It’s early morning, and I’m at the Landing Party Gallery on Broadway watching the owners Erik and Aaron make a slow effort to clean the place after last night’s fashion show. The show, which was a first for them, was quite a learning experience. And judging by the state of things, a bit messier than they had bargained for.
Actually it was more like 3pm. But we’ll call it morning anyway, since my phone call also served as a wake up call for Erik.
“My bedroom is in there,” he says, gesturing at the wall across from the makeshift smoker’s lounge where we’re hanging out talking. Erik also tells me that he shares a toilet, gets exactly 5-minutes of hot water for his showers, and sometimes doesn’t see the sun for days on end. In other words, he’s happy with the living arrangement. It puts his military training to good use.
The two men signed the lease to gallery in August 2008, and had their first event in November. They bought the place after being inspired by the gallery in the Higgins building, and have since been turning this off the beaten path space into a full-blown scene. With monthly comedy shows, live bands, special events, and yes, even messy fashion shows— this place is becoming a multipurpose mixed culture convergence.
Actually they tell me, there were three owners originally. The third partner was bought out shortly after the place opened due to irreconcilable differences in managing styles. Neither of them is willing to speak his name aloud, but they gesture at a piece of artwork that hangs near the doorway to the place that the banished partner left behind. A black and white painting that reads: And Then Nothing.
“There’s more of his artwork in the back,” Erik says. “You can take it if you like. Please.” The two men exchange looks and laugh.
The departed partner, who was also supposed to be the gallery’s curator, has been replaced by a NYC transplant. The new curator’s real name, which they also won’t speak out loud, is Ivan Light Fingers. Let me tell you, Mr. Light Fingers has done the place justice. The Landing Party may very well be Art Walk’s best-kept secret.
And when I say secret, I also mean really hard to find. But trust me, the hidden location only adds to the intrigue.
I would never have found the place if a charming young man handing out flyers hadn’t stopped me on the corner of Broadway this last Art Walk. Well, actually I tell pamphleteers to f*ck off all the time. But then he pulled up an image on his iPhone to show me a piece of artwork made entirely of vinyl records painted yellow and arranged into the shape of an enormous bird-like creature. “You’ve got to go check it out,” he panted.
And I thought, big yellow record collection monster? How can I resist?
After finding the place, which was nothing more than a door, and walking up two flights of the most treacherous looking concrete stairs I’d ever seen, neither of us were expecting much. But at the top of the ‘suicide stairs’ was a big surprise— the Landing Party in all its glory. The place was decently attended, and a band was setting up to play on the stage in the center of the main room, while the crowd mauled a spread of tasty appetizers. I helped myself to a glass of free sangria and had a look around.
The giant yellow record monster did not disappoint. Neither did Paz Mallea’s lovely and grotesque mythological wall paintings, which were the first to greet my eyes. Rebecca Greene’s suspended loch ness monster model and intricate cardboard animal masks were also wonderful. One mask in particular reminded me of the Gorillaz album artwork and I kept returning to stare at it. Always a good sign for me.
Erik tells me that they had maybe 2-300 guests in and out that day. He’s watching downtown emerge from the Dark Ages into an early budding Renaissance. And the Landing Party is growing right along with it.
Despite the quality of the artwork and the first class hospitality, the place is still quite raw. Part of the charm is the ceiling full of exposed pipes, dirty floors, and big rusty steel beams. The choice in seating is also a nice touch—hairy neon ‘college furniture’ type couches, and enormous antique wooden church pews. The pews were a donation from a Buddhist church in Pasadena that was looking to create more meditation space for their younger members, they tell me.
It required a lot of fixing up, Aaron says, and there is still more to come, along with new event ideas and some upcoming solo artist shows. Erik adds that he’d help with the renovations more— if only he wasn’t scared of power tools.
The only thing the owners don’t find very charming is the habit the gallery’s patrons have lately of writing on the walls near the bathroom. “If I catch anyone with a Sharpie back there, I will pin them down and use it to draw penises all over their face,” Aaron says. “That space is for artwork.”
So, make a mental note please. Next time you’re in the Broadway and 7th area, please visit the Landing Party Gallery at 749 S. Broadway, for a look at some of downtown’s finest talent. Or catch one of their comedy shows, which I’m told are fabulous.
But do mind those stairs on the way up…and NO TAGGING!!!