Off the Grid Art Venues
Top 10 Weird, Unusual Los Angeles Spaces
Despite its overall ambience of musty, bizarre creepiness, this synergetic cross between antique shop and contemporary art gallery somehow manages to convey a feeling so welcoming that one is liable to lose any sense of time and forget one is browsing through a store. Its ingenious combination of intriguing objects both old and new alternately evokes the sensation of walking through the house of some absent eccentric from a previous era, and exploring a museum full of singular furniture and curios. While paintings, sculptures and other artworks can be found all around the store, the white-walled Slete Gallery is split off in a separate room for a more mainstream gallery setting, but the weirdness of the adjacent shop is contagious.
11270 Washington Blvd., Culver City 90230
2. Old Trapper’s Lodge
These sculptures were created c. 1951–81 by John Ehn (1897–1981) and relocated to Pierce College from the grounds of his “Old Trapper’s Lodge” motel after his death; their deterioration and incongruous secluded setting evoke the sensation of exploring a secret abandoned place; the atmosphere augments the strangeness inherent to the comical “Boot Hill” cemetery and assortment of disproportionate figures fancifully re-imagined from the Old West.
In Alvin Cleveland Park on the west side of Pierce College’s Woodland Hills campus, nestled amid trees on the north side of El Rancho Drive just east of the equestrian parking lot.
3. Peephole Cinema
Step up and peer into a dime-sized hole in a wall inside a malodorous Chinatown alley in order to watch short silent films: few art installations demand as dubious a single action, nor deliver an experience as rewardingly foreign by virtue of mere setting and simple setup.
In the alley behind Automata, 504 Chung King Court, Los Angeles 90012.
4. Daniel Rolnik Gallery
Equal parts artist, comedian, salesman and circus showman, Rolnik sells—at strikingly low prices—drawings, paintings, photos, prints, objects, jewelry, artist zines and other quirky art items ranging from silly to irreverent inside his equally silly, irreverent, unpredictable gallery; he recently had to move after his Culver City landlord shut down his “EPIC CARNIVAL.” Wherever he goes, fun is sure to follow.
Inside Flower Pepper Gallery, 121 E. Union St., Pasadena 91103
5. 356 Mission
With regard to the caliber of its exhibitions, this gallery could easily be at the top; its off-the-grid factor is largely resultant of the fact that despite its notability in the mainstream art world (Laura Owens and Gavin Brown are behind it), it defies market conventions with its apparently laid-back ethos, hosting enough free events like record releases, screenings, lectures and performances to rival almost any nonprofit gallery; one must pass through the eclectic Ooga Booga store before entering the exhibition spaces whose singularity is also derived from sheer expansiveness and strange architecture by virtue of location in a former warehouse.
356 S. Mission Rd., Los Angeles 90033
6. Ernie Wolfe Gallery
Displayed alongside work by contemporary California artists, a heterogeneous assortment of African art of various genres and origins—from paintings to crustacean-shaped coffins—secures this gallery’s place among LA’s most unique.
1653 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles 90025
7. Human Resources
In back of a run-down building on an out-of-the way Chinatown street, this gallery hosts an eclectic mix of exhibitions and performances, many of them extravagantly heady and obscure.
410 Cottage Home St., Los Angeles 90012
8. The Hive
Diverse arrays of artists, oddly themed shows like “Krampus & Klowns,” and a raw atmosphere set this artist-run gallery and studio complex apart from other lowbrow venues.
729 S. Spring St., Los Angeles 90014
9. Gold Bug
This store stocks a menagerie of art objects such as unusual jewelry, antler carvings, and butterflies in blown-glass jars; though decidedly commercial, it’s worth visiting just to see the unique array of wares, even if one is not in the market to buy.
22 E. Union St., Pasadena 91103
10. Various streets and structures throughout the city
Street art has become so prevalent in LA that some people pay to go on mural and graffiti tours; a do-it-yourself combination of online research and cruising streets can yield many interesting discoveries on view for free, 24/7.
Kenny Scharf’s mural on Davis Bros. Tires, 5931 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City 90232; Gabba Gallery Alley Project, alley between Vendome and Dillon Streets off Beverly Blvd., and surrounding area, see gabbagallery.com/alleymaps for maps; Downtown Arts District murals, et al.