Monday, May 30, 2011

X Marks THE Spot.

Happy Memorial Day ... though the holiday stirs a lot of feelings in my head that aren't exactly happy, but I'm too mellow for that today ... because look at the sky above:

Sky Writers (!) telling you straight out that you are exactly where you should be, nay, are BLESSED to be, and to suck up the moment as much as you possibly can. Literally, do it. Suck in the air down at the beach! It's so fresh and inspiring, and if you do a 360 spin, you literally see everyone smiling. As they have for centuries ... Families setting up camp, kids running back and forth into the water's edge, squealing like nowhere else. Everyone automatically chilling on out.

I'm out the door to re-join them all now, but just wanted to affirm how lucky we are, how FREE we remain. That is what we should be celebrating today, and those that have fought to make that possible ... even if it is in a Fight The Power t-shirt at the BBQ.

*Pic by Jen E.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tom Everhart's "Crashing The Party" Opening - Venice Goes To NYC!

A whole bunch of Venetians (20+!) took the show on the road and made the trip way, waaaaay past Lincoln last weekend, for the opening of our dear friend, artist Tom Everhart's opening of new works at the Animazing Gallery in Soho, NYC. All of us took that city by storm, and it was made even better by the fact that we were all together, a merry band of beach bohemians in the big city. It was awesome.

Crashing The Party - The Arty-Fact Paintings was the reason and centerpiece of the trip, and it was the best (and at 95 works, the biggest ever) Everhart show I've ever attended, and I've been to a lot. I'm sure a lot had to do with the splendid company, but it also had a lot to do with seeing the overwhelming appreciation for an artist whose work I have the delight and pleasure of seeing on an almost daily basis here in Venice, in a packed house of super-fans of his work (so much so that I believe it might be sold out).

I also have the distinct privilege of insightful conversation about art with Tom, all the time. I'm a much smarter and more appreciative connoisseur of art due to the years of rapping about it, arguing about it, and loving it with Tom and his darling wife, Jennifer (one of my main BFF's).

People (journalists, art critics, the general population) often mistake Tom's art for being "Inspired by Charles Schulz's Peanuts" gang of characters, when in reality, and I'll quote Tom here, after a conversation we had post-show, "It's more accurate to say that my work is a visual language I learned from Schulz that allowed me to produce work in a new way of seeing events, moments, experiences, inspired by my own life." Meaning, through his deep and enduring friendship with Mr. Schulz (who he calls "Sparky") until his death in 2000, Tom came to see life through that lens, and just happened to be able to exactly replicate the lines in Schulz's work, which no one else had been able to do, and why Schulz respected Tom's work enough to allow him exclusive license to utilize his characters in Tom's fine art pieces.

So you might be seeing Snoopy jumping off a cliff, but Tom saw it as Jenny launching herself into the waters of their beloved part-time home of Tahiti. Or our old friend Sponto as Pig Pen. Or me as a lei-wearing beach Snoopy. Or Charlie Brown as a big-headed kid in the neighborhood (just kidding). Or even a mass grouping of Snoopys, with a dose of social commentary about over-population in there for good measure.

From the Press Release for the show:

"Everhart attempts to create a dialog among the paintings that addresses his concern about over-population and the strain it has put on world resources while juxtaposing this against the isolated, open, tropical areas that seem to live in harmony with nature. On a more personal level, Crashing the Party is Everhart's way of expressing how he feels about the artistic path he has chosen. Putting aside a classical education, Everhart brazenly carved out a successful career in the fine art world with his paintbrush and sheer audacity. His choice to focus an entire career on the subject matter of a single cartoon is considered scandalous within various circles of his own art community, but inevitably, this superficial viewpoint disintegrates when the sophistication of the work exposes itself."

You get it now. And most likely love it, as the masses squishing into the Animazing Gallery certainly did. I've never seen anyone with a more constant and inspiring work ethic than Tom, and it was such a joy to see it celebrated like it was in New York last weekend.

Venice was represented by the Everharts, of course, but by local shop owners (Bunny & Sandor with Leaf), restaurant owners (Mercedes), Men about town (Alan Shaffer - missing the Venice Art Walk for the first time in all its years! - Destin, Taylor, Chris, Kwaku), dear friends (Mara & Henri, Darcy, Marischa & Ricardo, Paulyn, Me), Catherine and Tom from local biz, Don Francis Framing (who did all the lovely frames for Tom's pieces), Former Venetian/Now New Yorker (Sarah), (I'm forgetting some, I know it) and the show was even installed (awesomely) by Dave and Paul, of our own local Art Gallery Services, who drove the art across country straight from Abbot Kinney. Plus all the friends from all over the world, new and old.

Jessica Simpson and her fiance, Eric Johnson, good friends of the Everharts, had the paparazzi and Access Hollywood in the house too, so the whole country got to see how our Venice art world rolls.

And how we roll is FUN. Gang dinners on the town. The Met to see the do not miss Alexander McQueen show Savage Beauty. Pre/Post Parties at The Crosby Hotel. Running all over, as there was a lot to fit in a fast weekend. All that fun and there was only one police incident, but as our local perp said, "Yeah, but it was a mellow cuffing" - perhaps the quote of the weekend.

It's a great thing when people will travel far and wide to see art. It's even better when it's about friendship. How very Venice ... Art. Crime. Friendship!

If you're in New York, Crashing the Party - The Arty-Fact Paintings is open to the public at The Animazing Gallery until June 26th, 2011. If you're in Venice, look for the tall, blond guy in paint splattered shorts riding his bike around, and shake his hand for a job greatly done. And a fun, friend-filled life being lived, in true Venice style.

The Animazing Gallery
54 Greene Street
New York, NY 10013

*Photos by Kwaku Alston, Alan Shaffer and Me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Barbara Kruger at L & M Arts

The new exhibition at L&M Arts just opened last weekend, and Barbara Kruger is speaking her mind, that's for sure. Los Angeles native and part-time resident, Kruger, has wrapped the entire West Gallery in her thoughts and ideas about money, power, and desire ... aka a lot of what makes this town tick. It clearly shows you the simple power of words. As you immerse yourself in the huge statements, they take over your mind, force you to think, and when you exit the room, it's with a bit more edge and truth in your step.

The very best thing is that I've been swamped lately and L&M is so close that I was jamming to get laundry done and calls/emails placed before leaving town, and in that lull between wash and dry cycles, I thought, "I'll run down and check out the new show at L&M". I love it. And as it turns out, I needed it.

To step outside of yourself as often as you can is crucial to knowing yourself back inside. Just stopping what you're doing for a few moments and absorbing the ideas that are both someone else's and universally applicable at the same time, is jarring sure, but also real necessary sometimes.

That was taken even further in the dark confines of the East Gallery that is showing Kruger's video installation The Globe Shrinks, 2010. As her press release states, "This work continues Kruger's engagement with the kindness and brutality of the everyday, the collision of declaration and doubt, the duet of pictures and words, the resonance of direct address, and the unspoken in every conversation." Which really means that some guys tell bad jokes, a woman's face on one side is blown by an old GE fan on the other, religious rituals of all kinds surround you on all four walls, words flash by ("Life is too short for cruelty. Too short. Finally, alone in the dark. Close your eyes."), and an unseen narrator says things like "You're thinking about everything you want and don't have. I've got you where I want you. In the dark." True enough.

It was a bit surreal to have stopped everything and ran off quickly to sit in the dark and think about existential ideas, while hearing the traffic of Venice Boulevard zoom by outside, as people of our city sped around trying to get the things they want and don't yet have.

As I stepped back out into the glaring sunlight, squinting and already thinking about what I had to do next ... I did find myself slowing my step, and stopping to quite literally smell the roses (white ones) on my way back to real life. Thank you, Art!!

Barbara Kruger
L&M Arts
660 Venice Boulevard

Now through July 9, 2011

Union Town! Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman's New Ep For The Workers

Few people inspire me in such a profound way as my good friend, The Nightwatchman - the alter ego of guitar hero, Tom Morello. That's not because he's a big rock star or even that he does rip that guitar apart every time he picks one up, but because he speaks his mind exactly, never minding if it rankles the G.P. (general population) or has fans that want him to shut up about social justice and just shred. In a time when so much music and its attendant celebrity is up its own ass, pointless, platform-wasting, and so empty it echoes ... He's here to make a difference.

I've stood beside him many times in complete solidarity, and can tell you from experience that the guy is beyond 100% authentic, in both talent and conviction. His brand new EP, Union Town, (available now here) illustrates that absolute fact better than anything he's done yet, especially as ALL proceeds will go toward the fight for the rights of Union workers across the country. ALL proceeds.

The album of Pro-Union, Pro-Labor, Pro-Working Class songs was recorded in four days right after Tom (a card-carrying Union member himself) returned from the massive rallies and Capitol sit-ins in opposition to Governor Scott Walker's (BOO! HISS!) attack on worker's rights in Madison, Wisconsin this past February. He and his Freedom Fighter Orchestra (Wayne Kramer, Dave Gibbs, Carl Restivo, Chris Joyner and Anne Preven) play the 8 songs of originals and classics with such gusto, you can almost feel the chill of the Wisconsin winter - indeed, I had chills many times during listening to these seriously important tunes.

None more so than the live version of The Nightwatchman's own Union anthem (from his first album, One Man Revolution), "Union Song" that ends the EP. It starts with Tom belting out a speech to rile up the 100,000 people he's playing to in Madison, and you can hear the crowd starting to believe that they really can make a difference ... that we can ALL make a difference, when we stand UP, and stand STRONG - Together. That one is book-ended on the front side by "Union Town" which Tom wrote the day he returned to L.A. from Madison, as inspired as he'd ever been. The recorded version is a true rabble-rouser, complete with the hoped-for and received Morello-ian guitar solo that sears through all the madness as much as the lyrics do.

"Solidarity Forever" is sung to the tune of, appropriately, "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic" ... Solidarity Forever, for the Union makes us strong! Amen to that. The EP has its acoustic ballad moments in "Which Side Are You On?" (written in 1931 by a Kentucky coal miner's 12 year old daughter, Florence Reece) and even a finger-snapping jazzy turn in the Merle Travis classic, "16 Tons". I was listening along to the opening notes to "Wall Against The Wind" when I thought, "This sounds like a Nightwatchman song" - which it is. Meaning, he's been around doing this for long enough now that I recognized the sound as distinctly his, without question. Cool. "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill Last Night" is slow and serious, and Tom made up the music to go with the lyrics that he'd read in a Joe Hill biography. They recorded it with the lights down way low, to capture the haunting quality of the ghost-y lyrics. They succeeded.

Three generations of Morello's (and friends) sing along to the now-signature closer of a Nightwatchman show, Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" - always with censored versions intact, and always a reminder of what our great country is SUPPOSED to be. And, sadly, how far we've been led astray from those ideals.

That is true, but instead of feeling unbearably daunted, these songs and ideas UPLIFT and EMPOWER. As Tom says, they are meant to show how music is another form of guerilla warfare. It's a fact. It gets people inspired to get off the sidelines and get involved, to do SOMETHING. To take back what's rightfully theirs ... life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, respect, equality, and JUSTICE. When you get a giant crowd singing along a chorus of truth, you can feel the change a-coming. And that change will not happen in boardrooms or halls of Congress ... it will happen in the streets of this land, that was made for you and me.

Get Union Town right now, to support your brothers and sisters out there fighting the good fight, and let them know that they're not alone in this, or any, struggle.

Stand UP! Stand STRONG!

*And keep your ears perked for The Nightwatchman's new full length album World Wide Rebel Songs - this Summer!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Moods of Norway Celebrates Syttende Mai 2011!

"Happy Clothes for Happy People" read the tags on the supercool threads put out by Moods of Norway. Not only do I love that, but I love the people behind the label ... sweethearts who just want to have fun - and do - all in their charming Norwegian accents. (Fun like opening their own ski resort for Summer skiing in Norway. Floating up to rock festivals in a giant hot pink boat. Cruising town in a bright blue limo. Gold farm tractors in the middle of the shop. I love their spirit, in everything they touch. GREAT Nordmenn, all).

Last night was the party for Norway's National Day (Syttende Mai) celebrated each May 17, held at the MON store on Robertson in Bev Hills. It was packed, and the Fire Marshall had already cut the power due to over-capacity before we even got there, so we had a brief line wait in the chill air outside while that got sorted. Even that was fine, as we just made new friends (and saw cool ones from last year) with adorable folks who indeed, all seemed to be happy people.

Once inside, we made a direct line to the bar, where again they were offering up champagne and waffles (with lingonberry sauce!) made by Norwegian Grandmas. It seemed as though all the natural blondes of Los Angeles (!) were squeezed inside, and many of their/our friends too. Local Norwegian students were in attendance, and I got to practice my VERY litt Norsk with some of them as I admired their face-painted Norwegian flags and embraced their sense of national pride along with them.

In addition to the lovely people we consorted with, the highlight for me was when one of the Moods founders (and gracious host), Stefan Dahlkvist, was joined by Aussie (and honorary Norwegian) Nick Maybury for a plugged in guitar jam of the Norwegian national anthem, "Ja Vi Elsker" (translates to "Yes, we love this country"), sung along with gusto to (or hummed) by the whole entire party.

A friend of theirs (whose name escapes me right now, but he was a doll) straight outta Oslo got up next and ripped up his accordion, as Stefan said, "He has played for us at every Moods of Norway event in history!" Lucky fellow. Who ruled, in his satiny blue suit.

The party moved on to the Sky Bar, but we didn't make it that far, due to responsibilities early today, but my honorary Norwegian (Erinn) and I had a ball, and shout out a hearty TUSEN TAKK (!!!) to our fellow Happy People.

Really, check out their bright, cheerful, "superduper" duds, because they - and the people behind them - are true mood lifters. Every time.


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Circus Comes To Abbot Kinney!

The Circus came to town last Saturday at the opening of the Zircon & Wish Aerial Circus happening in the one ring space of Robin's Sculpture Garden right there on Abbot Kinney Boulevard! I couldn't wait to attend opening night, as I'd been hearing about the work going into it for quite a while. It was about time some REAL crazy stuff happened on the street vs. the usual hullabaloo about parking or food trucks or restaurant seating or strollers or whatnot crazy- MAKING. THIS was something I could get behind as what I always wanted Venice to be in my mind when I first heard about the place as a kid.

Kids of all ages enjoyed the premiere of our own Venice Circus, and many in the audience came prepared in costumes of their own, in the true spirit of the idea.

The theme of this circus is Alice In Wonderland, so the set was done up with that story's props; a clock, mushrooms, big perfume bottle, etc. A mime-type guy named Chico was going around painting the white roses red before the show as people got seated (after visiting the concession stand, of course).

He was soon joined by fun, sociable kids from the crowd, getting into it with hula hoops from Hoopnotica. One young boy from the neighborhood even showed off his rookie break-dance moves. {I love when kids just go for it, without any fear or self-consciousness like that. It gives me hope that there will still be cool people in the future. Phew.}

Robin Murez of Robin's Sculpture Garden, the woman and the space hosting the event, introduced the night as the first ever performance of the Zircon & Wish Circus in her space (which will continue on weekends through the Summer!), which is a perfect magic spot, such as it is scattered about with her giant heart sculptures and over-sized blown glass blades of grass. It really does feel like down the rabbit hole a little bit, on just a regular day. Just as I was thinking about that, a White Rabbit came out, muttering about "I'm late!"

While she ranted on about it in that drama club silly voice way that kids find hilarious, an Alice slowly descended from the ceiling of the aerial structure that has been rigged high above the ground. With the May sky gradually growing grayer (and chillier) over Venice, it was pretty dope and dramatic looking as "She" (Alice was a guy to begin with) swirled around the rope, making it look extra graceful and easy.

Alice drank from the "Drink Me" bottle and soon shrank into a little doll, getting some laughs. The doll drank again (with help) and came back as a giant female Alice on stilts. She jumped rope and hula-hooped and danced and made the little kids laugh, until the Mad Hatter interrupted it all to dazzle with more aerial tricks.

With no net, by the way. That takes some serious brute strength, both mental and physical, as it was pretty high up there.

A Lady Elaine sounding (Mr. Rogers, remember?!), hookah-smoking Caterpillar came out and queened it up, spouting smoke and great lines for Venice, like "We're all mad here!" (which I like to think we tend/hope to be, in the Kerouac-ian sense, like: “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!”) ...

... and "I hope you have your head fastened on tight!" as she offered up a lick of mushroom to Alice.

The Cheshire Cat came out and spun from a hula hoop attached to the rope, with such feline grace and natural strength that a little girl yelled out, "Nice job, Kitty Cat!", making us all laugh - with her. The Queen of Hearts erupted out of a veil of smoke machine haze and shouted, "I love croquet!" We do too, Queen of Hearts!

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Zircon and Wish again, as they play many parts) came out and did power moves on the red silks hanging from the aerial apparatus, and everyone's necks were craned upward as they balanced and lifted each other with such fluid ease that it seemed like anyone could just hop up there and cruise around on it. Until I heard a guy in front of me say he could never even climb the rope all the way up back in gym class.

Circuses always bring up memories ... o 0 O (thought bubble) I remember skipping the box seats my Mom won to the Circus back home because it was the same night Michael Jackson was performing on the American Music Awards, the time he first did the Moonwalk. I still think I made the right choice - that thing was exciting!

[Amid all of this, I could hear people going by on the sidewalk, heels clacking on their way to Wabi-Sabi or The Tasting Kitchen across the street, wondering what the heck was going on in this space right on the boulevard, with dudes hanging from giant red drapes, spinning overhead a bit like a cross between Cirque du Soleil, Pee Wee's Playhouse, and a scene from Bruno. It gave me immense pleasure to hear that renewed wonder in the voices as they came across something splendid by complete surprise.]

The Tweedles entertained the crowd with their magnificent feats, and then it was over, to introductions and applause. You could tell the crowd was delighted, that for most of us, we all just walked on over to the Circus that night! And would now walk on to the next venue, party or home, having been reminded that life itself is a crazy Circus. Venice was founded on the ideas of a Circus Ringmaster kinda guy, and that is the spirit that has hovered over it all - and persists - exactly because people like this have their dreams, and make them come true.

Join the fun (and be inspired to create your own!)! The next Circus weekends are June 11th & 12th, and June 25th & 26th.

Zircon & Wish Aerial Circus
@ Robin's Sculpture Garden
1632 Abbot Kinney Boulevard

*Tickets are steep-ish ($25) for a somewhat short show, but there are discounts for those saying "White Party" at the gate. They're also pretty cool about working with the locals to make it affordable to bring a slew of kids out for a night of fun and fantasy, right up the street.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Frankly, Mr. Shankly at Knibb Design

So I was minding my own business after a few honorary margaritas on Cinco de Mayo, when I encountered what seemed like half of Venice spilling out of Knibb Design Studio on Abbot Kinney for the opening of "Frankly, Mr. Shankly", photographs by Lawrence Watson. Since I knew most everyone there, I had to stop in, and I'm so glad I did. This show is all the way up my alley, as it's all music photos, and all awesome.

It felt rock and roll from the moment you entered, and everywhere you looked was another arresting image of rock legends we all know and love. Run DMC. Public Enemy. Grace Jones. Oasis. David Bowie. James Brown. Morrisey. Blur. Etc. Etc.

One wall was a big collage of torn up images, and was my favorite part of the whole deal. It could've kept me there for hours, but at things like this you have to keep stopping the staring and have little chats with everyone. So I shall return.

There was even merch, if you needed a Flavor Flav photo T-shirt - and who doesn't?

The show is up now through June 1st, so get yourself in there when you're out strolling the Boulevard. It's real cool.

Knibb Design Showroom
1522 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Monday-Saturday, 12pm-5pm

Friday, May 6, 2011

Summer Sequence Initiated!

Phew! LOTS going on all the time, that is for sure. In just the last week alone on the global scale, we had the Royal Wedding, then they find Osama Bin Laden (I have plenty to say about that, but today is not for that kind of dealing), and all the other stuff constantly going on. It's hard to know where to focus one's attention span at times.

That is certainly true on a personal level as well. I had my dear friend Christine in town for a visit and we went nuts like it was high school spring break. We're not proud. Then all the usual hustle and flow (great movie), and it was only the other day that I had a bit of time to just cruise around and LOVE where I am. It also just so happened to be hot enough out at the beach for the first official plunge into the Pacific after our morning constitutional along the shore. BLISS! As we let the water droplets evaporate off of our skin in the morning sunbeams, Jenny said, "Summer Sequence Initiated", like a future spaceship person. And so it is ON.

The day just kept getting better from there. Perfect mocha at the French. A fast, nice and smooth experience getting my passport renewed at the Venice Post Office (! I know! But it's true!). Pretty much the whole beach to myself, which brought on the season's first tan lines (which last year took a drive to Palm Springs to obtain - in August)! I had nothing but good thoughts as I listened to the waves roll in and the occasional seagull squawk. No headphones necessary.

I then decided to just cruise around on my bike and take streets I normally don't, just to see what was going on around the neighborhood, and every last area was bursting out in unrestrained beauty. The Canals were ridiculously sparkling ...

I found a mock orange (the scratch and sniff smell of "California" to me) right up the street. I found a utility pole on Oakwood that had gorgeous roses snaking up around it, just for fun.

My favorite Doors song has always been "Love Street" and riding past this crumbling, but stop you in your bike tracks lovely house on Milwood, that tune immediately sprang into my head. The lady who was outside watering the flowers didn't speak English, but she seemed happy that her green thumb made me so happy.

Taking Linden back toward Venice, I saw this house, just in time for Mother's Day (and the real origin of the day here WAS to stand against war), all brightly painted and Code Pinked up.

Among even more stunning roses here was this pole, with the same saying on each side in different languages:

If everyone could take a moment and be grateful for all that we DO have, every day, I think that that Peace really CAN prevail on Earth. But not by celebrating in the streets over a death, not by air striking some other country over their own business, not by bitching at someone about a parking spot or some such trifle, not by being a general tool over not big deals ... but by just relishing what we have in so much abundance, everywhere we look.

I am always accused of being a big flower child type, which is fine by me, but I'm also happier than a lot of the accusers, with a lot less. So there.

That glorious day ended with a typically profound sunset, followed by what might be my last meal choice, if given one - Jennifer Everhart's Aloha Classic pineapple pizza. With Red Stripe. I am a lucky human, to be sure.

And now it's First Fridays, Garden Tour, Kentucky Derby, peoples' birthdays, Prince in town, stories to tell! Weather is cooperating ... Summer Sequence Initiated!