Alexandra Grant On Art In LA, The Love House, And The Smell of Jasmine
Who: Artist Alexandra Grant
Current Gig: When not painting in her studio, Grant is currently part of the Baker's Dozen III exhibition at the Torrance Art Museum. She's also promoting "Ode To Happiness" (her collaborative picture book with Keanu Reeves), the creative force behind the Love House in Watts, and continuing her artistic endeavors with Helene Cixous's literature.
Current Neighborhood: Monterrey Hills with almost-daily grocery shopping in South Pasadena and Highland Park. I love to eat.
The Love House is across the street from the Watts Towers. Has the time spent on this project introduced you to any new neighborhood haunts?
There are some good cooks who live on 107th Street across the street from the Towers and I've been lucky enough to be invited into their kitchens. Hopefully someday there will be a restaurant on the block where tourists and residents can hang out and the profits go to the Watts Community. But the Watts Towers and the Art Center there are the star attractions.
How would you describe your art?
An art visually obsessed with how language works. Open to new experiences and failure. Collaborative.
Who and what influence your creative style?
Other artists, writers, music in the studio, poetry books in the hand or read aloud, outsized thinkers and entrepreneurs, quiet people, space and nano-scientists, movies, fashion designers, fashion photography in glossy magazines, newspapers online and off, thrift store finds, race car drivers, the cactus garden at Huntington Gardens, my family and friends, a dinner table with good food and wine... Anyone passionate and honest about what they do.
Your work is very collaborative by nature. How do you collaborate with LA?
How do I collaborate with LA the city? By driving through it every morning to hike in Griffith Park on my way to the studio, swinging by my regular to get a cup of coffee. And then listening to public radio and getting the local news. I think my work is accretive, like Los Angeles: every day I build up a little more.
Favorite LA-based art or artist?
That's a list! All the artists who came before those of us lucky enough to work here today, many still to get recognized. John Outterbridge and Noah Purifoy. Ed Ruscha was instrumental in preserving Purifoy's legacy. The great teachers and community-builders like John Baldessari, Paul McCarthy, Mary Kelly, Cathy Opie, to name a few. The women of the Women's Building, the video artists who built to the Long Beach Museum's collection that's now at the Getty. The performance artists -- from Mike Kelley to Chris Burden to Harry Gamboa, Jr. and ASCO, to My Barbarian. So many artists practicing now who inspire: Mark Bradford, Andrea Bowers, Mark Grotjean, Sterling Ruby, Amanda Ross Ho, Jennifer Steinkampf. And the kids coming up, inventing new ways of working and spaces. And remember that the artists can’t do it without the support of LA's institutions, curators, gallerists, collectors, art writers and fans.
Is it street art or is it graffiti?
Or a life-style or a language or a protest movement or a double-dare-you or urban blight or conceptual art or advertising...
Your work has been exhibited at LACMA, MOCA and Honor Fraser: How do you view the art scene in LA?
I view it as a community. I came to LA because as a conceptual artist who works with language, I felt this was the most dynamic place to practice because of the histories of artists experimenting with new materials (think video art or Robert Irwin's floating forms) and text-based art (again, think Ruscha, Baldessari, Kelly, Barbara Kruger). There's a lot of opportunity in Los Angeles if you're serious about your work. I spent part of my childhood in Mexico City and there exists a real kinship in the art world here to what is happening in that city, too.
LA's best galleries or little known gallery recommends?
I'm a big fan of museums and their programming -- from the Norton Simon, to MOCA, to LACMA, to the Hammer, to Santa Monica Museum -- they all have something to offer. There are so many good galleries and non-profit spaces, where do I start? I check in with For Your Art every week: http://losangeles.foryourart.com/
What are some of your favorite restaurants?
For lunch I'm a creature of habit - near my studio are Via Cafe in Chinatown and the Homegirl Cafe nearby on Alameda. (After a few years of eating at Via Cafe, the waiter urged me to "try something new." So I try).
Where would you take an out-of-town friend?
For an out of town guest I'd take them to have BBQ at Spring Street Smokehouse for lunch. For dinner, I'm a big fan of big plates and comfort food without a whole lot of restaurant drama: Akasha in Culver City, Blair's in Silver Lake, the Vertical Wine Bar in Pasadena or the dining room with a view from Soho House.
What is your go-to drink and where do you go for the best one?
I drink wine (I'm a fan of wines from Paso Robles and Spain's Ribera del Duero) and Mediterranean snacks - a go-to is Barbrix in Silver Lake. The bartender knows what he’s talking about, and has a good sense of humor. Also Lou's on Vine.
Who is your favorite Angeleno, alive or dead?
I'm still mourning the death of painter R.B. Kitaj.
Venice Hippies or Silver Lake Hipsters?
Is there a third choice?
Do you have a song that reminds you of LA?
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but when I'm not in Los Angeles, I always hear that Red Hot Chili Peppers song with the lyric "I drive through the streets, and she's my companion." It makes me intensely homesick. I want to get in my car and speed over Laurel Canyon with the windows open, smelling night-blooming jasmine.
Why do you love Los Angeles?
I’m never, ever bored.
Why do you hate Los Angeles?
Because sometimes Los Angeles just isn't Paris. Sometimes we all need to spend a little time somewhere -- to paraphrase Joni Mitchell -- old, cold and settled in its ways.
What do they say on the classical radio station, KUSC, that LA is the "creative capital of the world"? When you think of everything being made here, from movies to novels to paintings, there’s just something about this place, isn’t there?