L.A. Art Diary: Week Three

by Michael Anthony Farley on July 13, 2017 L.A. Art Diary

The Mackey Apartments

The Mackey Apartments

Michael Anthony Farley has been keeping a diary of his Los Angeles adventures. Catch up with entries one, two, and three

Thursday 7/6

I meet my friend, actor/director/writer Liz Eldridge, at a bar in Downtown, where she and a group of friends are inaugurating their new band Red Reign. It’s a cover band dedicated to the repertoire of British psychedelic rockers King Crimson, circa 1974. They warn the audience, “Some of these songs are really, really long. If you need to leave, feel free!” They weren’t lying, but I stick it out. My weekend is off to a good, weird, and somewhat early start.

Friday 7/7

oneil2

Nicola and I arrive at The Mackey Apartments, a gorgeous 1939 structure from influential Austrian architect Rudolph M. Schindler. The MAK Center for Art and Architecture has converted the building into an artist residency, and I’m immediately envious of everyone who gets to live here. The loft-like apartments are hyper-designed and minimal, but thoughtfully liveable.

We’re here to see Riley O’Neill: Designed in California. The first part of the exhibition is contained in a small garden, accessible only by hopping over a waist-height wall. At first glance, the sculptures appear to be cheery modernist mobile/windchimes. Up close, they contain incongruous bits of scrap metal. I think of the first show I saw in L.A. and decide that kinetic sculpture is trending.

The exhibition text claims the works reference “a mall façade that appears to be an Assyrian palace, a historical renovation of an architecturally significant apartment, and a gated community in Calabasas.” I have no idea how, but I’m not sure it matters.

oneil

Inside, the sculptures veer further away from the realm of design objects. The assemblages contain everything from e-waste and broken furniture to seashells and other bits of ephemera. They’re a counterpoint to the “machine for living” interiors—scattered across the floor, sitting on the built-in-bookshelves, and dangling from the loft, they evoke inevitable domestic detritus that accumulates in even the most minimal spaces. Their motion is less about deliberate movement and more about quivering in place. I can relate to that.

With a group from the opening, Nicola and I head to Trejo’s Tacos, a much raved-about eatery owned by the actor Danny Trejo (best known for playing characters named after weapons in Robert Rodriguez films). Each individual taco here costs about twice as much as fast food should, but I’m tempted to say they’re worth it—my jackfruit taco practically melts in my mouth. They have date-sweetened horchata on the menu. I’m reminded of how incongruous the gentrified/ungentrified patchworks of L.A. can feel when a homeless man begins pulling succulents from the landscaped buffer between the dining area and street and throwing them at patrons, shouting “FAGGOTS”, evidently because he had been asking everyone for weed and no one had any. I realize I’m the only person laughing at this situation and immediately feel bad for my callous East Coast appreciation for the absurd.

At the end of dinner, the group discusses what to do next. Most want to return to the residence. I suggest a bar, and everyone looks at me like I’m crazy.  Even on a Friday night, I’ve noticed most L.A. artists don’t like going to bars. We end up back at the residence. Again, I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Saturday 7/8

I have been invited to an art opening in Malibu by at least five people. When I text to confirm that everyone is going, I get several enthusiastic replies of “yes!” But when I ask for the address and time, I’m met with radio silence. I realize this has happened to me several times in L.A. I can’t tell if this is because I somehow manage to offend people within a few hours of meeting them and they want to uninvite me from things or if everyone is just a little flaky. I decide to check out art openings in the city instead.

I call up Liz and ask her to join me. She’s at a party celebrating a pop-up location for some online outlet that’s “like Etsy, but for witches” and I decide that sounds way more interesting. Unfortunately, my Lyft driver inexplicably drops me off a full 3 miles away next to a strip mall in Glendale, so I miss the fun.

Diane Williams

Diane Williams

She picks me up and we head to The Brewery, a massive artist housing complex hewn from an old power plant and warehouses that once produced PBR. I’m told there’s a multi-year waiting list to get a live/work space here. Unfortunately, by the time we make it to The Brewery, we catch only the tail end of a closing reception. It’s the culmination of Diane Williams’s one-month residency at Shoebox Projects, a tiny space where a dreamcatcher-like web connects portraits and various smaller works. On one wall, visitors have been invited to write the names of immigrant friends or family. On another, there’s an assemblage including a hand-drawn map of active hate groups in the United States. It seems like an awful lot of work was produced in the one-month stint, but feels somewhat scattered—it’s one of many politically-motivated shows I’ve seen lately where work feels frustrated rather than resolved. I wonder again what any of us are supposed to be doing now.

Sunday 7/9

Over brunch, Liz gives me the best summary of Los Angeles I’ve ever heard: “L.A. is a million variations of showing up at the wrong time to the wrong thing.”

Monday 7/10


To celebrate Liz’s birthday, we head back to Exposure Drag at the Offbeat. This week is “pirate themed”, which translates mostly to lip syncs from sexy sea wenches and eye-patches. Completely unexpectedly, the performance artist Shamu vogues across the club in an outfit that’s somewhere between Waterworld and cyberpunk, dropping into one of the strangest and most wonderful strip teases I have ever seen. I’m convinced this is the best art I’ve seen since arriving in California.

Wednesday 7/12

Get Ya Shine On

I have the surreal experience of being on set for a music video in the backyard of a Los Feliz mansion that is populated both in-front-of and behind the camera by ex and current Baltimoreans I’ve known at different points in my life—mostly from that city’s grimy warehouse art/music scene. My old friend Adam Schwarz (who now lives in L.A. and goes by the moniker So Drove) has produced the song “Get Ya Shine On” for rappers Kreayshawn, Cupcakke, and TT The Artist (who ended up in Baltimore after attending MICA). James Thomas Marsh, another ex-Baltimorean artist, is directing. Sigrid Lauren and Monica Mirabile (who started out as dance collaboration FlucT in Baltimore and now run Otion Front Studio in Bushwick) are relaxing in the pool. I’m one of three drag queens sweating in the California sun. The frequency with which friends from other times and places wash up on the shores of Los Angeles makes this place feel like a weird dream.

I change clothes and head to the gym. Getting into the Cali spirit,  I decide to take my first yoga class. I realize everyone else in the “introductory” class already knows what things such as “Slide into Reverse Warrior Position” and “ Swan-dive into Chaturanga!” mean, so the instructor isn’t really explaining what we’re supposed to be doing, just shouting out poses. I end up straining my neck from trying to do downward-facing stretches while craning my neck to see what everyone else is doing.

Maybe yoga is not for me.

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