Friday, January 26, 2018

Aim High!

TGIF, man. Right? I was out this morning for a beach walk, and the sky was so impossibly blue I had to stop and just stare at it. When I glanced up, I saw that there is a whole slew of shoes on the power lines where Windward Avenue meets the Boardwalk ... like, a lot.

Back in the day you would hear that this meant there was a drug house nearby, or a gangster initiation had been completed, or what have you. I think it was really just the challenge of seeing if you could get the shoes over the lines, because they're pretty high.

Well, a whole bunch of people could, and there's basically a shoe store hanging above Venice right now. As I don't know what it really means, I'm taking it as a cool way to remind us all to aim high every day. And get out there and have yourselves an awesome weekend under these azure skies!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

New Shows At LA Louver - Starring Matisse

I hadn't been to an opening at the L.A. Louver for a while, so it was lovely to head over there last night and see both new art and a bunch of familiar faces to wish a "Happy New Year" to (I'll say it until I see you the first time in it). I love it when everyone comes out in the name of art.

The ground floor held a group show called "Elemental" that featured sculptures by a variety of diverse artists from Carl Andre to Yoko Ono, all in materials that were in some form raw - elemental. Richard Deacon's Siamese Metal #6, 2012 was next to Peter Alexander's I Remember When It Was All Orange Groves that conjured no pastoral landscape that I could tell. Art. It was all rather cold, dark, and metallic ... reminding me a bit of the Trump's Christmas decorations.

A lot of people packed in to check it all out, and it was a mix of longtime Venetians and dudes that probably rode in on Bird scooters (Please don't. They make you look like SUCH tools. Thanks.). Art lovers and scenesters congregated in the main room around a piece by Richard Long called Trastevere Spring Line, 2012.

The piece I liked the most downstairs was Sundog by Peter Shelton, mainly because I had recently seen a magical rainbow sundog in the sky back in Minnesota, and this brought back a fond memory. All reactions to art are personal, if you think about it ... and sometimes you really have to search for that connection ...

... as in the altered fridge that Josh Callaghan titled Monument To World Peace made one wonder just how a household appliance could accomplish such a thing, but kudos for trying.

The upstairs skyroom held more sculptures, centered around a little ceramic dude by Matt Wedel that was fun and whimsical, and it gave one a breath of fresh air while checking it out.

The best in show/s was a wonderful display of art by Henri Matisse, showing works on paper from 1913 - 1948.  The drawing, etchings, and lithographs were almost all female, and almost all nude, and all highly covetous (and they're all for sale!). They're all so simple and sultry, conjuring up what felt like an easier, breezier time. La Sieste, 1938 was particularly dreamy, and kept distracting me from all of the conversation happening around.

These shows are all on display until March 3, and it's always a lovely addition to any day to take in the art at L.A. Louver, whatever they are showing. Venice is nothing without its art.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Into Action - A Celebration Of Community Power + Cultural Resistance

I attended one of the very best art shows ever over the weekend, and I'm still gushing about the Into Action event in downtown L.A., and will be for a good long while. The only bad news is that it's over now, and I sure do hope you got to attend this exceptional experience. Wow.

As the show had already been on a week by the time I went, I figured it would be easy breezy to get in to check out the art at this FREE event. I was fully wrong, as I didn't anticipate the looooong line to get in to hear the panel of Bryan Stevenson and John Legend discussing social injustice. It was no big deal though, as everyone in line was cool - as you'd expect for people attending a show like this -  and soon enough, event organizer Yosi Sergant came along the line passing out wristbands for us to get in. Sargent is awesome, and you should check out everything this cat is involved in, because it's always something else. And something important.

This show was truly one of the most important art extravaganzas you could ever hope to attend. Each and every piece had something major to say, and I wasn't prepared for just how emotional this art would make me. I walked around choked up with my hand over my heart the entire time. All of the featured artists hit the nail exactly on the head while dealing with such massive issues as racial injustice, women's rights, immigration, police murders, income inequality, guns ... all of it. And it couldn't have happened at a better time, as all of these issues seem to be coming to a head at once.

The very first installation you saw inside the gallery was a pile of newspapers, making up a collage centered by the phrase, "What A Year". Truly. You almost can't keep up with it all, and this work kicked off all the rest that we would see. Seeing all of those awful headlines together made one feel exactly like the piece from Aubrie Costello - Sick And Tired, 2017. Exactly.

There were so many highlights, and I only captured some of them, because I didn't want to wreck it for people who were still going to go, but now that it's done, I wish I had taken even more. Every single piece had something worthwhile to say, and the creativity of artists in times like these is exceptional. And SO necessary. There is a lot of humor involved too, because so much of our society today is truly laughable. America, The Greatest Nation On Earth by Erika Rothenberg had its tongue firmly in cheek. Obviously.

Meet George by Swoon. Rad.

Look at Hands Up by Ken Gonzales-Day and try not to feel both the woman's strength and courage, but also the horror she has to endure ... for what? Time's Up on police brutality too. ENOUGH.

A Man Was Lynched By Police Yesterday was a banner that could be put out a lot of days in this country, and good on artist Dread Scott for spelling it out for what it is.

That piece paired well with Trayvon Martin by Chip Southworth. A hoodie. A toy. And dead.

Robbie Conal contributed I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin), and it was awesome.

Travis Somerville created a True Monument out of a quilt, varsity letters, and a gas can.

Beautiful mothers of dead children made up a mural that hurt ones heart. By Kate Deciccio.

There was a automatic weapon vending machine that left one with chills from its title alone ... Supply and Demand, by Coby Kennedy. Ugh.

Nation Of Protest from Christopher Myers was a huge wall hanging urging us all to be exactly that.

Michael Murphy created a big installation of guns and ammo making up our flag. Ouch.

Bullets continued to rain down in the piece by Michele Pred called Security Storm. Gun violence has struck a huge nerve, both in our nation and among our artists. As it should.

Shepard Fairey had a few pieces in the show, and this was my favorite. Don't Be A MFR. So basic. Just don't. Practice respect and justice. It's not that hard.

There was a long line to smash plates in the installation called Shattering by Ann Lewis. You could write your grievance on a plate and go in a room and smash it against a wall. A very satisfying way to literally smash the patriarchy.

The massive homelessness crisis was addressed in this piece that I couldn't find the artist's name afterward but that includes a fact that it hurts to even think about. Up 23%!?! In one of the richest cities in the world. This is an outrage.

I very much liked the piece called California Resistance by Jillian Kogan ... and then I looked closer to see that it's almost entirely made up of pills. Is that how much of CA is coping? I hope not. Pills kill.

We The Resilient was one of my favorite works, in a beautiful portrait by Ernesto Yerena.

The Stranger Will Come And Destroy Your Traditions by Frohawk Two Feathers was sad, and also spoke to immigration.

With the Women's March going down the next day, there was plenty of art to focus on female issues included in this show, that clearly shows that #Timesup on sexual assault, and women are taking back our power in so many ways. It was empowering just to behold ... Greed In The Garment Industry by Emily Halpern made a serious point to that effect. 

In Utero (Study for Installation) by Holly Ballard Martz showed what we don't want to go back to ... wire hanger abortions aren't good for anyone.

Among my favorite work was this piece by Nisha K. Sethi called All The Right Weaponry. Awesome.


Among the most powerful images to focus on women's rights was the piece from Tes One, called Lady Liberty, Mother Of Exiles, that showed our beautiful symbol of freedom with "Me Too" engraved on her crown. Harsh, but true.

Jeremy Dean created a ring of folding chairs called Everything That Rises that was real cool, and a big one for Instagram.

I loved the works from Mary Iverson, especially this one, The Mother Of All Bombs. This one took the top place on my brother's best of show list, which I knew it would. Excellent.

Minnesota's own Kii Arens showed The Dreamer ... very timely in this time of trying to defend DACA from our awful current government. Very cool.

There was so much to see and do, with panels and music every day. We got to hear a little bit of Bryan Stevenson and John Legend's chat, and the best was when Legend sang an a cappella version of his "Glory" from the film, Selma. It was holy. I cried. There was a gift shop where you could purchase relevant books, and prints of many of the show's artworks, as well Patriarchy plates to smash, and skate decks that dissed Trump. Cool stuff.

The entire show might be summed up in a neon piece by Guillermo Bert ... You Don't Have The Right To Remain Silent. None of us do. There's no time to waste. The time for social justice for ALL is long past, and it is our duty as citizens to speak up, act out, and stand up for what is right.

What an incredible display of artistic resistance! This wonderful festival of art, activism, and social justice needs to be replicated around not only our country, but around the world. Gatherings like this are what get people inspired to act ... and we need that now more than perhaps ever before. Heartfelt thanks to each and every artivist and participant in this fantastic event that won't soon be forgotten. Thanks most to Yosi Sergant and his team, who walk the walk with every new event they put on. Stay tuned. And do not be silent.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Venice Loses Ed Moses

Two days after an opening of new works at the Runway Gallery next to Hal's in Playa Vista, Venice is mourning the loss of legendary artist, Ed Moses. I regret that I missed that opening, and the chance to celebrate this founding member of the "Cool School" of art one more time.

                                                                                                                 Portrait: Kwaku Alston

There was a massive Moses At 90 retrospective featuring decades of Moses' art a couple of years ago at Bergamot Station that was packed to the rafters, as everyone marveled at how very prolific Moses was, even at 91 years old.

The L.A. Times ran a comprehensive article on the life and career of Moses yesterday that will tell you everything you need to know about his history, but all of Venice will miss just seeing him around with that ever-present twinkle in his eye. A notorious flirt, one could always count on Moses for a good bon mot or story. The old Hal's was always good for a Moses sighting, as he held court there often - usually under one of his massive pieces that the main wall was always reserved for. I remember him saying at an anniversary celebration for Hal's at Electric Lodge that "Hal's has B+ food, which I like, because I can always get a table." Everyone cracked up, mainly because Moses would never have a problem getting a table at Hal's - or anywhere.

His loss has left a gaping hole in the art world, and in Venice, but the beautiful thing is that his wonderful work will live on forever.

Deepest sympathy and love to all who loved Mr. Ed Moses. He was one of a kind.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Calvin & Hobbes Love You!

Awwww. Returning from the beach this morning, I was thinking about everything in the whole world, like most days. As much garbage news and as many mean-spirited people as there in this joint, there really are some truly lovely ones. Like the person behind the "Someone loves you" street art. This morning they struck again, and there was a new one featuring Calvin & Hobbes letting everyone know that they are loved.

I'm sorry that I don't know who the artist is to properly credit them (let me know if you do!), but I want them to know it's appreciated, and almost always seen when it's really needed.

Thank you to them for this little day-maker there at the entrance to the Venice Canals. And just so they know ... someone loves them - and their work -  too. XOXO.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Vikings In Venice!

There are some things you just can't really understand how much they mean to an entire state unless you were born and raised in Minnesota. The Minnesota Vikings. Prince. And maybe the accent.

When I moved to California, it almost made those things MORE special, because I missed them. The good news is that there are several Vikings in Venice, and all of us have never been more happy than when the "Minneapolis Miracle" took place last Sunday. I'm still laugh-crying about it, especially when you re-watch the play for the thousandth time, and realize that IT REALLY HAPPENED. And it will never get old.

You have to know that things like this just do not happen to the Minnesota Vikings. We've always been the ones on the other end of miracle plays, or more often, they've just blown it. But we love them anyway. To be a Vikings fan is to know how to handle disappointment. It - and the extreme weather - are probably why people are so nice back home ... you just have to be. You have to look out for each other, and you have to keep up your chin up through crushing blows.

But not on Sunday. Sunday was our turn to REJOICE!!! You've never heard such pure jublilation than when Case Keenum threw a miracle pass to Stefon Diggs who made a miracle catch, and ran it in for the first ever walk-off NFL Playoff touchdown in history. The crowd slowly realizes that all might not be lost, and then it become pure pandemonium. Just listen ... !

Even then we couldn't believe it. We were sure it would be called back for a penalty, or out of bounds or some such nonsense, but nope. Not this time. It was real, and our involuntary, out of control celebration really hasn't ended. Calls and texts came in from across the nation, as everyone knows how much that moment means to a Minnesotan.

If you're not into sports, you would still get the excitement of this miracle. I had just returned to Venice from Minneapolis, and all I wanted was to be back there, yelling and hugging with all my people. They could probably hear us from here, though. It was - and is - just so good.

I was sad to see the garbage New Orleans coach, Sean Payton, mocking the crowd with our "Skol!" chant when we very briefly trailed on the scoreboard ... but his karma was almost immediate. HAAAA. He screwed us over back in 2009 with "Bountygate" (Look it up. Awful.) We STILL rooted for New Orleans in that Superbowl (Well, I did), because the people of that city needed it after the nightmare of Katrina, but now it's our turn to go for it. Fairly and squarely, I might add. And they should root for us. The Vikings still have to play the NFC Championship this weekend, of course, but we're feeling pretty good about it. As far as we're concerned, there is no other team to cheer for. The Vikings are by far the coolest team left, and if victorious this weekend, they will be the first team in history to play in their own town's Superbowl. Minnesota will be going OFF. Who can't get behind rooting for that?

No matter what happens, no one can take away that moment of collective JOY on such a scale that we'll all remember it all of our days. There is a meme going around of an angel Prince stepping in to make the block for Diggs on that last catch, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised. It was that miraculous.

Minnesotans will never get over the sadness of losing our Prince, and now we'll never get over the sheer elation of that Minnesota Vikings victory that will be one of the best ever for all time. We'll also never get over the accent.

You gave us all something to celebrate the rest of our days. It's more than a game, it's the spirit of a people. The spirit of home. SKOL VIKINGS!!! BRING IT HOME!! But above all, THANK YOU!!!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Try To Set The Night On Fire - A New Jim Mural In Venice

What an excellent surprise to be walking down Speedway the day I got back to town, when I looked up to see a brand new mural of Jim Morrison being finished by muralist Jonas Never on the side of the Ellison Suites on Paloma. With the official "Day of the Doors" celebrated in Venice on January 4th, this was pretty good timing. I missed that, but we can all go try to set the night on fire this coming Sunday (January 14th) when Peace Frog plays at Surfside Venice. If you've never seen them live, and you feel like having a blast, go. You can shut your eyes and imagine it's the real Doors playing for you ... because they're just about that good.

Humming "Love Street" to myself, I walked on to see that the other side of the Ellison Suites had a giant mural of the actor John Hurt (The Elephant Man, Harry Potter, V For Vendetta, etc ...), who is rumored to have lived in this building. It is a gorgeous tribute to the late actor who passed away last January.

Next to Mr. Hurt is a gigantic Lana Del Rey, for reasons I really don't know. I've never heard of a Venice connection with her, but there she is, larger than life. O.K.

I'm of the mindset that all buildings should have an awesome mural painted on them, and the Ellison Suites have never looked better. Take a stroll down Speedway when you get the chance, and tip your hat to the Lizard King there, watching over it all.

And have a sensational weekend while you're at it!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The 2018 L.A. Art Show - Art Galore!

I got back to town just in time for the opening night celebration of the L.A. Art Show, and as usual, it did not disappoint. There is just SO much art that you really almost need to attend every day if you think you might be able to see everything ... and you probably still won't. There is truly something for everyone, and as I heard a dude say to his friend, "Dude, aren't you getting inspired?!" You can't help but be.

Margaret Keane (of Big Eyes fame) was an honored with a lifetime achievement award this year, and it was very cool to see her work up close and personal - especially after watching that film and knowing her back story. Whoa. I loved her Girl From Kaanapali, 1971 the most. It's happier than anything I've ever seen from her.

I'd never seen any of her work with adults in it, and it's really something. Her characters (as in the above Escape, 1962) draw you in with their eyes, and make you want to know more. There are also very recent works, like up to 2015 by the now 90 year old artist. The trip downtown was worth it for this alone, but oh boy, was there ever SO much more.

Littletopia is always my favorite section of the L.A. Art Show, and always the most interesting. Curated by the fine folks at the Red Truck Gallery (from New Orleans), they have the best stuff, in my humble - and honest - opinion. Red Truck is so cool, and I made their Rachael Cronin pose in front of the wonderful Albino Deer piece by Chris Roberts, whose work I simply must own one day. She's incredible - and the mother of gallery owner Noah Antieau. Awesome.

I loved the works by Vance Lorenzini, with an entire booth featuring his work. There were the 12 stations of the cross, with words like "Truth" and "Love" emblazoned across the tops.

There were assemblages with pop culture icons embedded within, like the excellent pieces featuring lyrics by David Bowie (as we pass the two year mark since losing him).

Everywhere you look there is something great to look at, so much so that it almost gets overwhelming, especially when you're running into friends and trying to get something to drink. (*Forget about getting food on opening night unless you're there lined up the second it starts. In all the years I've attended this wonderful event, I've never made it to the food section in time to taste a single thing. Oh well, it's about the art. Eat first.) The good news is that near the food area is the L.A. Arts Online booth, so we got to see and compliment the wonderful Paige Petrone on all of her hard work for this event every year. Venice representing! In this time of strong women (like Paige), there was a piece by Kim Dong Yoo showing off some awesome women.

Art means so many different things to everyone, and there truly is something to appeal to everyone at this massive show, representing artists from all over the world. There was a bike covered with fish from Japan that was probably someone's favorite piece there.

There are always fun installations at the show, and this year was no different (if a bit less dramatic than the live naked lady in fresh flowers from a couple of years ago). The big crowd pleaser this year was Left Or Right - A Healing Project (1998-2018) by Antuan, rows of red punching bags adorned with the most punchable faces in the world. There were particularly long lines to punch Trump, of course, and it was very personally satisfying to me to smack George W. Bush in the kisser, but I was a little disappointed there was no Paul Ryan or Steven Miller there. OOH, are they punchable! Kim Jung Un and Putin were also popular to punch. And rightly so.

Interactive exhibits are always cool, and this time around they had a thing you took off your shoes and walked on and looked at stuff (I didn't have the luxury of time to do so, so might have to go back this weekend) that people seemed to like ...

... as well as Brainstorming: Empathy by Victoria Vesna and Mark Cohen - a thing where you could don alien heads and have your brain waves communicate through color and sound to the other person. Trrrrrippy.

I was happy to see a booth featuring the works of Dan Eldon, the young journalist who was killed in Somalia in 1993, and was the author of The Journey Is The Destination - a personal favorite of my brother's and mine. Eldon's mother and sister have taken on his mission of storytelling to influence hearts and minds.

To that end, this was also an interactive situation, where you could fill out postcards with your personal thoughts and missions to add to a wall to create insight as to how "Connection is the solution." Very cool, and also very, very important to our global village in times like these. Seeing Eldon's personal journals there was also very moving and great.

Right after that I walked by a piece that summed that all up ... Matt Smiley was right. His Lessons In History, 2017 tells us the truism, that the world is just not that simple.

Many works made their statements, as all the best art does. I particularly enjoyed Mass Incarceration by Ryan McCann, showing a weed life in what looked like prison cinder blocks. Good one, as L.A. legalized marijuana as of January 1st, just as the little weasel Jeff Sessions is trying to make it the same as heroin again. Please.

This re-cap is all over the place, as were my meanderings around the massive Convention Center. I'd bump into someone and they'd tell me I just had to see the butterflies made out of international currency, so off I'd go ...

Someone would say to go check out the bedazzled punk rock buddhas, and off I'd race in an entirely different direction.

Inevitably, in my travels back to the other side, I'd pass by some other thing that would stop me in my tracks, like the statue of Rocky punching the side of beef that changed dimension as you circled around it. (I'd often be racing so fast that I didn't catch the name of the artist. Sorry if I did!)

There was a fantasy "Spaceboat" installation that looked like something a Wes Anderson type kid would sail away in, brought to us by Bunnie Reiss at the Superchief Gallery in L.A. Loved it.

Jeff Gillette created a hood out of Hollywood, with a Hollywood sign disintegrating into a shanty town that was pretty heavy.

I loved the needlepoint pieces by Suchitra Mattai, with idyllic scenes featuring people with lasers coming out of their eyes. Why not?

For What It's Worth was a mixed media guitar by Victoria Roberts, inspired by the Buffalo Springfield song that was pretty cool.

This year's crazy realistic head by Kazuhiro Tsuji was the artist Mark Ryden. Not as recognizable as the previous years' Frida Kahlo, Warhol, and Dali, but still as trippily real as ever.

The L.A. Art Show lets you know that art can be a sculpture of a pile of thousands of pennies ...

... an archway made out of wood (that you could probably build yourself for loads cheaper) that I loved and wanted for my own pad one day ...

...random words and shapes (by David Buckingham) ...

... or even a clipboard stating that one will no longer draw flying penises in class.  Again, why not?

All in all, art is awesome. The L.A. Art show itself is awesome, in every sense, including size. Thank goodness that so many people still care so much about art, as it and its creators are needed in the world now more than ever. To shape culture and life, to question it, and, ultimately to celebrate it. And as long as this is, it only scratches the surface, so you really gotta get there yourself if you also love art.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to every artist, every gallery, and everyone who loves ART.

The L.A. Art Show is on now through Sunday, January 14th 2018.