Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Chapter 16: A Day at Bergamot & 3rd Street

So, what happened to Chapters 14 & 15? Don’t worry. They’re soon to come. This chapter ended up getting written first. Enjoy.

Yesterday I headed down to L.A. to visit some art galleries and museums. The weather was gorgeous, so I decided to drive down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). It’s always worth the view, even in poor weather. And there was minimal traffic (always a plus). I reached Santa Monica by 12:30, and decided to visit Bergamot Station (a former train station that’s been converted into some 40 galleries and museums). Tucked away in the east end of town, the buildings are erected in cinder block, dry wall, and corrugated metal (giving the place a somewhat industrial ambience).

Late August is not the best time to go (it’s usually very hot), and several galleries were closed - either due to vacations or due to new artworks being installed for September. But many of the galleries were still open, and it had been several years since I had last been there.

When you go to art galleries (especially those in big cities) you know that you’re going to come across the usual installations of what some people call “art”. You know what I mean. The hard left political statements. Or the brashly thrown together pieces that your basic 5-year-old can muster on a rainy day. It’s inevitable. Basically, what it is is an artist either trying too hard (not stepping back from his raw emotions) or not trying hard enough (unskilled or unschooled).

Some of the first galleries I visited contained just that. One was a large pile of consumer products painted gold. Another was a series of large paintings (clinical, but well done) that were an obvious spoof on those BATF television commercials. (It’s funny… these guys trash mouth capitalism, yet they have absolutely no problem selling their pieces for 4- or 5-figures.) Then, there was the exhibit against capital punishment: a series of paintings and accompanying commentaries depicting various moments of real executions.

Some of the paintings were quite good and riveting. And my own stance on this issue has softened a bit in recent years. But I just couldn’t help but think of the number of executions that have occurred in this country over the last 30 years (less than a thousand, I think). All of whom were found guilty in a court of law of heinous crimes. And I then juxtaposed that number to the over 45 million innocent unborn who’ve been slaughtered in the name of “choice” over the same period of time. I couldn’t help myself. As I was about to walk out of the exhibit I turned to the guy behind the counter by the front door and stated, “It’s a shame you don’t see exhibits like this on the topic of abortion.” And I walked out the door.

But, I was pleasantly surprised that there were quite a few galleries showing a good number of quite interesting (and even at times quite riveting) pieces of art. Even abstract “modern” art. One was an exhibit of abstract polymer wall hanging sculptures by Ron Reihel (link) who used various phosphorescent chemicals in his artwork so that the colored imagery drastically changed when the lights were turned off. They were also time delayed and changed colors over time, so that by becoming interactive with the art you could “paint” a landscape with a lamp and then watch as the minimalist scenery turned from noon to dusk to night.

Another artist by the name of Jen Pack (link) displayed her abstract pieces made from fine silks, transforming them into feathery frames, finely threaded waterfalls, drips of paint, and layered landscapes.

Another huge abstract painting (nine foot wide and 4 foot high) by Andy Moses, (a similar piece is here), entitled "The Magic Land", was a simple yet striking blend of horizontal streaks of various hues of lavender, peach, azure, magenta, cream… pale, and fluid, and with a thick satiny sheen.

Then there were the more complex pieces from artists who’ve challenged themselves and fine-tuned their skills. A pastel piece called “Aparicion II” by Adan Hernandez whose series was a mixture of neo-expressionism and Chicano noir (link). Perfect film noir mood complete with a foreground figure sporting an overcoat and fedora, with a neon motel sign in the background, rain streaking in the jet-black night.

Two artists exhibited at one gallery in particular gave me hope that artists are finally beginning to take their craft seriously. Javier Gil (from Uruguay) (link) displayed a series of pastels on handmade Japanese paper. “Movement of Empire Series” were surreal, urban landscapes of Manhattan - buildings sweltering in heat at sharp angles.

On the opposite wall of the gallery was an absolutely masterful series of oil paintings by Jeff Weekly (from NY & LA) - unfortunately, I can't seem to find a web link of his work. They were stills and portraitures in a clear noir style. Moody, dreamy, haunting, and somewhat sepia-toned with a touch of the surreal. Painting the human face, especially realistically in oils, is the most demanding and also the most unforgiving. Weekly’s paintings of a young girl were incredibly lifelike and engaging. Definitely museum worthy!

After spending several hours walking from gallery to gallery, I stopped by the café for a very late lunch – sitting outside enjoying a turkey sandwich with a glass of freshly made tart lemonade. The sky azure, the breeze cool, the sun screened through the table umbrella. A family eating at a table behind me, their little boy happily playing in the dirt with his miniature plastic dinosaurs.

It was 4:30 when I left, and too late to head over to the LACMA on Wilshire. So I decided to head back west and do some window shopping and people watching on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. A bustling three city blocks closed off to automobiles - foot traffic only. Restaurants and clothiers, cafes and bookshops, movie theaters and knickknack shops. With a cacophony of cultures ambling about. And the inevitable slew of street performers, hucksters and narcissists display themselves like human works of art.

By 7 o’clock it was time to head back home. A nice, relaxing drive back up the PCH. The brilliant sun ahead, inching it’s way toward the horizon. A blazingly orange disc dunking itself into the slate blue ocean.

A day well spent.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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