Oh...to Be Sixteen Again

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at090421a.jpgIt's unbearably hot even here, in Santa Monica, near the beach. Damn those Santa Ana winds. To survive, I need to think and talk about something cool. How about this? A stone's throw from Venice Beach sits LA Louver Gallery, one of the mainstays of the Los Angeles art scene. There, for the next few weeks, you can find a small herd of horses roaming the galleries – some standing still, others grazing or lying down, maybe even sleeping. In spite of their surprisingly quiet demeanor, these horses, with their powerful presence, manage to completely dominate the space. But as graceful and enigmatic as they are, they are not to be pet, hugged or ridden – brush up against them and you'll scratch yourself badly. After all, they are made of welded scrap metal, often totally rusted, occasionally still bearing color.

at090421b.jpg Deborah Butterfield, the sculptor who breathed life into these scrappy creatures, moved to a Montana ranch three decades ago, and for all these years, horses have been the inspiration, obsession, and sole subject of her art. What endlessly surprises me about her sculptures is how graceful they are with their fluid outlines and elegant silhouettes. And all that in intentional contrast with the roughness of the discarded pieces of metal thrown together in a seemingly haphazard way.

Hidden in plain sight at the beginning of the long, narrow street leading to Bergamot Station is Minarc, the office of two young architects from Iceland, Erla and Tryggvi, whose last names I don't dare to pronounce. They have always loved art and recently decided to dedicate a portion of their office space to showing contemporary art, which they do with considerable flair.

at090421c.jpg Currently on display is an ambitious exhibition of thirty LA-based documentary photographers, each mapping a different part of the city, creating as a result ‘An Intimate View of Los Angeles.' In collaboration with the well-known LA photographer Helen Garber, who served as the exhibition curator, the architects came up with an ingenious way of presenting the portfolios of these thirty artists. Take a look at the images on the Art Talk page of KCRW website. Thirty small flat screens are arranged in unusual clusters, and each has a loop of photographic images, so the whole exhibition consists of almost one thousand photos. I made some startling discoveries there – and trust me, so will you, if you give yourself the chance to see this exhibition which taps into the creative energy of the Los Angeles community.

at090421d.jpg If you ask me what I did last Saturday night to recuperate after conducting an exhausting five-hour seminar for art collectors, I'll admit attempting to cure my artistic hangover – as an alcoholic would do by downing another shot of whiskey – by going to a museum for another big, juicy dollop of art. It was the last chance to see the LACMA exhibition The Art of Two Germanys, and even on my fourth visit there, I kept making interesting discoveries. But all good things must come to an end, and at closing time at 8:00pm, I was kicked out of the museum. But what about all these kids, none older than seventeen, that all of a sudden flooded the museum galleries, traveling in small groups, giggling, punching each other – but actually looking at art and listening to the few young docents? What had I stumbled upon was a special ‘After Dark' party that LACMA throws once a year for a few hundred teenagers, trying to bring them into the museum and make it fun, including live music and free food. I introduced myself to the organizers, who gave me a special wristband, permitting me to stay in the museum until 10:00pm. So for another two hours, I did my best to pretend to be sixteen and had a hell of a good time observing happy kids surrounded by great art.

Deborah Butterfield
On view at LA Louver through May 9

Group LA 2008: an intimate view of Los Angeles A Digital Photo Installation
At Minarc / Gallery Skart through May 17

Banner image: Teens at LACMA's After Dark