Bergamot; COLA Awards; Herb Alpert Fellowship
For Real… and it’s Louder
Los Angeles adds to very necessary public transportation with seven additional stops on the Expo Line, with runs from downtown LA clear out to Santa Monica. Yes, there are complaints that the train is slow and can take up to an hour to cover the distance (the official number is about 46 minutes). One stop is Bergamot Station, the arts complex that seems already eviscerated by the loss of the buildings of and around the former Track 16 gallery. Now a train glides into the station on that corner. Bergamot Station just isn’t the same, and galleries don’t seem particularly happy, since there is still talk of ripping out the parking lot in the middle of the complex and building a hotel. The disruption could ruin businesses, as well as the depot aesthetics of the place.
“It’s louder,” says Wayne Blank, of Shoshana Wayne Gallery and founder of the arts complex, when asked if he’s noticed any change since Metro’s arrival. He owns a third of the complex and leases the rest from the City of Santa Monica; the lease is up at the end of 2017. Blank hasn’t noticed more visitors or more parking. “There’s been no immediate impact,” Blank says. His sentiments are echoed by gallerist Craig Krull of the eponymous gallery. “People tried out the Metro the first week, but it hasn’t been that noticeable,” he says. “In the summer it might get busier. Santa Monica gets a lot of tourists, and now that the train is here, they could hop over to Bergamot Station.” There was talk of putting up a gate for the parking lot, but so far there’s just a sign saying parking is limited to visitors to the art complex.
This year’s COLA (City of Los Angeles) Individual Artist Fellowship show (through July 3) at the Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Park is simply outstanding. Every year the previous year’s recipients present what they’ve been working on, and this time most were working on installations. Veterans Keiko Fukazawa and Blue McRight both surpassed themselves. Fukazawa paid homage to Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, featuring a bicycle enwrapped with white porcelain flowers, surrounded by hundreds of the same strung on red thread falling like rain. The bicycle basket was filled with fresh flowers (at least for the opening), referencing Ai’s protest during his house arrest when he set out fresh flowers daily in a bicycle basket in front of his studio. McRight’s “Immersive” presents a towering bookcase full of books related to water, spigots interspersed throughout, and long hoses ran from the shelf. A beautiful and sobering reminder of our relationship to water.
On the other side of the gallery was a full-sized wall mural by Christine Nguyen, made of hundreds of folded sheets of paper which had been spray-painted at angles, creating a mesmerizing and powerful geometric pattern. It felt like the entrance to a sacred space. Elsewhere there were collections of her inspirations—natural history specimens—and cyanotype prints she has made with them. It’s always a delight to discover terrific artists that haven’t been on your radar, and now Nguyen will be on mine.
(EXHIBITION ENDS JULY 3)
BOLD AS BRASS
HERB ALPERT AWARDS
One of the most generous supporters of the art cause is Herb Alpert, he of the famous honey-toned trumpet and co-founder of A&M Records. Every year Alpert is among the top 10 celebrity donors to charity, and every year there’s the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts—$75,000 is given to each of five mid-career artists after a rigorous screening process. (Recipients are nominated, so alas no application process for you hopefuls!) On May 6 the 2016 awards were given out over a luncheon in Santa Monica to Ishmael Houston-Jones (dance), Cauleen Smith (film/video), Dohee Lee (music), Anne Washburn (theater) and Simone Leigh (visual arts). “The artists that are chosen for the Herb Alpert Award work at the edge of their field and risk is an essential factor in this prize,” Alpert said. “I admire the unapologetic dedication of these five artists who always look for the road less traveled.”