Late as always -- I'm posting these notes under a full moon (easily eclipsing Warner/Nolan's Dark Knight, I think, notwithstanding record grosses).
13-14 July 2008
Where was I? I make it sound (see below) as if Opera Buddy and I couldn’t wait to get away from the Fraser/Angstrom shows – but that’s not entirely true. In fact, the collector pal we were waiting for had already skipped over to the Hammer; and, aside from that shlep, we had quite a bit of ground to cover. (OB does tend to breeze through shows; but there were movies to see and dogs (2) to walk, so I think we can both be excused for pushing the pace a bit.) I have to say, we both enjoy the Fraser openings, which usually bring together a number of different contingents from L.A.’s art scene – from Honor’s own posse of artists (I think I’ve seen Rosson Crow at almost all the openings I’ve been to (including her own, natch), always looking smashing, whether done up as a Vegas chorine (as she was at her opening), or as her own glam self – in a charming pale sequined shift last night), to L.A. and visiting artists, to the scenesters, students and looky-loos (I guess that includes people like me), to the collectors. Honor brings out the collectors (e.g., Lenore and Herb Schorr – who were there last night, just as they had been to Honor’s Kristin Calabrese-curated group show last summer) because, between her curators and her own savvy pulse-taking of the Zeitgeist, she can usually be counted on to bring gallery audiences something both bracingly intelligent and just under the radar – stuff we may only be seeing for the first time, but find immediately compelling if not irresistible – in short what any serious collector of contemporary art is looking for. In other words – it’s a good party: the boldface names, known quantities, together with the ingénues, the ciphers, and perhaps a few unwitting geniuses.
The title of the Hammer Lautner show was Between Heaven and Earth, but the scene there Saturday night was more like “Between Tokyo and Mumbai.” It was more crowded than any opening I’ve ever attended there. We casually sauntered in, thinking it couldn’t be any more crowded than the entry areas seemed to indicate; but the very fact neither our invites nor credentials were checked should have given us some sense of the enormous surge that had just made its way into the museum’s courtyard. But there was no trouble getting to the bar, and it was only once we were on the second floor that we realized that something like a quarter of the L.A. art world might be there. The galleries were literally packed – with a line snaking out the door and extending clear down one side past the bar towards the bookstore and deejays. It might as well have been the line for Hellboy II (which extended around the corner of Hillhurst and Sunset Drive just past the Vista Theatre in my neighborhood). We headed for the bookstore – which is one of my favorite museum bookstores. It also has the best children’s section of any museum bookstore – maybe one of the best children’s sections of any bookstore; I’ve dropped a small fortune on books and toys for my nephew, Rufus, there and usually head straight to it – bypassing the catalogs and critical texts (of which they also have an excellent selection) until I’ve found something fabulous for him (and occasionally myself).
We took our time in the bookstore, but by the time we stepped out, there was still a line – a bit shorter, but nevertheless. A glimpse inside one of the galleries confirmed our worst expectations – i.e., what would we actually see? It was as if the entire Day of the Locusts swarm from Thursday night’s downtown art walk, had reconstituted itself in the two Lautner galleries. (About that scene, more later perhaps – talk about madding crowds! – you have no idea.) We strolled around a bit; we certainly weren’t alone. There were many familiar amid the many not-so-familiar faces in the throng. OB said she probably wouldn’t recognize Ann Philbin because she changes her look (or hair, mostly) too frequently – and indeed she had this evening; but there’s no mistaking her for anyone else – different hair, as chic as ever. OB wanted to look at the Henry Coombes video; but finally decided she lacked the patience to sit through it. I may have strained OB’s patience a bit myself, getting caught up in an engaging conversation triggered by – what else? – our admiring a pair of shoes (Louboutin). The conversation, though, was mostly with her equally chic pal, Neely, who runs a boutique a stone’s throw away from Fred Segal called Xin (I could be wrong about the store name). I had to ask her if her parents had named her after the character, Neely O’Hara (from Jackie Susann’s Valley of the Dolls); and she confessed they had. The real irony, as should be plain, is that there are a million Neelys in this town (and about a thousand of them might have been right there at the Hammer that night); but Xin’s Neely is definitely not one of them. On the other hand, she probably helps dress or accessorize half those Neelys at her boutique. Our conversation, however, was about neither shoes, nor clothes, accessories, pulp fiction, or even art or architecture, but about police harassment, and the grim aftermath of almost any arrest or detention – especially here in Los Angeles. Her scary (but hilariously told) narrative of a detention under the most slender of pretexts by some machineheads in blue in Fresno, prompted me to mention my acquaintance with “L.A.’s Dopest,” the criminal defense attorney, Allison Margolin (an artillery advertiser, I am delighted to disclose), whose business card I carry with me always – packed in my shoulder bag in close proximity to my Valium, another psycho-pharmaceutical essential for coping with the boys in blue (slow your racing heart as you speed-dial La Dopest on the cell). I suppose the logical thing would be to have a bail-bondsman’s card in there, too; but that’s more reality than I can bear.
Neely O’Hara (or at least the updated character from the movie version), of course, would have lived in a Lautner house. How could she not, with that reaching for the stars ambition, the skyscraping highs (in every sense) and the plunge-to-the-canyon floor lows? Lautner’s Marbrisa residence in Acapulco – stretched eerily (airily?) between its defiance of gravity and reach for infinity – always struck me as the kind of residence in which only gods or movie superstars could fashion a viable domesticity. It makes me think of the Burtons in Joseph Losey's Boom (although Marbrisa was built somewhat later – in 1973). Lautner would have known how to build a sort of chambered Nautilus of a doll, poised cliffside as if spilling artlessly from a prescription pill bottle. I guess I’m also getting at the particular mystery and mystique Lautner’s architecture holds for me, the contradictions; the qualities that are soaring and transcendent and the qualities that seem alienated and distinctly anti-urban. (Lautner was famously contemptuous of the city his houses were designed to overlook.) I can’t wait to see the show. I’ve heard the catalog is pretty good, too.
In the meantime, while Neely and I were chatting it up, our Very Independent Topanga Artist pal told us we had just missed our collector pal, and we were anxious to get back to ACE to see the Pullen show. So it was back into the night – the stars, the cars … “Ah, the insincere sympathy of the faraway stars.”