Thursday, January 28, 2016

The 2016 L.A. Art Show - So. Much. Art!

The opening of the 2016 L.A. Art Show was last night, and it was truly something to behold. Art just everywhere! So much art it can feel overwhelming to see it all, especially when you're stopping to talk to people you know every few feet. We got there a little late, and I began hyperventilating about how we could possibly see it all ... when person after person said, just cruise, relax, enjoy the pieces you see vs. trying to see everything. Such good advice ... and with that, I was off! (and this is just a random sampling of all that I saw ... someone else might have a whole different trove of photos).

Opening night is so fun to see all the people, but opening night is more about that than even the art. It's hard to see the art, in fact, because so many people are squeezed in around the crowd pleasers that you can't really appreciate them as well as they're meant to be appreciated. But that's why you go back over the weekend. To see things like Melanie Pullen shooting people for her High Fashion Crime Scenes, where there was a huge crowd all night.

A bunch of exhibitors had interaction going on, with performers dressed up to match the art in some instances ...

Or you could BE the scene, if Robert Vargas chooses you to create a mural of in front of you ...

There was a lot of live painting, with giant creations coming to life right before our eyes ...

There was a big showing from Asian artists this year, with a whole Chinese section, and a lot of great stuff from Korean artists as well.

There was a "Fortune" castle, where once inside you were surrounded by mirrors and giant wedding cakes ... but I didn't see any fortunes?

There was an adorable "Bakery" from the Daniel Rolnik Gallery, selling little works of art like (and of) baked goods, complete with a Chef back there. Fun!

A great part of the L.A. Art Show is the fun. Every few feet you run into fun people you know, and with as many Venice folks that make the trip downtown, it calms me down a little bit about artists disappearing in Venice. The Art Scene remains strong!

It's also one of those shows where you realize that absolutely anything can be considered art. A pile of purple sandbags? Art.

A claw holding the Earth while it rotates? Art.

A giant red Sumo wrestler statue? Art.

Taxidermied animals chilling in a dining room setting? Art.

A pile of inflatable animals? Art.

Tires rolled out with fabric across the floor? Art. Just think up an idea that looks cool, and it's Art!

A true highlight every year, and the section I beeline for, is Littletopia. It's where all my favorite stuff is.

My MOST favorite within Littletopia every year is always Red Truck Gallery.

What a delight to walk up and see Noah Antieau and Nick Sin chilling there at the table with friends like they were having a house party in the middle of all this chaos.

Antieau curates his awesome gallery with mostly treasures from New Orleans, where they are located (until they open another one soon in San Francisco - yay!). He represents his Mother, Chris Roberts Antieau, and her simply gorgeous works of folk art and quilts, of which I adore every single one. Like this one, Constellations.

They also feature whimsical automatons like you won't see anywhere else.

Antieau was excited about his new artist that does teeny tiny carvings on the top of pencils out of the lead. Tiny!

I would love to have stayed and hung out with the Red Truck boys, but there was just too much ground to cover. This year's Dali and Warhol heads were replaced by Frida Kahlo, in the always eerily real work of Kazuhiro Tsuji. Trippy.

This year we pretty much skipped the bars altogether because they just take too dang long (although spreading them out this year helped some with that), though you could see a lot of your friends in line if you so chose. I ran into my old pal, Seth Green and his wife, Clare ... and only then was jealous I didn't have a drink to toast him with.

We met a couple who had just returned from Banksy's Dismaland - they reported that it was pretty cool, and they sported a whole lot of merch.

Not to be outdone by Banksy, Mr. Brainwash has a strong showing here, especially with his very cool Jimi Hendriz made out of smashed vinyl records. Loved it.

A nice companion piece with this for me would be the great piece of a guitar wielding butterfly girl that I want by Mark Andrew Allen, who I learned worked out of Venice for years. And also misses Hal's.

Allen's booth also featured a "Selfie Booth" that I did not participate in because I don't do that, but people loved it as much as they to take selfies. A lot.

There were also a lot of butterflies from Damien Hirst, of course, and there was one that almost exactly matched my dress. I had to take a photo - but not a selfie.

Never mind the selfies, most of what people were doing was taking pictures of themselves with all the great art. It can't be helped.

You could see yourself in the cool, steel and studded skateboards hanging on one wall ...

But then, you could see yourself in a lot of the art ... and isn't that what Art is? And why you like it? I mean, I've been a sucker before ...

Some of the art is frustrating because you feel like a monkey could do it. Then there's the art that you have to wonder just how they did it, because it doesn't feel like anyone could do it, so intricate and amazing it is. That's the Art world, though. Just blame Obama.

There was a lot of David Bowie art (that all seemed to be done before his death at least), but this was the best one, kind of 3-D.

A similar looking piece was up the way, of a woman, made entirely from wine corks, lighters, and other ephemera that makes up mixed media. Save those wine corks!

If you needed a little break from art and the bar lines, you could cool out with some friends and play some arty ping pong. Why not?

Someone who could probably really use a break was performance artist, Millie Brown, with her Wilting Point piece. She is lying there almost naked, surrounded by flowers, surviving on only water for the five days of the show. She is "focusing on the beauty of the external decomposition around her, and the evolving changes within." And being photographed an awful lot. It was beautiful, but I bet it gets pretty old for her before the weekend is up.

My friend Big Cookie was showing with his sculpture series, Toy Soldiers, depicting young boys as violent men, but still children, in his biting social commentary work. It's powerful stuff.

I loved this deer with waterfalls eyes.

I also loved this piece made from rice paper rolled up, where it would change color depending on where you stood.

There was a crazy installation of sound waves and stuff that I didn't really get from the Metabolic Studio, but it's always fun to immerse yourself in something.

Which is, of course, the point of art, I think. To immerse yourself in something outside of you, to discover the inside of you. There was a big red wall near the VIP area that quoted Auguste Rodin, saying, "The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live."

That's what Art is all about, what LIFE is all about, and I hope you'll get to enjoy some for yourself this weekend at the wonderful L.A. Art Show. I barely scratched the surface here, so you've got a lot to see!

The L.A. Art Show runs now through Sunday, January 31, at the L.A. Convention Center Downtown.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Venice Graffstone - The Art and Jewelry Of Susan Rich

I've been trying to get together with Susan Rich for ages to talk about her supercool Venice Graffstone jewelry made from pieces of the Venice Art Walls (!), and we just finally had the chance to sit down and talk about it all. Rich was born in Vermont, and raised in Florida, with a stint in D.C. as a body builder (!) and 80's aerobics instructor (think leg warmers) and working at a credit union at the Pentagon, and all sorts of different adventures, before coming out west to attend Pepperdine. That was a springboard to get her to UCLA Film School, where she was top of her class, and soon working as a director's assistant.

A boyfriend got her to move up North, but that wasn't happening, and he said he'd only move back down to L.A. if they moved to Venice (my kind of dude), so that is where Rich has been ever since - even though she did think it was sketchy at first. It was. She lives in the same historical apartment (that they're trying to officially make historical so greedy developers don't ever get their mitts on it) near Windward Circle (but not with the same dude). "Venice takes you over and has a story for you to live out," said Rich by way of introducing her own Venice tales ... which included being a nude live model, a Dominatrix, and a graffiti artist (her tag was a big "S").

Once she started dating a graffiti artist, she began spending a whole lot of time down at the Venice Graffiti Walls at the beach. One day she turned the corner and saw all of this paint strata hanging off the ends, and had a light bulb moment. She could make graffiti art that was three dimensional - and permanent! Jewelry. Made from the years and years of paintings (an estimated 15,000 layers in one necklace!) done by artists from all over the world in the ultimate upcycling. A whole giant section had fallen off and was going to be tossed in a dumpster by the city ... unless ...

Rich took home some big chunks of fallen paint and began experimenting. She even flew to Chicago to learn from the woman that created "Fordite" - jewelry material made from the leftover paint in the automobile industry! The first piece she made was a "V" for Venice. Of course. She began making dog tags, and grew more excited every time she revealed some new, one of a kind pattern from all the swirls of paint. Rich often thinks of the person the piece is meant for as she's creating it, saying, "I'm a Shaman. They speak to me." (The Venice has definitely taken her over after her initial reluctance.) From the early dog tags, the line has grown to include necklaces, earrings, rings, and frameable art pieces. The rings are my favorite, because the setting that holds the graffstone is made from recycled skateboard decks! Now THAT is the ultimate Venice gift. Wearable art from the creative vortex and heart of our town. I love it.

An organization called STP (Setting The Pace) currently maintains the Venice Art Walls, and Rich told me that their Bruno Hernandez and Stash Maleski of ICU (In Creative Unity) before him are the reasons that the walls are still there. There is a donation button on the STP site to help make sure that they are preserved as a place for free artistic expression, and Rich would also like to give back to the walls that she loves (and that provide her with materials) by seeing these jewelry pieces of hers help sustain the walls through their sales.

"It's Family," answered Rich when I asked her what Venice meant to her. "I felt like discovering this way to honor the walls was becoming one of the family, and I want to give back to the family." That's right.

For now, you can help her do that by purchasing one of her one of a kind Venice treasures at Animal House, In Heroes We Trust, and Maui and Sons on Washington Boulevard. will soon go live, and then everyone everywhere can have their own little piece of Venice history.

I asked Rich if she had anything to say to the people in closing, and she replied, "I don't have anything else to say that the walls don't say better." With that, we took a stroll down to the Art Walls right at golden hour, greeting old friends all along the way, and stopped to watch new art being created at the Walls ... where today's statement will be tomorrow's memory - perhaps around your neck.

Get your Venice Graffstone, and carry a piece of Venice with you for always.

Now Available:

Animal House
In Heroes We Trust
Maui & Sons - Washington Blvd.
Susan Rich if you see her around town!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Take A Class In Glass - With John Mooney

When I decided I wanted to tell stories about learning new things and cool classes you can take in and around Venice, one class led to another. When I spoke to Pamela Weir-Quiton about woodshop class, she connected me with John Mooney, who teaches classes in glass blowing right around the corner. And everyone needs to know how to blow glass, so off I went to meet with Mr. Mooney.

Mooney's "Hot Shop" (there is a lot of lingo in glass work),  "Cold Shop", Showroom, chill space, and your classroom are located all under one roof on Hampton Avenue, next to a body shop in a cool and still industrial feeling part of Venice. He's a groovy guy, with a surfer/scientist vibe, and a clear enthusiasm for working with glass that is infectious.

Mooney was born in California, and raised in Colorado until he went off to college at Pomona. He was always into art, but had a specific curiosity about glass blowing, and was on a wait list all four years of college to get into the glass blowing class offered at Pitzer College, where he finally got in, and was immediately addicted. Mooney figured he'd go to Seattle and get in with the glass studio movement up there, where Dale Chilhuly was blowing up the scene and taking it into their own studios versus working for a big glass place like Corning. It was art. "Glass is not a dying art, it's an exploding art, and it's pretty damn growing," explained Mooney when teaching me about this ancient ("They were blowing glass before Jesus!") art form.

After Seattle and a stint working as a fisherman in Alaska, Mooney came down to Venice where glass artist Richard Silver needed an assistant in his studio. Mooney jumped at that, and learned and worked for Silver for the next ten years, honing his craft. "You learn to blow glass by doing it. It's a skill. The more you blow, the better," says Mooney ... and better he became, until it was time for him to open his own studio. In Venice. Where he continues to create beautiful glass pieces for galleries and for commissions, and had now opened his doors to share his craft.

Mooney found his current space on Hampton in 1996, but it took him until 1999 to get the blazing furnace on, as there is much to build to have a glass studio, I soon learned. The furnace is on 24/7, and has currently been burning non-stop for four years! This is because is takes an entire week to heat up to the 2,100 or so degrees it needs to be to hold molten glass, and a full ten days to cool off. And time is money. This furnace is meant to last a lifetime ... or as long as Mooney can maintain having his cool studio in Venice before he too gets booted out for big, stupid condos (my speculation, not his), but so far, so good.

When faced with increasing rents, like all Venice artists, Mooney started thinking about how he could keep his furnace burning in Venice, and came up with classes. "Moonlight Glass" classes started in Mooney's studio in 2009, and he's been teaching them seven days a week ever since. Classes can be private for one or two people, you can come with small groups of four or five (any more and it gets tight in there, and this all takes time) for a birthday party or something, and have the best time, and also emerge with a new skill that you can use for a lifetime! Cool.

But it is not at all cool in the room where the furnace is, and where I learned about the "Glory Hole" (a place where the item you made goes in to begin being tempered. I think.) and the "Crucible" (the cauldron where the molten glass is kept), and where all the magic happens.

In your first class, "You're gonna learn the basics, and you're gonna go home with something cool," says Mooney, which means you're gonna make a bubble like paperweight and a glass to drink out of. How cool to make something glass for someone you love and tell them you blew it from sand lava into the glass they're drinking out of! Real cool. "It's kind of like a meditation too when you're blowing glass. You have to be absolutely present and have your mind on only this," explained Mooney while showing me his technique, and we can all use more of that.

It's obvious that you need to be fully engaged, as you're working with actual lava, basically, and also whatever you're making can break in a second if you're not paying attention. As intense as that is, it's also really fun. "I've gotta have fun when I'm teaching you," Mooney laughed, "so it's fun."

We talked about our Venice, and the changes taking place, as you have to. "It's sad that tech companies are making it unaffordable to live at the beach ... when they wake up and realize what they moved to Venice for is gone, then they'll regret it. Art studios aren't meant be replaced with overpriced restaurants, but I have some optimism that they're trying to embrace the locals," said Mooney about what all has been going on. We're both hoping for this particular glass bubble to burst. "There's nothing high tech here," cracked Mooney as we looked around at the same tools that have been used in this craft since pretty much time began.

"I love what Venice has to offer ... the beach, the free nature of the People that have always lived here, meeting people living here at the edge of a Metropolis, the colors, the variety ... I love everything about Venice," Mooney said with a smile that you can only have if you live here. And know.

Carrying on about Venice, Mooney pointed out this source of pride: "Abbot Kinney loved Venice, Italy, and that's the best glass blowing in the world. I'm here in Venice, California doing this 100 years later. I get to share and learn now from my students, and we all improve each others' skills." I think Mr. Kinney would fully dig that. Keeping his dream alive!

"It's an intimate experience blowing glass with people ... it takes all of your attention, you have to be fully committed and focused, so it's pretty Zen," Mooney told me about the classes, comparing it to yoga, meditation, or a really good lunch. "You're working with your hands, making something out of nothing but sand and heat (and tongs and pigment and all that, but you get it)."

What a cool afternoon, and what a cool opportunity for everyone to learn something brand new. You can get or give the gift of glass! (Yes, gift certificates are available). I'm excited for you.

Moonlight Glass