LA’s ‘Circus of Books’ porn shop comes to Netflix, LACMA demolition begins

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“Circus of Books” porn shop is the focus of a new Netflix documentary. Photo credit: Netflix.

LA artist Rachel Mason has a new documentary on Netflix that looks at her parents’ gay porn shop, which was an important fixture for the LBGTQ+ community. The four buildings at LACMA are being demolished, and protestors are very unhappy. One artist uses the color red to express our collective anxiety during COVID-19. 

LACMA begins demolition while a protest group draws up alternate architectural plans


Peter Zumthor designed a $10 million renovation for LACMA. Credit: Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner / LACMA.

Last week, LACMA abruptly razed its Bing Theatre and posted a public statement only after the demolition began. The $750 million renovation, designed by architect Peter Zumthor, has been controversial from the start. This is largely due to lack of transparency throughout the project, plus functional details of the proposed building. 

The design shrinks exhibition space, includes no on-site storage for LACMA’s permanent collection, and places curators’ offices in a separate building across a sky bridge.  Protestors also claim that this bridge blocks the historic view on Wilshire Boulevard. 

One group thinks they can do better, and they recently held a contest asking for architectural proposals for the LACMA redesign. The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA will announce a winner on April 22, and award the designer $10,000. 

The project brief explains, “We believe it is important to publicly display ideas that could truly capture people’s eyes, hearts and minds, in order to reset the museum’s architectural path and keep LACMA intact and thriving as an encyclopedic museum.” 

It is unclear whether the competition is a conceptual protest gesture, or if the group believes they might impact the design direction of the new building. 

Read the call for proposals

LA artist’s documentary about her conservative parents’ gay porn shop launches on Netflix

Rachel Mason is a multi-disciplinary artist in LA who produces albums, rock operas, performance art, and videos. She’s now turned the camera on her own parents, Karen and Barry Mason, who ran the recently closed book store called Circus of Books. It wasn’t until her teenage years that Mason  realized the store was a major distributor of gay porn and was an important fixture for the LBGTQ+ community. 

Her new documentary, Circus of Books, was championed and executive produced by Ryan Murphy (co-creator of Glee, Nip/Tuck, and Pose). The film posits Mason’s parents as average Americans trying to keep their business afloat and support their family. The couple answers an ad to distribute magazines for publisher Larry Flynt. They soon find themselves as one of the largest gay porn distributors in America. 

Mason explains in a recent Los Angeles Magazine article, “It was really weird because my parents were not interesting people — or gay. ... My mom is very type A and very religious and wanted kids and to have a solid family foundation.” 

Despite Karen Mason’s internal battle with her religious views, the couple was never judgmental towards their customers, and the store became a beacon of hope and support for the gay community through AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. 

Circus of Books airs on Netflix this Wednesday, April 22.

Rashid Johnson’s new red drawings express the anxiety of our time


Rashid Johnson,
Untitled Anxious Red Drawing (2020). Oil on cotton rag, 38 1/4 x 50 inches. © Rashid Johnson. Image courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. 

Rashid Johnson has created a new body of drawings in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. Made during social isolation, his drawings use a single color: a rich rust-like red. Modeled after a series Johnson began in 2017 titled Anxious Men, this new collection takes the feeling of anxiety further. 

Johnson’s drawings portray a tightly-packed grid of red faces, partially obscured by his expressive linework. He explains, “This is an incredibly anxious time, but also a time that feels really radical as if there’s a real urgency. Nothing feels more urgent than a red.” 

The sold-out body of work, called Untitled Anxious Red Drawings, is shown  in an online exhibition hosted by Hauser & Wirth. The exhibition is also accompanied by Johnson’s book and movie recommendations, his baby back ribs recipe, and a curated Spotify playlist. 

Amidst this uncertain time, Johnson is looking to the future. In a short video posted alongside the exhibition, Johnson explains, “Without question, this time has changed me in ways I don’t fully understand yet. I know it’s changing the world, in ways that we're going to be spending the next however many years learning about and interpreting.”

See the online exhibition

Make art at home: marbled paper landscape


Marbled papercraft. Credit: Lindsay Preston Zappas.

This craft involves simple materials and methods with beautiful results! Make your own marbled paper, then use it to create a landscape or another collaged design of your choice. 

Instructions: 

  1. Pour a small amount of vegetable oil into cups (one for each color you want to use).
  2. Mix a small amount of either food coloring or acrylic paint into the oil. 
  3. Drip or carefully pour drops of your oil mixture into a container of water. Play with different color combinations. 
  4. Use a toothpick or paintbrush to swirl the droplets around in a zig-zag pattern.
  5. Dip your paper face down into the water, making sure it is fully submerged. Voilà! 
  6. Remove and let dry. 
  7. Once dry, tear the paper into unique shapes. You can layer them to create a landscape or unique design. You can also mix in other drawings, magazine images, or construction paper to add contrast and make it more personalized. 
  8. Once you have your composition planned out, use glue to stick your layers down one at a time, starting from the back. 
  9. You can also print out the letters of your name in your favorite font (or find the letters in a magazine). Cut out the letters, and use as a stencil to trace onto your marbled paper. Cut out your marbled letters and add them into your collage.