He has become known for his fast-cut, Borat-style interviews—which have been featured on This American Life—in which he is always the main subject (Hill probably wouldn’t exist were it not for Sacha Baron Cohen, but the two differ vastly their approach). Many of his interviews are filmed on camera, and one gets the feeling he is constantly winking at the audience, but not in a mean way (a lot like Jim does when he looks toward the camera on The Office). He has an incredibly quick wit, but he doesn’t use it for harm. Carrying a misguided sense of uber-confidence, Hill seemingly wants to be friends with everybody he talks to, and thus, his undeniable charm.

He’ll walk into the red carpets of New York’s fashion week, holding a huge boom-mic with a windscreen on it, and proceed to ask an attendee what she thinks of the Kofi Annan collection. Though even this is harsh for him. More likely, he’ll take a private movement/acting class in New York City, and twirl around in tights with the male instructor, laughing with him rather than at him, creating a sense of camaraderie through shared acknowledgment of the absurd.

This is, in fact, Hill’s greatest strength: his ability to include the subject, and by extension, the audience in the creation of the joke. He is genuine, which is why it works. And why he may be one of the best examples of hipster humor out there.

For tickets more information about The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, please visit www.ucbtheatre.com, or call (323) 908-8702.

Posted in Bring Your Flask, Conceptual, deFineArtsLA, Mixed media, Neighborhoods, Performance, Personalities, Silverlake/Los Feliz, The Social Scene, Theatre, Video Art No Comments »

The Gardens of LACMA

201006_0325-460x306At around 4:00 PM on Sunday, June 27th, Guy Hatzvi of Farmlab, in association with Metabolic Studio, was rushing down to Marina Del Rey to find a replacement pump for the installation project entitled “Bldg. 209: Garden Folly (Indexical of Strawberry Flag)” that was to officially open to the public at the LACMA Campus in the next hour. Fortunately, he knew exactly what he was looking for: it’s a type of aeroponic generator that allows for a nutrient-rich water solution to be drip-fed through a series of I.V. tubes connecting a system of sick strawberry plants. The project was conceived by Lauren Bon, the founder of both Farmlab and Metabolic Studio, and her team of dedicated employees had been setting up the installation all week. But at the last minute, of course, the original pump broke down, and it was up to Guy to get a new one up and running by 5:00 PM.

This one task—obviously essential to the success of Bon’s operation on its opening night—was actually just a small tributary within the vastly ambitious constellation of works now going on at LACMA under the title of EATLACMA. In a sentence, this one-year-long, multi-faceted commitment from the Museum sets out to delve into the social, artistic, cultural, environmental, and humanitarian meanings behind natural food growth. In fact, this undertaking is so large, it’s hard to do it justice in a simple blog post, so I’ll just focus on the garden installations for now:

Along with “Bldg. 209: Garden Folly (Indexical of Strawberry Flag)”—which itself is indexical of a much larger work entitled “Strawberry Flag,” located three miles west of LACMA at the Veterans Administration of West Los Angeles (a bus will soon be available to take visitors in between the two sites)—there are also five other installation gardens on or around the LACMA campus.

One is called “Promiscuous Production: Breeding is Bittersweet” by the National Bitter Melon Council (yes, it exists). This tunnel-shaped, bamboo structure doubles as an experimental breeding ground for the hybrid, never-before-seen, BitterSweet melon. Through the age-old process of cross-pollination, visiting participants can actually partake in the experiment themselves by attending a series of day-long events intended to promote community, generate discussion, and—don’t forget—make melons.

A little bit further east is “Food Pyramid”—conceived by Didier Hess—which is a solar-powered, aquaponic garden that simultaneously questions the traditional food pyramid most Americans grew up on; presents an eco-friendly, soil-free alternative to gardening; and cultivates all the necessary ingredients for a delicious fish taco—including the Tilapia.  It’s also aesthetically pleasing, peaceful to be around, and fun to contemplate with friends.

Just off the southeast border of the LACMA complex, on the corner of Wilshire and Curson, sits your typical traffic circle, the median point between pedestrian walk signs, the border between east-bound and west-bound traffic. But now there is also a garden of radishes, as planned and planted by Islands of LA in a project they call “The Roots of Compromise.” The traffic island itself is controlled by a variety of bureaucracies, and together, they agreed upon the root vegetable of the radish as the appropriate plant for their shared circle of land. The resulting food is representative of this small, but successful compromise.

Way over on the west end of LACMA, a crooked, polygonal potato garden lays flat and almost unnoticeable between the Ahmanson and the Art of the Americas buildings. But, according to the little placard placed in the soil, amidst at least 12 types of potato plants, “The varieties [of potato] exist as a result of coincidences, accidents, planning, violence, and careful custody over thousands of years. Through tracing their different backgrounds, a history of human desire appears.” The placard also directs viewers to a website, allowing them to cellularly interact with the incredible stories behind each strain of potato. The website is www.potatoperspective.org, the project is titled “The Way Potatoes Go 8000-BCE-Present: A Potato Perspective on an American Matter,” and was developed by sa Sonjasdotter in collaboration with the communities of the Potato Park (yes, it too exists).

Finally, on the north end of the LACMA campus, just below 6th street, there stands a small, Roman theater of sorts, not unlike a miniature version of the restored Theater of Caesaria. Beginning November 7th, this is the site of what shall be known as the “Public Fruit Theater,” a magical little installation concocted by the people of Fallen Fruit. In this theater, there will be only one performer (depending on how you look at it, that is), and that performer is a tree. Visitors are invited to come watch the growth process of this concrete-locked tree as if they were witnessing the slow arc of a character’s development on stage. In this way, the episodic relationship between the tree, the viewer, and also the other audience members creates a story, much like the ones we look for in theatre.

But back to Guy, and his aeroponic generator. Come 4:30 PM, he’s able to make it back to LACMA, and set up the device just in time for the first waves of curious onlookers. I observe the fragile configuration of hanging strawberry plants he helped set up, each interconnected by small life-lines of dripping nutrients, each literally holding on by a thread of survival, completely dependent upon one pump. I know it’s supposed to be representative of the plight of the Veterans in Los Angeles, but it’s also symbolic of the six gardens themselves, and beyond that, EATLACMA as a whole, and beyond that, the city of Los Angeles. I could go on and on, but you should probably just visit for yourself, and that way, become part of the garden.

For more information on EATLACMA, please visit http://eatlacma.org/about/, or call (323) 857-6000.

Posted in Architecture, Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Mixed media, Neighborhoods, Personalities, The Social Scene, West LA No Comments »

photoAfter unknowingly attempting to attend a film during the release of the new TwilightSaga movie, Eclipse at the Arclight in Hollywood last night I was shocked to find the parking garage closed with a sign saying “full”. Aggravated in disbelief, I turned around to head home, and noticed a metered spot had just become available outside the theatre. I swerved into the space, scooped my sweater out the back seat and went to read the meter only to find that it is now $3.00 an hour to park in Hollywood (or 5 minutes a quarter). I took off to try to make the film only to discover the prices at the Arclight had gone up again.

In a town where change is omnipresent and the increase of day-to-day expenses make us feel we are in New York, there are less and less opportunities to experience the arts on a budget (did I mention the yellow plastic sunglasses in a 3-D film that will cost you your Popcorn and Diet Coke?) However, there is a beacon of hope nestled in the heart of Century City beneath the towering buildings that won’t cost you a penny and is sure to blow your socks off without wearing any yellow sunglasses.

The Annenberg Space for Photography, which has been open for a little over a year now, is as much an experience wandering through the curvy, camera-shaped building as it is seeing the photographs inside. Much more than just a traditional display area for prints, the digital projection gallery has two 7’x14’ seamless glass screens with real-projection imaging systems that exceed the level of image quality offered by Blu-Ray players. Watching photographs appear and fade with this caliber of stunning clarity and saturation paired with surround sound music will make your eyes and ears meld into one – taking the photographic image to the next level.

For the second year runningArclight the Annenberg Space for Photography is proud to host ‘Pictures of the Year’, a collection of the most outstanding documentary photography from 2009, recognized by Pictures of the Year International (POYi). With over 45,000 entries submitted from all over the world, the show is a pure visual story that explores humanity far beyond the greatest headline stories of 2009. Held for 65 years in Missouri, Los Angeles is fortunate to have the 67th annual exhibit return after it’s west coast debut last year.

With so many photographic stories being covered, the show is broken into four Categories: The United States War and Economy, The Human Experience, Ecologies and Economies, and The Globe. What makes the Annenberg Space for Photography unique is the digital features that play in the projection gallery. No longer is photography just a printed subject in a frame, but a visual story being told in a cinematic way, giving the viewer a greater insight to what is occurring inside the frame.                                                                                    67-CAA-01-SincS-A-01                    Be sure not to miss Stephanie Sinclair’sPolygamy in America” about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) community in Eldorado, Texas. Also, Kitra Cahana’s portraits of teenage runaways who gather once a year in a different American national park are sure to drop your jaw.

Every now and then we come across photographs online or in magazines and newspapers that we cannot escape – they stick with us and often become permanent representations of a time or place. The images from ‘Pictures of the Year” may only exist for one moment but can last a lifetime. And that’s totally worth a free admission.

- By Gray Malin

The exhibit runs through October 10th and more information can be found on the Annenberg website, http://www.annenbergspaceforphotography.org/. Hours are Wednesday – Sunday 11:00-6:00pm.

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Posted in Art, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Installation, Mixed media, Neighborhoods, Photography, Save + Misbehave, Technology, The Social Scene, West LA No Comments »

Tales From New York: Skin Fruit!

skinfruit100405_560In 1985, world-renowned Greek art collector Dakis Joannou acquired One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank after viewing the work at Jeff Koons’s “Equilibriums” exhibition in the Lower East Side in New York City. In many respects One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank functions as a keystone piece indicative of the ideology and focus of Koons’ artistic practice, which is built on ways of seeing, both internalizing and realizing the self.  A pristine Spaulding basketball with goose pimpled treads is suspended in the center of an airtight water chamber, devoid of oxygen, motion, and any traces of the human hand.  The object through which we are most familiar by our ability to touch is only available to us behind a veneer of glass.  By manufacturing a strong divide between the viewer and the object inside the case, the tank becomes a source of kaleidoscopic reflection manipulating the appearance of any surrounding art objects. The introspection Koons arouses within the viewer speaks to the inspiration of his curatorial feet for “Skin Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection”, which just ended its three-month tenure at The New Museum in New York City.

In a friendly twist of roles, Koons selected works from Dakis Joannou’s own collection to create a fantastical spectacle that transformed the floors of the New Museum into a fun house of contemporary art: towering sculptures constructed of fragmented matter; a daily performance of a passerby who strips from their street clothes into a loin cloth and crown of thorns, only to hang from a crucifix outfitted with a bicycle seat; and even a full-on chorus of museum guards singing “this is propaganda” in a tone similar to a Gregorian chant.

The fourth floor of the exhibit proves to be the most visually diverse and confounding as the elevator opens and the viewer is aligned with David Altmejd’s The Cave, a towering shard of glass that divides and refracts Charles Ray’s Fall ’91, a female mannequin outfitted in a blue skirt suit.  She would be considered dainty and feminine if not for her enlarged proportions and nine-foot stature.  Positioned directly across from the mannequin is a sparkling and bedazzled streetwalker, Liza Lou’s Super Sister, who cocks a gun against her wide hips.  The positioning seems intentional as it signals hyper femininity and sexuality that become conflated through the single prism of The Cave.

Descending upon each floor, the viewer not only witnesses the complete invagination of the body and its vulnerability, but the viewer themselves become untangled, and unglued in their efforts to gain understanding. The human form is continually considered and reconsidered through a literal and metaphorical dissection of “skin.” Like Urs Fischer’s melting wax sculpture What if the Phone Rings—in a constant state of decay as the candles that are lit inside the mold cause the sculpture to melt and disintegrate on the floor.

Perhaps it is this type of embedded catharsis within “Skin Fruit” that makes it linger with you days after you left the museum, reminding us that art is a living entity which sheds its own skin.

- By A. Moret

Related Los Angeles news:

This Sunday, June 13th, at 10 AM, the A.N. Abell Auction Co.—a family business run out of the City of Commerce since 1916—will hold its Spring Fine Art and Antique Auction. Normally, this event is the LA Art World’s best kept secret, as it is confined to invitees only. But this year, everyone’s invited. And among the amazing items up for grabs are two exemplary works by iconoclastic, American contemporary artist, Jeff Koons.

Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Mixed media, Museums, Music, Performance, Personalities No Comments »

Cell Phone-Person

586737_300On my phone, I can store hundreds of contacts, dozens of messages—both text and voice—I can take photos, videos, and surf the web. But can a mobile device, such as my cell phone, store inspiration? Does it hold objects of historical, artistic, and/or scientific significance? Is it a genuine platform for discussion and representation of the human condition? Put more simply, and yet ultimately more complex: can a cell phone be a museum?

Most pro-Tweeters and social network-mongols—who would text yes to any and all of the questions above—will point to the Iran election as the tantamount example of mobile technology meshing with social and political phenomena to enact positive, realistic change. This is difficult to argue, as is the often belabored fact that such technology has radically altered the way in which we communicate. In Japan, for instance, the keitai shosetsu, or the “thumb novel”—a literary publication broadcast solely to cell-phones—has gained incredible popularity, with sites like Maho I-land generating millions of amateur novels, many of them going on to huge successes as tangible books.

Both the Iranian election and the keitai shosetsu would lead one to think that mobile networking may have a place within the world of museums. But as a casual user (and I believe that drug terminology is appropriate) of Twitter and Facebook, the main issue is not whether a cell phone can be used as museum, but how often the muses are overwhelmed by oblivious, shameless, and not-so-shameless marketing.

Which brings us to LACMA’s latest venture: Cell Phone Stories, a three-month-long chain of stories—much like keitai shosetsu—not told in first-person or third-person, but in an all-together new mode of narrative: cell-phone-person. Artist Steve Fagin conceived the project, and brings together a diverse grouping of commissioned authors, ranging from actor Rainn Wilson, to chic designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy, to supply the tales.

Sounds interesting enough; I’m a huge proponent of using literature as art (LACMA’s other, less-publicized project, Word Without Pictures, is borderline brilliant), and the idea of telling your story walking is appealing to me (and Jonathan Lethem).

But there’s an odd catch. All of the stories/essays have to revolve around LACMA.  I suppose this is to bring up the idea that a museum is not just a building—after all, one can be mused anywhere—yet I can’t get over the idea that it’s all a clever marketing ploy.

The first story to appear publicly as a part of the Cell Phone Stories project was one by performance-artist Rich Bott. It began at 1 PM on May 29th, and combined brief text messages with even briefer cell-phone videos, which can be seen here. The initial installment: “Jacques Debierue sculpture reported missing STOP LAPD on the scene STOP Continental operative Richard Bott on the scene STOP.”

Clearly Bott was setting up an absurd art-heist mystery of some sort (by referencing a fictional sculptor), though I don’t claim to understand the repeated usage of “STOP,” which continued throughout his hour-long “text-performance”—a sort of hard-boiled detective story that had him speaking to a “wise-cracking lamp,” getting tips from a nude “prostitute” in a Picasso painting, and finally catching the thief and recovering the stolen sculpture. The problem is none of this was very clear at all, and any sense of drama that could be generated from the natural cliff-hangers of episodic text messaging was lost in translation.

Furthermore, I didn’t get to see, or even imagine, much of the museum at all. To me, the magic of a museum is the same magic of a church or a mosque or a synagogue; it’s a temple. When you walk into the LACMA, or the MOCA, or the MET, or the MOMA, you enter into a different frame of consciousness. You’re supposed to temporarily let go of the world of money, and traffic, and work, and advertising, and yes, cell-phones. There’s a reason why they’re not allowed. And while I love the idea of a global museum, or even a museum of the imagination, LACMA’s Cell Phone Stories has yet to provide one.

Cell Phone Stories runs until September 6, 2010, and can be accessed by texting “LACMA” to 67553, or by visiting their Twitter account at http://twitter.com/LACMA.

Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Mixed media, Museums, Neighborhoods, Personalities, Technology, Video Art, West LA No Comments »

deFineArtsLA Exclusive: So You Think You Can Dance With Elephants?

When I heard about choreographer Lionel Popkin’s There’s an Elephant in This Dance happening at the REDCAT this past weekend, complete with interpretive dance and elephant costumes, my imagination went wild. Dancing elephants! Sign me up! Being the enthusiastic fan of the extravagantly bizarre that I am, I was of course expecting something outrageous—chorus lines of elephants adorned in gold and green, roller-skating through arbitrarily-floating sheer fabrics of rose and yellow, a bazaar-like carnival of gleaming lights and clamorous music and pinwheels and ice sculptures and bubbles, lots of bubbles!—but of course, as I should’ve learned by now, anything that I attend at the REDCAT is nothing like what I expect. Usually, it’s better.

The dance opened with a woman, Peggy Piacenza, on a dark, empty stage, matter-of-factly putting on the pieces of a chintzy, worn-out elephant suit. She jiggled the headpiece into place, and bing! Elephant! The now-elephant contemplated her newfound existence for a moment before beginning a series of delightful, childlike dances, at moments hesitant and at others exuberant, until collapsing exhausted on the floor.

I was quickly learning that the elephants in my own mind rest in a much different place than the ones in Popkin’s. Popkin, raised in a split Hindu/Jewish home, grew up surrounded by images of Ganesh, the Hindu deity esteemed as the Remover of Obstacles and Lord of Beginnings. Popkin used his own connection to the iconography of Ganesh to explore the themes of cultural identity and self-actualization in There’s an Elephant.

Following the opening, the dance centered on the character played by Lionel Popkin himself. The wistful, plucky music of composer Robert Een’s live score accompanied by a black-and-white video of the furry dancing elephant by Cari Ann Shim Sham and Kyle Ruddick served as a backdrop for Popkin’s more serious self-exploration. Hands in pockets, Popkin planted himself center-stage and looked around inquisitively. Slowly, he began to sway, his spine swiveling at his hips just like the trunk of a curious pachyderm, whipping and contorting with increasing ferocity. Popkin was soon joined by the dance’s other players, including long-time collaborator Carolyn Hall and modern dance veteran Ishmael Houston-Jones.

Hall and Popkin took the lead in a terrific duet, wherein Hall commanded Popkin about the stage with her index finger, leading him by the mouth like a mule to a carrot. The innocent buoyancy of the dance dissolved quickly as the power struggle between the two dancers grew. Caught between resistance and longing, both dancers struggled to assert their individuality while simultaneously remaining clearly co-dependent. A beautiful play of domination, desire, and will emerged as Popkin’s character scuffled with the ever-more-clingy Hall. Finally, in a brilliant reversal of roles, it was no longer Hall’s character who led Popkin’s on her finger, but he who carried her, limp with exhaustion, into darkness.

What was so great about this dance was its capacity to mimic human capriciousness—at one moment somber and pensive, the dancers entwined in this petulant power-struggle, and at another playful and blithe. Being prone to emotional volatility myself (only sometimes, y’all) I found myself laughing out loud and then immediately sinking back with the dancers into their pining.

In the concluding act, Popkin’s character reached the final stage in his quest for self-actualization. Alone again, he encountered the elephant suit, which had maintained an eerie side-stage presence for much of the dance (aside from a charming interlude in which Piacenza romped excitedly around stage while attempting to put the thing on). Watching Popkin explore the dimensions of the suit, dressing and disrobing, at times rolling on the floor trailing the head by its trunk, gave strange feelings of awe and unease. With the last moments of the dance Popkin seemed to find peace, but only after many fits full of grace and existential yearning (I said it! Existential yearning!).

I was left not only wanting to sign up for an agro-yoga class, but feeling almost like I’d already taken one myself. That feeling you get after a not-to-strenuous bike ride on a sunny day. So what if I saw “dance” and “elephant” and I didn’t read any further—I’m glad I didn’t. There’s an Elephant in This Dance was the most pleasant surprise a trunk-lovin’ girl could’ve asked for.

For more information on REDCAT and their upcoming events, please call 213-237-2800, or visit www.redcat.org.

Posted in deFineArtsLA, Downtown, Mixed media, Music, Neighborhoods, Performance, Personalities, Theatre, Video Art, World Music No Comments »

deFineArtsLA: Stuff It!

BREWER_frick_N_frackGrowing up on a farm in South Carolina affords memories of a childhood of which few could dream—the apple orchard where barefoot we would run, yes. The chorus of cicadas droning in the sunset, yes. And the wood-paneled living-rooms adorned with the stuffed heads of dear, oh yes, sweet Carolina.

I know most of you probably think taxidermy is a little abnormal. Creepy.  Backwoods. It both fascinated and terrified me as a child. I’d look up at the buck head mounted above my grandfather’s fireplace and imagine how it got there—the old Quasimodo-type hunched over a pile of loose skin, a long needle and thread pinched in his thick fingers haunted my imagination.

Taxidermy is much more than a backwoods craft, though. It’s an art whose roots stem back to the 18th Century, when hunters began to have the skins of prized hunts mounted to preserve them as trophies. It wasn’t long before taxidermists were getting creative—take the work of Walter Potter, who constructed whimsical dioramas with mounted animals mimicking human life.

A recent trend in the field is rogue taxidermy, the fabrication of mounted animals which do not have live counterparts. If ever you visit Wyoming, you may see a jackalope, the famous horned jackrabbit so fast that it can’t be seen by the human eye.  If this Friday you visit La Luz de Jesus in Los Feliz, you can see even more. Robert Marbury will curate the “Rogue Taxidermy Show” with his partners Scott Bibus and Sarina Brewer of the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists—the organization who coined the term in 2004. Taxidermists working in the field use “recycled” animals—from roadkill to discarded livestock—to create a bizarre and fantastic body of work. The show runs from May 7th through the 30th, and promises to deliver high art, in both concept and craftsmanship. They even will have a live demonstration on the 8th! If you’re an animal lover, don’t worry—no animals were killed for the sake of a mount—all the sources are recycled. It’s nice to know that 3000 miles from home, taxidermy is alive and well.

By Helen Kearns

“The Rogue Taxidermy Show” opens on Friday, May 7th and runs until May 30th at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Feliz. Reception begins at 8 PM on the 7th and ends at 11 PM.  For more information, please visit www.laluzdejesus.com, or call 323-666-7667.

Posted in Art, Contemporary Art, deFineArtsLA, Exhibitions, Mixed media, Neighborhoods, Silverlake/Los Feliz No Comments »

Wish Fulfillment

1207582406_c456cce5d6On an overcast Tuesday afternoon, when the traffic from the nearby 10 and 405 freeways is just starting to pack in, Bergamot Station in Santa Monica looks and feels more like an industrial depot center than one of Los Angeles’s prime gallery  hubbubs, and local art-dealer hot-spot of international acclaim. The parking lot if half-empty. Lonesome employees rumble by with crates full of water-cooler jugs. Sporadic patrons drift in and out of massive gallery spaces. On the whole, the place seems cold, even uninviting.

That is unless you accidentally stumble into the hallway of the Santa Monica Museum of Art—denoted only by a metallic sign that says “Museum”—and find yourself wondering what all the small, clay objects are doing strung up on the wall, as if hanging from massive, marker sketches of keys, backpacks, doorknobs, and necklaces. It’s this quaint collection of colorful figurines which, from first sight, breathes humanity into an otherwise blue atmosphere. For good reason too: every ornament on the wall is made by an artist below the age of 18—mainly ranging from 5-years-old to 10.

It’s called Wall Works: Project Icons and is the brainchild of clay and found-object artist Anna Sew Hoy. In collaboration with SMMA and six participating schools from around the Los Angeles area, Hoy asked children from kindergarten through 12th grade to describe their personal wishes, and transform them into pocket-sized “talismans” to help visualize their fulfillment. The wishes themselves, as written in the kids’ own handwriting, and paired with photographs of their corresponding talismans, can be viewed in conjunction with the exhibition. And all it takes is a quick glance at one or two of these wishes to get you digging through them like a treasure chest filled with jewels of innocent brilliance.

“I wish for a talking star to play with me,” writes Karina, who’s  yellow clay star sports sunglasses and a full rack of teeth.

“I had a limen tree so I can have limen juice,” says Megan. And no, this is not simply poor spelling, because Megan’s talisman is neither a lemon nor a lime. Not yellow nor green. It’s in between. It’s a limen. Why no sports drink has come up with this word combination before is beyond me.

It’s interesting: most of the younger kids’ wishes have to deal with fruit, or animals, mice in particular. And the pocket icons they create to represent these wishes are all courageously distorted versions of reality—imperfect, and yet lovely. Only when the children and their respective handwriting grow older, more refined, do the wishes become more realistic and abstract at the same time. Earnestness and anxiety replace playfulness.

“To be good at soccer,” one boy announces. “To be a better basketball player.” “To have a bigger garden.” “To be an architect.” Most all are sports and career related, with the occasional plea for world peace thrown in the mix. The older kids’ clay talismans also become more defined and mimetic, while losing some of the accidental whimsy of of their younger counterparts.

Extrapolating the results—or at least my observations—of Hoy’s project into the greater art-world, I can see how a place like Bergamot Station can seem so cold, the warm humor of its art lost in the jumble of warehouses and parking spaces. It’s the fulfillment of those older childens’ wishes for bigger and better things taking over the goofy vitality of those younger, fruit-and-mouse wishes.

And yet still, when you look at the wall of hanging talismans, they all pretty much look alike, old and young together. Each one the subject of natural distortion—due to the imperfect nature of clay-work—and each one something more than just a good luck charm. They are tactile. You can feel the wishes with your fingers. You can see it. It’s not just an airy idea. It’s a creation.

Anna Sew Hoy’s Wall Works: Project Icons can be viewed at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in Bergamot Station until May 31. For more information, please visit www.smmoa.org, or call (310) 586-6488.

Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Galleries, Mixed media, Museums, Neighborhoods, Santa Monica 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.

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The ‘It’s Not To You’ Syndrome

I recently found myself sitting on a couch in a dark room inside the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts at USC watching a play-test of a brand-new interactive video game.  I use the term ‘interactive,’ because it was less like your typical Nintendo or PlayStation proceeding, and more akin to one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ movies, only digitalized, intricately detailed, and not a little influenced by the likes of Spielberg or Christopher Nolan.  The game takes place in a slightly futuristic society, and at one point, the protagonist, a detective, is sitting in his beat-down, windowless office going over clues, when he puts on a pair of special sunglasses.  These sunglasses allow him, and by proxy, us, the audience, to perceive his spacial environment as a pristine mountain-top, or a Redwood forest.  The effect is novel, and provokes a round of ‘wouldn’t-that-be-cool’ comments from anybody who’s watching, yet it also brings up an interesting, modern phenomenon.  I call it the ‘it’s not to you’ syndrome, and it works like this: you’re sitting in a beat-down, windowless office, but…it’s not to you.

Don’t get me wrong, this syndrome is hardly new or original, although it is intensifying in our digital age.  And one person who’s exploring this intensification is artist Jeffrey Wells with his newest exhibit Seeing While Seeing at the Bergamont Station Arts Center, a part of the Santa Monica Museum of Art.  Wells attempts to recreate the optical illusions of everyday life—the after-image of an exit sign, the undulating intersection of two vertical walls that meet at a right-angle—using video projections.  Thus the viewer is left questioning whether or not an illusion is physical or digital.  Both are percepts, separate from what some would call “objective reality,” but only one is an intentionally manipulated percept.

What Wells—along with the interactive video game, to a certain extent—may be attempting to illustrate is the danger of the ‘it’s not to you’ syndrome.  Because how do you really know what is?  Or who’s presenting what to you, for that matter?  And as the line between what is and what is to you gets smaller and smaller, what becomes of you?

Jeffrey Wells’s Seeing While Seeing is on view until April 17th at Project Room 1 in the Bergamont Station Arts Center, a part of the Santa Monica Museum of Arts.  Bergamont Station is located at 2525 Michigan Ave, Building G-1.  For more information, please call (310) 586-6488, or visit www.smmoa.org.

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