6:22pm I leave my apartment, makeup intact, hair perfectly styled. I glide past my recently retrieved car and walk the length of Los Angeles to the art walk. I’m so excited by the prospect of returning to the scene, having only missed April’s art walk but missing it terribly, that I begin at quite a clip. Why drive if I can walk? By 8th and Grand I have to check my pace for fear of breaking out into more than just a glow.
My first stop is Phantom Galleries, Pacific Electric Lofts, 610 S. Main Street, Los Angeles. The walls are filled with these pop-art meets street art, glow-in-the-dark treasures. The show “Cactus World” by Chamane, is instantly likeable, accessible. The colors and characters of each peace invoke a smile as I make my way from cactus to cactus. Each character is center stage surrounded by heavy-handed icons that poke fun at and play with modern day imagery. The more I look, the more I notice a strangely familiar, peculiar color, present in each painting. It takes a few, and then I realize, they glow in the dark! Kitsch or brilliant, I cracked a smile. It has come to me recently, the more art I review, the more neighborhood idiosyncrasies I happen upon, that when viewing art, I want to have fun. I want to let go and enjoy. I want to be challenged to think, but I don’t want to feel like I am looking at one of those pictures where you have to unfocus your eyes to get the picture. Art is an important instigator for change and critical for any communities growth, but art that dwells too heavily on those facts often times just alienates the culture it should be promoting. Chamane’s art did no such alienating.
While I stood, reading his statement, which proclaimed Chamane to be a “pacifist warrior….brushes and colors his weapons….his characters his army”, I was approached by the curator and told if I wanted to talk to him, he was bartending! Odd choice, I thought, I have never seen that before. I know of two different types of artists at openings, the ones who work the crowd, network the hell out of the opportunity, and those who feel awkwardly on display and keep to themselves. Never have I encountered an artist who bartended his own opening.
I approached him, curios, and asked, “You’re the artist, right?” To which he raised an eyebrow and I thought for sure I had asked the wrong guy. He broke out into a smile and said with a small laugh, “yes, that’s me”. Nerves soothed I plunged ahead, addressing a part of his statement that caught my eye, “a pacifist warrior who wishes to return the more accessible art”.
I prod him on his method of bringing art to people. He responds in a heavy Cuban accent “It’s not meant to be closed to the people, that’s why I make all art…So many times I see a good show and I cannot afford what I see. It’s more accessible in price and in its sort… and it’s all glow in the dark.”
“It’s glow in the dark?” I smile.
“…Yeah” and his chest puffs up with pride like a child whose drawing got a gold star. Already I liked his pieces, now I loved them, and their cause, which would prove to be the theme of May’s wildly successful art walk. I thanked him, grabbed a water and headed out.
Next stop, a little out of the flow, I headed for The Hive, 729 Spring Street. Los Angeles, CA.. If you haven’t gathered, beehive studios full of artists are like Disneyland for me, so I was highly anticipating what I would see in downtown’s very own enclave.
The environment was fun, funky, as expected. Art littered the walls and music blared. I don’t deny that the place had a cool vibe. But as I made my way through each studio, seeing painting after painting of stylized figures and cartoon characters, I realized a slight fault in the idea of artist collectives. While surrounding yourself with creativity is no doubt healthy for an artist, in some cases, in The Hive’s case, the art starts to look the same. I was entertained by the first few studios I saw, but entirely aware of this pitfall by the time I reached the back wall.
I moved on to the unnamed gallery next door where I stumbled upon the most innovative photography I have seen in a while. Gregory Michel Hernandez had made a photo landscape into a three dimensional sculpture with mathematical precision that mesmerized me. It hung at eye level and was tantalizingly dynamic. The setting sun sent me on my way, however and I hit Spring Street following the flow.
I ended up at the Rowan Lofts space, 5th and Spring Street, which, in my opinion is the sweetest square footage of gallery on the walk, and headed in. I was greeted at the door by a spoken word performance. It set a cool atmosphere to a room full of art that was mildly disappointing. This space doesn’t always show premium art, but it showcases enough variety of artists to have at least one gold mine. With that treasure sorely lacking this time around, I listened to the performance a few more minutes and decided to have a go at Bert Green’s…closed. I have got to start going to this thing earlier.
So I tried my hand at Pharmaka, 101 W. 5th Street, whose art I really do love, just not on art walk nights. I swore to high heaven this was my last time trying to enter that closet full of hipsters, like I do, every art walk. I fought my way through the crowd, barely peaking over shoulders and shuffling through plaid to make my way to the Regent, 448 S. Main Street.
Music reached my ears before I reached the gallery and I was greeted by these gigantic, brilliant patchwork paintings. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the name of the artist anywhere. But these are worth it. Head down there now and you will see larger than life size paintings of crowds at concerts. Again…brilliant. It touches on our tendencies for worship, awe and a little bit of desperation. The paintings were so entertaining I wondered immediately why I hadn’t seen this content before. The ideas these paintings touched on were like a delectable meal. The more you taste, the more satisfying. This art walk was hitting it out of the park.
I made my way to the Nickel for a bite where I was distracted by a parking lot brimming with art, incense, and music. Was this…new? I can’t remember seeing it before. What was there before?
I ventured in, completely engulfed in curiosity and a little turned around. Turns out I came full circle. I had begun with an artist making accessible art his life’s mission and ended with, what is now, the street artists gallery, a previously empty parking lot now allotted for those artists that used to crowd the sidewalks. I like the way the tides are turning. This art walk felt all together more approachable, relaxing, and fun. I finished the night out with Nickel onion rings and a concert/party thrown by MusicUnion at Club 740, 753 Spring Street. As for the bridge between people and art, community and artists, I’d say we are