Saturday, April 5, 2014

Old West Glory

Last weekend, the brother and I went on a little road trip from Los Angeles to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree. I had been dreaming of revisiting the deserts of California ever since my solo excursion to the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain and Joshua Tree about a year ago. I've lived in urban cities most of my life, but there's a need to fulfill my earthy side as well. The deserts of the Old West are one of my favorite landscapes, and I find myself at complete peace out there. If I settle in Los Angeles in the future, I would love to own a vacation home in the desert.

We first stopped to see the Cabazon dinosaurs, which might look familiar from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. The roadside attraction features the "world's largest" Tyrannosaurus Rex and Brontosaurus statues, and you can also visit the robotic dinosaurs and creationist museum for a $7.50 fee. We continued Eastward towards Palm Springs, where we saw the Forever Marilyn Monroe Statue (we were lucky to see this as we found out later it was moved that day to New Jersey!) and had a delicious brunch of Stumptown coffee, pulled pork sandwich and butterscotch pie at the Ace Hotel.

We then drove north for an hour to Landers, where we sound bathed in the Integratron Dome. It's a purported "acoustically perfect" rejuvenation, anti-gravity and time travel machine designed by George Van Tassel. He claimed extraterrestrials from Venus directed him to build it and believed the structure would help prevent the extinction of human life. We laid down for a meditative sound session which involved a man playing tones from quartz bowls. I drifted off into a new level of consciousness until unexpectedly awoken by the individual next to me, but the brother said he felt nothing from the experience.

We spent the last half of the day jumping from rock to rock at Joshua Tree National Park and then visiting the old sets of Western films at Pioneertown. We ended our desert trip with beer and a BBQ dinner at Pappy and Harriet's, and then enjoyed live performances by the Wild Reeds from Los Angeles and Snow Apple from Amsterdam.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yoshitomo Nara at Blum and Poe

Last time I visited Blum and Poe was to see the the paintings and sculptures of Takashi Murakami, and this time, I was there to view the solo exhibit of Yoshitomo Nara. Both Japanese artists are recognized for their pop art rendering of distinctive characters, such as psychedelic smiling flowers in Murakami's and superflat young girls in Nara's. The first time I saw the works of Murakami was at the provocative exhibit in Versailles, France, and seeing his exhibit at Blum and Poe last year was comparable to seeing an old friend. This was my first time seeing the paintings and sculptures of Nara in person, and I was impressed by the depth of tones and colors.

The upstairs gallery of Blum and Poe housed Nara's earlier works from his youth through education and success. I was surprised to see German text on quite a few paintings and learned that Nara had attended Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the late 80s to early 90s. His earlier works are far less polished than his current pieces, but the influence of Japanese anime is ever present. I liked how one could see his progression from basic doodling to detailed comics to punk rock vibes to integrating text and then finding the pure combination of all these elements in his deceivingly expressive superflat girls.

Blum and Poe is one of the most renowned art galleries not only in Los Angeles, but also in the international art world. Their exhibits feature some of the world's most coveted artists and are often excellently curated. The gallery is located in one of Los Angeles's gallery districts on La Cienega in Mid-City. Yoshitomo Nara is currently on view at Blum and Poe through April 12.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Afternoon Tea at the Huntington Library

The brother and I indulged in afternoon tea at the Huntington Library this weekend. The room is located immediately next to the rose garden, and reservations are highly recommended. It's a favorite for birthdays, anniversaries and other special celebrations. We were first served a basket of chocolate and cinnamon scones with our choice of clotted cream, butter, blueberry preserves and marmalade. Raspberry tea and coffee were served in steel teapots with a wooden handle, which reminded the brother of Paul Revere and old America. The standout edibles included a carrot ginger tea sandwich, smoked salmon tartine (with a dollop of caviar), argula salad with dried apricot and mozzarella, and blackberry and raspberry fruit tart. I ate three full plates.

Once the family estate of a railroad magnate, the Huntington Library is now a museum. On display are a collection of art and antiques largely from Great Britain, France and other European countries. While one can view works of Thomas Gainsborough, Mary Cassatt and even Andy Warhol, I find strolling around the botanical gardens to be a much more enjoyable experience. The gardens have served as sets for many films including Heathers, The Wedding Planner, Charlie's Angels, Anger Management, Starsky & Hutch, Memoirs of a Geisha and Bridesmaids. I like the desert garden with landscaped succulents and cacti, and visitors tend to like the Japanese and Chinese gardens too. An irritated gander nipped at the hem of my dress as I walked past across a bridge.

The Huntington Library makes for a relaxing day trip or casual date in greater Los Angeles. Admission is $20 weekdays and $23 weekends; for students, $12 weekdays and $13 weekends. You can also visit for free the first Thursday of every month with advance tickets. The tea room is a separate cost at $29.50 per adult.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Museum of Destiny

Last month, I visited the Museum of Destiny exhibit at the Impermanent Collection. It is a beautiful loft gallery in downtown Los Angeles, which I had first seen via Instagram on @bonjourtristesse's feed. I've visited a lot of galleries and museums in the city, yet I had not previously heard about this one. My curiosity got hold of me, and I booked a visit for two. H and I were standing outside the building and drinking a coffee when a few individuals approached us, including senior curator Isabelle Le Normand and art collector Jon Bernad. We were led to the Impermanent Collection, where director Eugénie Frémiot welcomed us.

Bernad had contributed the artworks to the exhibit, and he had received a number of them in the most serendipitous ways. He gave us a brief explanation of several, beginning with an I.O.U. autograph from Andy Warhol to Halston. We witnessed the exchange of this piece for another I.O.U. from artist Chris Lipomi, who was assembling a solo show featuring a piece on Halston at LAXART. Bernad told us that another piece, a historic handkerchief stitched on a canvas, had fallen out of a passing truck. Other works we viewed included Jean Cocteau, Ivan Argote and Sophie Calle. I also participated in a project in which calls between individuals and their mother are documented.

The Impermanent Collection appears to be not only a gallery, but also a place where art and the art obsessed come together. The Museum of Destiny is an off-the-beaten path experience, in which the experience transcends into a form of art. The exhibit has moved from Los Angeles to Toulouse, but currently on view is Rachelle Rojany's solo show "Make No Shibboleth." The Impermanent Collection is located at 1610 W. 7th Street, Loft 504, Los Angeles. Visit by appointment only; e-mail visit@theimpermanentcollection or call (731) 984-4504.