A week ago, several dozen artists, following an invitation from Hammer Museum curator Ali Subotnick, attempted the near impossible -- to grab a spot to sell their wares on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. With a tongue-in-cheek reference to the famous Venice Biennale, Ali Subotnick envisioned this sizzling artistic mixture of high and low as an adventurous extension of the current Hammer Biennial, Made in LA. For one weekend only, professional artists squeezed themselves among the hundreds of boardwalk denizens who -- with plenty of gusto -- are dancing, singing, and selling anything and everything, along the beach seemingly 24/7.
I showed up early on the first day and immediately ran into a few artists I know. They told me that they had to come at the crack of dawn to grab a spot for themselves, and would have to do it again for the next two days. Quite a commitment, I would say. Their spirits were high, but after observing the scene for a couple of hours, I couldn't help but notice that these professional artists, these brave souls, were sort of swallowed up by the insane, larger than life spectacle that is the Venice Boardwalk.
One local vendor, Art Moore, surrounded by his signature Funky Pussy paintings, was sitting there with a huge white bandage over his left eye. He had been beaten up earlier that morning but took it quite philosophically, claiming, "Hey it is what it is, it's the boardwalk, it happens here all the time."
When I showed up the following day, some of the artists felt it was too much for them and had already abandoned ship. Others had moved to new spots. Fortunately my favorite doggie was still there, sunbathing on a blanket and wearing a pink bikini. Everyone was asking her owner for permission to snap a shot of this languid beauty and permission would be granted for a $1 bill, which you would discretely slip under her bikini strap.
If you think that's crazy, let me tell you about the thirty-one Kamikaze Exhibits that are opening and closing every day this July. Believe it or not, all these exhibitions are happening in one place, PØST Gallery, hidden in the industrial area east of Little Tokyo. The gallery is run by L.A. based artist Habib Kheradyar, who came up with this insane idea to ask artists and curators to install a different show in his space every day.
Art works are delivered in the morning and installed during the day. The reception takes place that very evening, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m , and then, after the party is over, the artists take their works off the walls. The next day, the next exhibition is installed. And so it goes, until the very last day of July. Thirty-one days, 31 Kamikaze exhibitions, each lasting only one day. And we are all welcome to experience this case of inspired madness -- and I mean that as a big complement to everyone involved.
On my first visit I saw an elegantly installed solo exhibition of impressive drawings by Marjan Hormozi. The following day, I went there and saw a group show, with artworks installed salon-style floor to ceiling, covering every inch of the walls.
Before July is over I am planning to go there one more time, and to be completely honest, not only to see another exhibition, but also to enjoy the very Bohemian atmosphere of this neighborhood I have newly discovered. The area is full of juicy street art and smart looking shops and cafes, plus the restaurant Church & State, which on my visit was jam-packed with happy locals.
So, be smart, be brave; encounter one of the remaining Kamikaze Exhibits and get high on the color and atmosphere of this unique corner of our City of Angels.
Banner image: Artists at the Venice Beach Biennial. All photos by Edward Goldman.
Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.
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