by Carolyn Blais
Los Angeles was chockablock with art openings all over town Saturday night and I had my mind set on attending at least two of them before the night was through. Thankfully I made it across town to both, dodging traffic on the 10 with the help of my human navigator and date, Tim as well as my electronic navigator Garmin, or “Lady Gar Gar” as Tim likes to call it.
First I was off to The Happening Gallery on Lincoln Blvd in Marina Del Rey. Having been to the gallery for its grand opening in March and then again in April, I was excited to see what artistic marvels were in store this time around. As usual I was not let down, and in fact this may have been one of my favorite exhibits at The Happening to date as each of the artists on display had unusual work processes that yielded uniquely engaging pieces. Tess Logan for example, was intriguing to me for her medium: instant coffee. Logan didn’t mention which brand of instant coffee, and I forgot to ask if it makes a difference but I did ask how she came to paint with the gritty powder. Apparently after coming home late one night she accidentally spilled some and noticed in the morning the cool effect it made on paper. In her piece “Lost” Logan paints with the brown substance which she admits has magnificent staying power on its own and does not need to be mixed with any paint material. One can only imagine what it does to stomachs.
Walt Jones is another artist currently on display at The Happening, whose work I am sort of in awe of. Jones, a former light designer for modern dance and ballet, depicts images of dancers in his pieces—but what makes them so fascinating is the manner in which he creates them. The artist tells me he first melts wax and pours it into a pan which has been heated to a certain temperature in order to keep the wax from hardening right away. He then takes a syringe that he fills with ink and uses it like a paint brush, injecting his design into the wax. Immediately, before the wax hardens and the ink design loses its shape, Jones takes several pictures of the design. The process comes full circle when the artist prints the digital picture of the design and then coats it in a layer of wax. The finished product may look simple at first glance, but in truth the process is certainly quite labor intensive.
Before I have to rush away to the second gallery of the night, I have the pleasure of chatting with artist Rachael Rendon whose life-like paintings I nearly mistake for photographs. If, like me, you own a digital camera that is terrible at taking pictures at night, you probably end up with photos that are marked by blurry light streaks and shadows. The good news is, this is actually a kind of photography called lomography which can be seen as art. Rendon uses lomography by taking photographs that portray these “happy accidents” as she calls them and then painting exact replicas of the photos. The artist tells me she came up with the idea because she has a terrible memory and wanted to document her experiences with friends. I have a terrible memory too but have to settle for my smudged photos rather than awesome art like the kind Rendon can create.
Over in West Hollywood I scurried to Affinity Galleries. There was still wine flowing freely and plenty of guests enjoying art when I arrived. I had been once before so I knew there are two gallery spaces, one in the front and one in the back. Tim and I head to the gallery in back first to be greeted by several large ceramic heads on pedestals. Different colored polka dots adorn the otherwise white heads, some with mouths partially open and exposing teeth. On two of the heads sit little human figures, also made out of ceramic. To the left there is actually a totem pole of similar but smaller heads, with a cat head at the top, and then a bird on top of that. Artist Linda Smith could be trying to evoke some kind of deep effect, but for me, the uneducated art aficionado, the pieces seem playful and bring a smile to my face. I’m reminded of my 97 year old Italian grandmother who used to make ceramics, though hers were mostly of religious figures. Though I’ve never worked with ceramics, I get the impression that it is a laid back, peaceful process since the results seem pleasing to me and put me at ease. So too does Smith’s other piece, a painting entitled “Sedona.” The bright, neon-like colors she uses and the thick globs of paint remind me of those puffy paint shirts I used to wear in the 90s. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the artist but if I had I would have thanked her for the trip down memory lane.
Instincts of Nature is the title of the exhibit at Affinity and appropriately so since the next artist on my favorites list is a green artist that recycles used wood pieces in his art—chair legs, bed posts, it doesn’t matter where the wood comes from, Randall Oldrieve can make it work. I feel sort of like I’m on a set of a Tim Burton film when I walk through the large first floor space in the front gallery where Oldrieve’s works reside. There are three eight foot structures that tower and spiral upwards. Each is made out of various pieces of found wood that are stacked on top of each other like a giant, very complex game of Jenga. Oldrieve takes a chain saw to carve them and give them the curved shape that looks like a tornado cloud. The artist says he was first inspired to create from a memory of a water spout shooting up from outside his classroom window as he was looking out, day dreaming one day as a school boy. He is also inspired by other aspects of nature, in the case of these three pieces fittingly called “Twister,” the artist says he followed the mould of a broken sea shell as a kind of guide in his creation. I am moved not only by Oldrieve’s extensive work process from finding the different pieces of wood, to fitting them together, to placing a rod in the middle of each piece and screwing them into place; but also by the powerful presence and strength that each complete structure exudes.
Both The Happening Gallery and Affinity Galleries were well worth my traveling efforts on Saturday night. The art in both galleries will move and delight all those who partake in it. Both exhibits are free to the public and open six days a week. Visit the galleries’ websites for more information: www.thehappeninggallery.com and www.affinitygalleries.com.
WHAT: Summer Fine Art Show at The Happening Gallery and
Instincts of Nature at Affinity Galleries
WHERE: The Happening Gallery: 4047 Lincoln Blvd, Marina del Rey
Affinity Galleries: 7065 Lexington Ave, West Hollywood
WHEN: Saturday, June 12th
WEBSITES: www.thehappeninggallery.com and www.affinitygalleries.com