Alternate Universe Art Walk

Last night’s art walk was a blur of one strange event after another, complete with an Andy Warhol look-a-like. The evening began like most art walk’s do. The energy was high; the hipsters came out in droves and the music kicked up.

By 7:20 I was tucked safely away in the cellar that is the Crocker Club, 453 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. This place was a trip. You walk in the door, take a sharp right and head down the stairs. Immediately you’re hit with the ambiance, a moody low-lit vault, and separate cage-like rooms screaming sit down, relax, be cool.

After a few handshakes and a much needed drink conversation started to flow between my group of relative strangers. Where were we from, what had we studied, how do you know Stan? Our conversation then took a fascinating turn towards the bizarre nature of Andy Warhol. Not once did we mention his soup cans or Marilyn’s. We discussed the possibility that his personality may have been his finest piece of work, a point that would arise and be mulled over throughout the night.

Why the Andy Warhol fixation? We were going to see the Viva Hoffmann’s show at Bert Green Fine Art. Viva’s life is undoubtedly marked by her involvement with Warhol. It set a tone of excitement over the evening. This show was our main event and I was ready to see it all put together.

After finishing our drinks we headed out around 8:30, in the direction of the Bert Green Fine Art Gallery. Our first stop along the way was the Rowan Gallery with a proverbial feast of artists to delve into. Again I was thrown into the battle of an opening. In essence, an opening, art walk in general, is for the networking, for the socializing, and maybe discovering a new artist. It’s about the discussion, the fun, and growing the community. As an artist, my instinct is to spend copious amounts of time with each piece that catches my eye and unpack it bit by bit. Alas, in a setting like an opening I just pen in my well worn notebook to come back another time and re-look at artist A, B, and C.

The artist having me return to the Rowan is Mendizabal, an artist painting with religious imagery. It was not the image itself that struck me as much as the presentation. Each piece was placed so you were either in awe of, literally looking up to, or chastising, looking down on, the image of Christ. It was an intense, striking experience and deserves more time than an opening. From the Rowan we headed to Bert Green’s.

Walking past an ever present crowd at the impossibly small Pharmaka, 101 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013, we looked across the street only to find an empty, closed, Bert Green Fine Art Gallery, 102 West 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. Mystery. Despite the ghost town gallery we made our way across the street to check it out. Nine o’clock art walk night, and Bert Green was closed. “We closed at 7:30, we have regular operating hours during the week” was Bert’s clipped explanation for the very strange absence. We shrugged in disbelief, a little mystified, and moved on. I was terribly disappointed to have missed Viva Hoffmann, in person and her work, but sooner or later we happened upon an explanation.

From there we ducked into The Regent Theatre / The Skid Row Photography Club Exhibition. The images were interesting, some way under priced. But the mystery of this venue was the lack of any musical entertainment in the large venue behind the gallery area; usually filled with music and energy. Last night, it felt strangely deserted, uncomfortably empty. We scratched our heads at how strange the night was turning out to be, then headed next door.

While the evening was filled with eerie occurrences, what happened next was simply extraordinary! The space between The Skid Row Photography Club and Metropolis Books, which had no known name, was the icing on this very strange cake. We had walked in just in time. We gathered with the crowd, circling the center of the gallery. There, a woman disrobed and posed as an artist proceeded to draw her, with a tangible intensity cursing between artist and model. As we probed viewers for information on the name of the gallery and the artist, Robert Vargis, we came up with only vague, evasive answers. Again, mystery, but of the thrilling kind. Feeling as though the art walk had produced something extraordinary instead of very uncharacteristically strange, we headed next door to Metropolis Books, 440 S. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013.

In this small, delightful bookshop there was a humble display of some beautiful photographs of Los Angeles. “I like things that show age and layers,” explained artist Jack Nadelle. His prints rang of a different era, classic, darkroom, labored over photography. Naturally I inquired if he truly had printed the works himself. Yes and no was his answer. He shot all the pieces on medium format or large format film, scanned the negative and printed from the digital file, a new way to make your photographs look classically printed. Brilliant. My favorite piece was his ‘Toys on Broadway’, which really did show the layers of the city, from the building, to the beauty shop, to the graffiti. It was a striking visual onion.

After a long, very atypical night, we headed to the nickel Diner, 524 S Main St

Los Angeles, CA 90013, to make sense of what had transpired. We quipped about the Andy Warhol look-a-like we had seen time to time throughout the night. We threw around theories of theft and a power struggle as reasons for Bert’s early close. We blamed it on the full moon as we downed a piece of unforgettable red velvet cake. So what happened at the art walk last night? Not even a good night’s sleep has made it clear to this writer. A gallery mysteriously closed, a venue left ghostly empty, and an unnamed gallery rises as the hero. It was fun, it was strange, but mostly it was completely unforgettable.

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