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 (