Saturday, August 15, 2009

“An Art Tasting Tour: Downtown LA Art Walk”

People. Everywhere.

I’m not used to this. Despite living and walking amidst crowds in New York, I grew accustomed to significantly emptier streets during my summer here in L.A. Places where my personal space isn't intruded upon seem rather unpopulated.

However, I was suddenly reminded of the “City That Never Sleeps” this past Thursday at the Downtown LA Art Walk—it was people everywhere and art at all hours.

With this onslaught of art, I took my pick of galleries along 5th Street, sampling here and there of contemporary art.

First, I hit Todd/Browning Gallery & Polyester Books. It was the opening of “Beneath the Valley of the Dolls,” a photography exhibit by Jessica Robertson, Kelly Smith, Tiffany Trenda, and other artists. Aside from the dark, sexually suggestive compositions of actual dolls, I liked flipping through the gallery/book seller’s eclectic books, like Part Asian, 100% Hapa, a photography book on half-asians.

Next, I was swept away from the busyness of the outside to the serenity of “Les Grandes Vacances” at Deborah Martin Gallery. French artist Valerie Daval created calm paintings of beach leisure. Her blues and aqua hues enveloped the gallery space, seeming to reflect the quiet of the viewers.

My favorite work was a collage of canvases which depicted a man diving.

This breath of tranquility was sweated out once I stepped into Phyllis Stein Art. It was “Glass and Graff,” a collaboration of glass artist Adam Mostow and graffiti artist Andy Midzt Rios. The gallery space was bright and animated. A giant pink head floated from the back wall. Three-dimensional glass works from the show were taped off—I was once scolded for stepping over the orange tape.

In the center of the room, gallery-goers gathered to see the glass master at work. Flames engulfed Mostow as he sweat through the process, moisture glistened on his skin—making Mostow look like a glass statue himself.

After absorbing all this art, I had to create some art myself!

Maybe not in my own gallery exhibition. Simply put, my canvas was an outdoor chalkboard. It was just a small doodle within words and images of the other Los Angeles art lovers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

“Bright Idea—Lights on L.A.”

Strings of multi-colored bulbs strewn across Pershing Square like oversized Christmas lights. Fiery reds, aqua blues, and golden yellows warm up the concrete surroundings of downtown Los Angeles. A play on Christmas in July?

More like the literally bright idea of Tarryn Soderberg, director of Tarryn Teresa Gallery. It’s “Lights on L.A.”—an outdoor light installation of over 250 CFL light bulbs created by 230 local artists.

Soderberg dreamt up this public art exhibit as means of focusing on the arts in these difficult economic times. Gallery manager Elizabeth Williams explained in an email interview.

In the years before
the financial crisis, Gallery Row in Downtown Los Angeles was instrumental 
in the rejuvenation of the city core from strictly business to a thriving 
residential and commercial center,” said Williams, “the installation is meant to serve as 
a reminder of the role that a vital and diverse artistic community plays in 
any successful urban environment at all stages of its development.”

Apart from Los Angeles, William told of bigger dreams for this illuminating project.

“Our aim is for 
"Lights on LA" to be a recurring exhibit and also to expand the ‘Lights 
on...’ concept to additional cities,” Williams said.

Perhaps New York City is next on the list? Let’s hope so!

Above all, “Lights on L.A.” celebrates the art and artists of Los Angeles. And despite closing galleries and struggling museum institutions, Williams emphasized the importance of the arts—“the arts do not disappear in lean financial times.”

“Lights on L.A” is lighting up Pershing Square til September 18 (

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Still Happy: Interview with Heather Arndt"

Still on a little Happy high, I recently got in touch with the owner of Happy, Heather Arndt, who gave me an inside scoop to the shop.

Where did you get the idea to meld together a gallery show space and an artsy shop?

I was searching for a way to bring the elements of my life together, I was in product design for many years, I finished graduate school for painting, and I have a lot of artists friends who are making great work but don’t have a lot of opportunity to show it, and a lot of designer friends who are trying to create their paths in design; Happy was born from the desire to have a space to showcase, discover, and promote the people and creations that I have come to know and love, and the ones I’ve yet to meet.

How do you feel Happy serves the LA masses of consumers and art enthusiasts?

My hope is that happy is a platform for the local community to come together, see some great art, find a special something, and meet other like minded folks.

We have lots of events and a great team working here, it's exciting for me to see what will happen, who will come in and what new ideas will surface.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"Shop and Art?"

I was confused.

As I surfed for ongoing exhibitions to feature in this blog, I came across “Never Odd or Even” and “Cut Back,” two shows by Jim Gentry and Leia Jervert on display at Happy.

But when I clicked to look at Happy, I kept running into an online store in Los Angeles called Happy. And, this store not only had the same web address as Happy the gallery space, but also the same street address. No matter, I thought to myself. So, I decided venture to this rather two-faced Happy.

It turns out that Happy is both a gallery space and eclectic store! Amidst Swedish brand mugs, Mexican cloth animals, and vintage clothes, contemporary art peeks through, beckoning the avid shopper to stop and smell the roses—in this case, gaze at the art.

Above colorful tote bags and vintage jewelry hangs Jim Gentry’s threaded pieces of “Never Odd or Even.” With cloth and thread, Gentry conjured sketch-like creatures—birds, bugs, and one huge spider. Though I hate spiders, I love his “Large Spider.” The spewing threads that composed the spider seem to mimic the creature’s intricate and detailed webs.

In the corner of the shop, in a rather Harry Potter-esque closet, “Cut-Back” quivers.

Made of unused scraps, Jervert created a life-size hedge. Delicate and quaint, the sculpture imitates nature, adding to the overall theme of using the man-made to create the natural.

As I surveyed Sagaform mugs and wall art, my own duality was satisfied—the avid shopper and the gallery-goer—leaving me, simply put, happy.

Jim Gentry and Leia Jervert are at Happy til August 30 (

Monday, July 27, 2009

“Being Mindful: Talking with Artist Stella Im Hultberg”

As I walked toward the paint-splattered front of Thinkspace Gallery in Silver Lake, three heads dripped into view. From the outside, I could see three female faces popping from the lime green walls. They were like black flower bulbs, but with narrowed eyes and pouted lips. The faces seemed to slide down the wall with a certain lightness and in an almost melting movement. Garlands of gold and green leaves tangled and swirled around their flowing figures.

It’s not Klimt, it’s not Art Nouveau—it’s “Memento Mori,” Stella Im Hultberg’s current solo show at Thinkspace Gallery.

Known for her sensuous female figures, Hultberg has her own distinct style. However, she still draws inspiration from the likes of Klimt and Schiele.

I had a huge turning point after seeing an epiphanic Egon Schiele exhibit a few years ago,” explained Hultberg in an email interview,
”I guess both Klimt and Schiele, to me, are endlessly inspiring.
Inspiration, though, comes from all angles - recently I've been inspired by mythology and nature a lot.”

And with these two themes, Hultberg conjured “Memento Mori” for her Los Angeles exhibition.

“Memento Mori, meaning ‘be mindful of death’ in Latin, just felt right when I had to choose a title,” Hultberg said,”the phrase was appealing in a way that it implied the duality of 
life and death.
In life, there's a bit of death, and vice versa - physiologically or mythologically speaking.” 

From wooden dolls to paintings, Hultberg fuses this idea of life and death with sultry, vibrant faces and somber black and white hues. It almost seems like a play with the folkloric art of wooden dolls and the traditional practice of still life—this time, with humans rather than fruit or vegetables.

Outside of influential artists and conceptual ideas, Hultberg’s own diverse background serves as inspiration in itself. Raised in Seoul, Hong Kong, and Taiwan and now living in New York City, Hultberg finds muses in everyday people.

“I think growing up around a variety of cultures and people has made me really interested in and appreciate people as humans and human nature,” said Hultberg.

And of all places to people watch—New York City!

“I love that NYC is diverse and always changing - seasons, trends, 
people. There's a lot of on-going transience, yet maintaining its character,” said Hultberg, “being surrounded by super creative, talented, genuine, yet humble people who are always making life happen for themselves really 
inspires me to work harder on my craft and life.”

Eastern Asia and New York City. People and culture. Humanity and nature Klimt and Schiele. Life and death. Hultberg works with duality, the black and white, but with a flowing, natural style that brings it altogether conceptually and visually. And with "Memento Mori," death has never looked so good.

“Memento Mori” is ongoing until August 7 at Thinkspace Gallery (

Friday, July 17, 2009

“A Flicker of ‘Your Bright Future’”

Seemingly, I was just another visitor to the Los Angles County Museum of Art this past Tuesday. Just happening to take a tour of the newest exhibition at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum—“Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea.”

As a former intern at the Craft and Folk Art Museum here in Los Angeles and at the Met, it has been a long time since I have taken or given a tour at a museum. So, my current blog for Artillery made for an illuminating experience.

Walking through the Wilshire Blvd. entrance, I noticed a large, orange sign splashed across the top—all in Korean. Later, our tour guide told us the sign played on past Korean propaganda. In English, the sign says “Welcome.”

And how fitting for these emerging Korean contemporary artists. “Your Bright Future” is the first major museum exhibition to solely feature contemporary art from Korea. In the show, the artists play with the idea of miscommunication, but all in good humor.

My tour held a large group of visitors, ranging from giggling pre-teen girls to young European couples, plaid-clad hipster boys to a Korean mother and her son. With this motley crew, we traversed “Your Bright Future,“ examining a house fusion, alien-bright lights, video installations, misleading household items, stuffed animal suits, and apparently unopened art. We were attentive to our guide and careful not to touch the art nor use flash photography.

Just as interesting as what our lecturer had to say was the art of people-watching. Their physical reactions, the ensuing discussion with their fellow museum-goers, their judgment of what was really “art.”

When we stepped into the white room of Bahc Yiso’s electrical lamp-powered work, “Your Bright Future,” I surveyed those around me. Initially, they listened intently to our tour guide. But, as the unnatural light of the room continued to assail our eyes, I saw people slowly began to look down at themselves in this unusual light. Bringing their hands to their face and comparing with each other, they examined the effect of the eerie glow in the room—pale, pink palms were now purple. They seemed fascinated and engrossed.

Yet, as we left to go into the next room, one of the pre-teens confirmed, “This isn’t art.” So, it seemed like the art was lost in translation amidst this otherwise informative and enlightening tour.

Outside of BCAM, Choi Jeong-Hwa’s “HappyHappy” swayed. Long strands of brightly colored plastic goods—salad spinners, baskets, bowls, plates, cups, and balls—hung like garlands from IKEA festivities.

Children and adults alike ran through the leis of plastic. I heard excited chatter and saw flashes of light as friends took pictures together. Little kids giggled, pushing the art into each other. An altogether very different intake of art.

With little information on the art they played within, this light, bright, interactive piece drew the museum-goers in. And, that seems to be art in itself.

“Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea” is at LACMA until September 20 (

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Art That Teaches: Cool Globes at Exposition Park"

Sculptural globes align the sidewalks in a still procession, dotting the Rose Garden of Exposition Park. Like Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs, these spherical works of art in the Cool Globes exhibition have left their round imprints on the national terrain. However, this is no fluffy, fantastical fairy tale story, but searing, sometimes sweaty truth.

Cool Globes is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating people and communities about global warming through its traveling outdoor art exhibit.

“It’s a public art project with a purpose,” said Cool Globes Project Manager Lindsey Guetschow, “It’s not just about the beautiful art, but using art to bring people in and inspire them to take action in their daily lives.”

Since last summer, Cool Globes has sojourned all over the country—from the United States Botanical Garden in Washington D.C. to the Field Museum in Chicago, now the tour makes its Los Angeles debut. The Rose Garden hosts fifty globes, eight of which were made here.

“In each new city we stop at, we engage the community,” said Guetschow. And in collaboration with local residents, one of these globes boasts unlikely artists—students at Manual Arts High School.

Students, shown on above, at the finance-based high school worked alongside the artist-in-residence for Cool Globes, Aprile Boettcher.

Boettcher, a visual effects artists for films such as “Titanic,” Team America: World Police,” and Godzilla, led the students in a trip through art history, teaching them collage techniques of Hannah Höch and Pablo Picasso from the early 1900s. With a bit of background in art, Boettcher then let the students pitch their own visions for the globe.

“I wanted the students to be able to represent themselves,” said Boettcher—a sentiment that you can see on the globe itself. Each student was given a piece of canvas to contribute to the overall sculpture. And of course, Boettcher stayed true to the finance background of the school, allowing the students to also complete the mathematical equations to shape and grid the globe.

Together, Boettcher and the high school students created “Mother Earth,”shown below as courtesy of Boettcher, a sculpture portraying a pregnant Earth holding her bulging womb.

“As an artist, I really hope that the people who will see this will have a greater appreciation for public art and its role in society,” said Boettcher, “I think that beautification and artistic expression are important to the happiness and well-being of mankind.”

Cool Globes is in the Rose Garden of Exposition Park til July 23 (