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5 design things to do this week: April 8 - 14, 2019

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Brooklyn-born photographer Kwame Brathwaite created a visual language for black empowerment in the 1960s. His photographs of the Grandassa Models helped lead the Black is Beautiful revolution.

This week: hear from your favorite authors; load up on art books; appreciate the beautiful, culturally disrupting art of Kwame Brathwaite; tour sustainable gardens that nurture nature; and consider the implications where urbanism meets ocean.

1) LA Times Festival of Books

Many music lovers will be heading to the desert this weekend for Coachella Music Festival. Book lovers however can take a shorter trip to USC for "Bookchella," otherwise known as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. The gathering of writers, poets and artists is now in its its 24th year and attracts 150,000 people.

Several design and architecture writers will be there to sign books and talk about them, including Stephen Gee, William Deverell, William Bradley, Robert Inman, Kevin Roderick, Jessica Hough, April Dammann, Patt Morrison and Lynell George. There will also be some interesting panels, such as this discussion about designing with light.

When: Apr 13 at 10 am – Apr 14 at 5 pm

Where: University of Southern California 3551 Trousdale Pkwy, Los Angeles, California 90089

Tickets: Free, though there are some special ticketed events. Buy them here.

L.A. Art Book Fair, photo by Ruben Diaz

2) Printed Matter's LA Art Book Fair 2019

Printed material has always inspired gatherings: think public squares, libraries, bookstores and even book clubs. Since 2013, Printed Matter's LA Art Book Fair and its companion NY Art Book Fair have been the leading international forums for the distribution of artists' books and the congregation of the art publishing community, those who create, those who consume, and all who appreciate. 

This year’s Fair welcomes 390 exhibitors from more than 30 countries, featuring small press publishers, artists, collectives, institutions, galleries, antiquarian booksellers, and distributors, including the participation of nearly 100 first-time exhibitors. The weekend-long event will feature artist-led programs, including discussions, performances, interactive workshops, book signings, and special projects, offering a dynamic view into contemporary and historical artists’ publishing. You can read more about the book fair, hours and exhibitors here.

When: Opening night reception Thursday, April 11, 6 - 9 pm; fair runs through April 14 at 6 pm

Where: The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, 152 N. Central Ave, Los Angeles 90012

Tickets: Opening night reception $20; you can purchase tickets here. Fair admission is free.

3) Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite

At a time when beauty was basically defined by Ken and Barbie - think white and blonde with little noses - Kwame Brathwaite helped lead the battle cry "Black is Beautiful" and helped charge one of the most influential cultural movements of the 1950s and '60s. Inspired by the writings of famed activist and black nationalist Marcus Garvey, Brathwaite harnessed the power of art, music, and fashion to effect social change. According to Skirball managing curator Bethany Montagano, “Black Is Beautiful demonstrates how Kwame Brathwaite’s photographs disrupted cultural norms and helped to broaden our definition of what is beautiful and who gets to decide.” 

The exhibition opens with a panel discussion amongst the artist’s son Kwame S. Brathwaite (who also directs the Kwame Brathwaite Archive), fashion designer Mimi Plange, photographer Tyler Mitchell, and Black Panther costume designer Ruth Carter. The group will examine the social impact of Brathwaite’s photography and consider contemporary issues of representation and activism through media. Ticket holders for this event can arrive early and view the exhibition beginning at 6 pm.

When: Opening night panel Thursday, April 11 at 8 pm; exhibition runs through Sept. 1.

Where: Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles 90049

Tickets: Panel discussion $20; you can get tickets here. Exhibition (general admission) $12 at the door.

A succulent garden that also serves as fire control at a hilltop home in Mandeville Canyon. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

4) Garden Tour: Succulents, Edibles and Ethical Garden Practices

A 25,000 square foot hilltop landscape surrounding a gorgeous home in Brentwood’s Mandeville Canyon will be the crowning jewel during the Assn. of Professional Landscape Designers’ eight-garden tour. Divided into two sessions (one ticket gains you access to both), the tour first showcases seven landscapes in West Los Angeles and Santa Monica, including pervious driveways, turf removal and rain gardens, among other elements of interest.

The afternoon brings participants to the award winning Mandeville Canyon landscape.  Designed by Johanna Woollcott of Wild Gardens L.A, the extensive grounds feature water-saving plants, non-flammable grasses, an edible garden, native oaks, and underground rain storage tanks. The new plants are expected to use 80 percent less water than the grass-covered yard.

Short walking presentations every 30 minutes will be available at this location, where the design team will discuss rain-water harvesting, supporting habitat, native plants communities in the garden, succulents from around the world and irrigating a complex garden with both potable and rain water.

According to Marilee Kuhlmann of Urban Water Group, “This landscape design is much more than a pleasing collection of plants - it’s a biodiversity center, designed to maximize the number of species supported by the landscape.”

When: Saturday, April 13, 9 am - 4 pm. 

Where: West Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Brentwood; specific addresses will be provided with ticket purchase.

Tickets: General admission $60. You can get tickets here. TICKET SALES END 4/12, no day-of tickets purchases.

5) Floating Cities

The exhibition Floating Cities explores the connections between urbanism and the oceans, the boundaries and lines along the ocean's edge and at sea, and the economic and social conditions throughout. Drawing on work by the Dutch floating architecture and urban development firm Blue21, among other resources, curator Anthony Fontenot looks at development and urban planning in marine environments, and associated conservation, consumption and pollution.

When: Saturday, April 13

Where: WUHO Gallery, 6518 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028

Tickets: Free. More information here.