Rebels in Paradise – Experiencing it Chapter by Chapter

images-19Pacific Standard Time is an examination of the formation of art in Los Angeles from the 1950s through the 1980s. More than 60 cultural institutions and 70 galleries from Santa Barabara to San Diego are participating. It’s huge and overwhelming. One way to approach the event is with Rebels in Paradise by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp in hand. Drohojowska-Philp’s book describes the LA art culture of the 1960s akin to Vassari, that is part information and part gossip. The book gives a foundation to seeing the art spread out all over Southern California. Readers learn about how Walter Hopps started the Ferus Gallery and provided the fertile ground for the art, but also about his affairs and drug problems. If you think the Cool School artists were sitting around talking about their new art forms-plastics, light, found items, installations the way we imagine the Impressionists in Paris-you’re wrong, they worked all day, then met to drink and talk about women (or men) at night. Chapter by chapter, Rebels in Paradise drops in on the swirl of artists who free of any obligation to the art historical past, created their own art and started entirely new movements. So what better way to approach the extravaganza of Pacific Standard Time then by pairing up events with each chapter? (The ending chapters aren’t included.)

Rebels in Paradise as a Guide to Pacific Standard Time

Chapter One: 1963: Andy and Marcel

Stop by Beatrice Wood: Career Woman-Drawings, Paintings, Vessels, and Objects at the Santa Monica Museum of Art to see the objects she used to serve Marcel Duchamp when he dropped by for tea.

Chapter Two and Three: Ferus Gallery

These chapters describe how the Ferus Gallery started, a great overview of the art is found at California Art: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation at the Weisman Museum of Art and at the quintessential Getty Center exhibit, Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950 to 1970. Plus, why not see the movie? “The Cool School” is a fun documentary of the era.

Chapter Four: Ferus Goes Forth

Drop by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art‘s installation of Edward Kienholz, Five Car Stud 1969-72, Revisited and their permanent exhibit of “The Illegal Operation.”

Chapter Five: Okies: Ed Ruscha, Mason Williams, Joe Goode, and Jerry McMillan

Ruscha is famous for many works (his backwards Hollywood sign is sure to be seen everywhere the next few months) including his photographs of every building on Sunset Blvd. Check out the video of a current drive down Sunset Blvd with Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Anthony Kiedis. See “The Back of Hollywood” at Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Chapter Six: Bell, Box and Venice

Bell’s work will be party of the Getty exhibit, afterwards drop by his eponymous restaurant in Venice and walk the beach that inspired so many of these artists.

Chapter Seven: Glamour Gains Ground

Gain a sense of the nightlife and music talked about in this chapter by attending a showing and discussion of the documentary “The Troubadors” at the Broad in Santa Monica on November 5th.

Chapter Eight: The Dawn of Dwan

This gallery no longer exists, but visit the exhibit Portrait of L.A. Artists at the Craig Krull Gallery for photos of people discussed in this chatty chapter.

Chapter Nine: A Bit of British Brilliance: David Hockney

Leslie Sacks Fine Art in Brentwood recently opened a show of David Hockney prints from his time in Los Angeles.

Chapter Ten: Wilder Times with Bruce Nauman and Artforum

Nauman’s site specific Green Light Corridor will be shown at the La Jolla branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego as part of the monumental Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface exhibit.

Chapter Eleven: The Ascendency of Irwin’s Atmospherics

Shown throughout the Pacific Standard Times exhibits (his art is in the Weisman, Getty, and MOCA exhibits), make a point of seeing the site specific work the Getty commissioned “Black on White” in the Getty’s entrance rotunda. I saw it during part of the installation a few weeks ago, can’t wait to see it complete.

Chapter Twelve: Set the Night on Fire

Several exhibits will cover the political and African-American art experience: Under the Big Black Sun at MOCA, Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980 at the Hammer Museum, Graphics 1967-1987: Art in the Pursuit of Social Change at the University Art Museum, Cal State Long Beach, and John Outterbridge at LA><Art.

Chapter Thirteen: Chicago Comes to Los Angeles

Judy Chicago will speak a few times at the Pomona College Museum of Art, plus the Otis College of Art and Design is hosting a series of events about women artists all around their exhibit Doin’ It in Public: Feminism and Art at the Woman’s Building.

Chapter Fourteen and Fifteen: See Chapter Four above.

Chapter Sixteen: Gemini GEL

Gemini GEL is offering behind-the-scenes tours several times throughout Pacific Standard Time, also visit the Norton Simon for Proof: The Rise of Printmaking in Southern California.

Chapter Seventeen: Between Form and Function: Frank Gehry

Cirrus Gallery is hosting an exhibit featuring works by Gehry, Ruscha and Baldessari, plus Gehry will be speaking at the Getty on December 13th.

Chapter Eighteen: London Calling, L.A. Answers

See Chapter Seven plus for a different take visit the GRAMMY Museum’s Trouble in Paradise: Music and Los Angeles, 1945-1975.

Chapter Nineteen: Love-ins and Outs

Visit the Pacific Party Time exhibit at the Craig Krull Gallery, gives some background as to why the loves were in and out.

Chapter Twenty: Change of Light Brigade: Irwin, Wheeler, and Turrell

For a chance to experience Turrell on his own, drop by his exhibit Present Tense at the Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery. For a wonderful overview of the Light and Space movement, visit Phenomenal at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Chapter Twenty-One: Fantastic Plastic Lovers: DeWain Valentine, Peter Alexander, and Helen Pashgian

One of the Getty’s exhibits is dedicated to DeWain Valentine, From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine’s Gray Column, plus his art can be seen at the Weisman Museum.

Chapter Twenty-Two: Odd Man In: John Baldessari

The artist included in the most Pacific Standard Time exhibits, you’re sure to see examples everywhere (the Getty, Weisman, MOCA), but for a more intimate experience, drop by the Cirrus Gallery. Even better, he’ll be speaking at the Hammer on October 4th.

Pacific Standard Time is as exciting as it is massive. My list is far from complete, I’d love to hear your additions. With Rebels in Paradise you’ll get the background to fully enjoy the exhibits and for the book lovers, what better guide is there?

The Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative – Madison, WI

StoreFront_0_0My son, Kyle Allen-Niesen, particularly enjoyed this bookstore during our summer vacation and agreed to write a review.  Thank you, Kyle!

Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative in Madison, Wisconsin, is a lovely example of a community bonding together over literature.  Its placement, just off the main commercial street in Madison, is such that it still can attract the careful tourist or college student; yet mainly appeal to the local community and its own members.  The bookstore has two rooms, one entry where most of the new selections are displayed, and a second room with couches and gently used books sparely populating the shelves at substantial discounts.  It is extremely liberal, although the fact that it is a Co-Op might have given that away, (members pay 30 dollars to get a 10 percent discount on all their books as well as a vote in the direction and choices of the store).  The windows are festooned with “Recall-Walker” images and slogans, a common theme in the many bookstores of Madison.  Clearly, the literary types are with the unions (me too!).

The shop primarily deals in new books with a majority dedicated to and critical literature and various rights movement materials.  Never before have I seen entire sections dedicated to Empire, or Anarchy, and they had had more books on the Women’s Rights movement than stores with far more books.  I had just recently learned the debate topic for I will be debating for the next two months concerned animal rights, and straight away the staff were able to point me to Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation, one of the core works in support of a fundamental equality for animals.  The staff seemed knowledgeable, and fairly friendly, with extremely evident loyalty to their operation.  We learned that most of the people behind the counter are volunteers from the members, and that the paid staff are the minority in the rotation running the store.  All in all, with the incredible array of bookstores in Madison, it can sometimes be difficult to know which to visit.  Of those, however, Rainbow is one to stop at.  Its overt political leanings and interesting selection make for a unique perusing experience.

Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative

426 W. Gilman Street

Madison, WI

T:  608.257.6050

Museum Monday – Art Catalogues Store at LACMA and the Kienholz Discussion


Great Store for Modern Art Books

Great museums have bookstores, MOMAthe Met, and the Chicago Art Institute all have wonderful stores.  The Hammer has two locations right now, it’s permanent store upstairs and the temporary Libros Schmibros in a gallery space.  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is no different.  Situated in its own space just off the main entrance, Art Catalogues specializes in modern and contemporary art, specifically from 1913 to the present.  The store stocks current and past art catalogues, and not only limited to LACMA shows.  This is a good start for hunting down a rare art book.  Art history books, biographies, and general knowledge books also line the shelves.  Although situated off a passageway without windows, it’s white walls and shelves provide an airy atmosphere.  My primary criteria when looking at a museum bookstore is if it is worth visiting separate from the collection and if you’re looking for works on Modern Art this store passes muster.

A Magical Afternoon – the Kienholz Discussion

I spent a couple of hours in the store yesterday listening to a discussion about the Kienholz Five Car Stud, 1969 – 1972, Revisited exhibit.  I think this is the best bookstore event I’ve attended.  The sales clerk agreed.  I talk about the sense of community and exchange of ideas that occur in bookstores and I’ve experienced it numerous times, but this event glittered with ideas and shared memories.  Kienholz’s Five Car Stud is an installation piece about five white men castrating a black man because they found him in his pick up truck with a white woman.  The exhibit is part of Pacific Standard Time, a region-wide art extravaganza that examines the development of art in Los Angeles.

The discussion centered around Kienholz, the era, and political art.  One speaker, Joe Lewis, an artist and educator, said that political art didn’t occupy the footprint it deserved in the art world because it tended to be didactic to the extreme.  It tended to hit people over the head with its message.  He advocated that political art give people space to experience it and think about it rather than slap them in the face when they walk in the room.  I immediately thought of Robbie Conal, his political posters helped most LA liberals survive the Bush years, and there he was in the audience asking Lewis if by advocating political art with an aesthetic he meant art that was beautiful?  (Lewis wisely said ‘I’m not getting in that discussion with you right now.”)

If that wasn’t enough, Kienholz’s family was there to discuss previous installations of the piece in Europe and how it was received.  The gallery owner of Brockman Gallery, who exhibited the ultra controversial Noah Purifoy installation, talked about the upheaval it caused and the risk he took exhibiting it.   Ed Bereal, artist and performance artist from the 19602 and 70s, shared his memories, but then many in the audience added their experience of working with him in the ghetto. A well-respected civil rights advocate described the impact of Bereal’s Bodacious Buggernilla in the South Central area, he’d even kept posters from the performances all these years.

The discussion was better than traveling back in a time machine, it was getting a peek at a time forty years ago from people who lived it, survived it, and had evaluated it in their maturity.  It is my new favorite example of what bookstores provide to their community.  I promise you, it could never be duplicated online in any format.  To hear the thoughts and memories of these people and their interaction with each other and those of us who were learning about them was priceless.

Art Catalogues Store

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

5905 Wilshire Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90036

T:  323.857.6159

O’Gara & Wilson, Ltd. – Chicago, IL

I noticed one of my favorite aromas five steps before I entered the store, Chicago’s oldest bookstore smells like aged paper and binding. O’Gara & Wilson has serious books.  This is a haven for academics, anyone researching specific topics, or collectors of antique books.  I noticed an extensive religion section, quite impressive actually.  Also, significant collections of music books, German books, and other collections in various languages.  As with all good used bookstores, the offerings may change over time as collections are purchased and added to the shelves.  O’Gara & Wilson look for and buy significant book collections, if you have one to sell, this would be a good place to start.  Not everything is serious, Keith found a stack of Popular Science magazines and bought two.  Decades ago each cost 25 cents, we paid $7.50 and $12.50 for each – don’t automatically throw out those magazines in your garage, they may be worth something.

This store wins the prize for oddest decor.  Immediately apparent is the buffalo head hanging over the center aisle.  Further back is a stuffed monk.  It’s a little creepy, but in an inviting way.  I was immediately drawn into the back of the store to figure out if the statute was a witch, a monk, made out of wax or wood, was it holiday decor or permanent?  The clerk explained that when the Museum of Science and Industry was refurbished, the inscribing monk didn’t make the cut and was headed for the trash heap.  In swooped the owner to save the monk and give him a second life as guardian of the stacks.

Founded in 1882, the store has a nice history of passing from one owner to the next.  Wilson was an apprentice to O’Gara and eventually became the owner of the store.  I asked the clerk if he was next in line, he chuckled and refused to commit.

O’Gara & Wilson

1448 E. 57th Street

Chicago, IL 60637

T:  773.363.0993

Books by the Bay – North Bend, OR

Beautiful view of Coos Bay from North Bend, OR

I effectively had a seven hour “lay over.”  My plane arrived in the little town of North Bend, OR at 8AM (I flew in with the Governor of Oregon, nice to see him flying commercial and working the entire flight), but Keith and Kyle didn’t arrive until 5PM.  What to do?  Set up shop in a bookstore, of course.  This is a real small town, in the sense that it isn’t a tourist town made cute for visitors.  These people live and work here, and they visit their bookstore.  Books by the Bay is a used bookstore with lovely coffee shop.  I was reading The Brothers Karamazov and was just starting the Grand Inquisitor section so I settled down with some great coffee and quiche while eavesdropping on the tables around me.

Many of the books are mass market paperbacks at great prices.  As with many used bookstores, there’s a wide selection of romance and mysteries.  However, every genre is available from history to non-fiction to young adult to literature.  I was impressed by the support for local authors.  These books were prominently displayed at the front of the store.  Readings and signings are held along with books clubs.

It is an inviting environment.  This isn’t the musty used bookstore that entices a treasure hunt.  Books by the Bay is bright, airy, and nicely organized.  The books may be a bit worn, but the surroundings are not.

Books by the Bay is a place for readers.  In the couple of hours that I camped out in the coffee shop, I heard an intense discussion about a novel that would put any book group to shame.  These women picked apart every character and plot device.  One of the local authors dropped by to chat and check on his books.  The people at the table behind me discussed books and travel plans while looking for books about their trip.  Everyone knew someone in the cafe.  No one entered without stopping to say hi to a friend.  Books by the Bay is the epitome of the community bookstore.  Even for strangers like myself, it’s a lovely place to spend a morning.

Books by the Bay

1875 Sherman Ave.

North Bend, OR 97459

T:  541.756.1215

The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies

I love hearing about Frances McClellan’s literary excursions.  Today she is sharing a visit into the life of Steinbeck, I can’t wait to visit myself.  Check out Frances’ past contributions, Hicklebee’s, The King’s English Bookshop, Bookbuyers Used Books and Media, and The Twig Bookshop.

Blog-Post-Hoping to share a unique experience with a good friend and Steinbeck admirer who was in for the weekend from Los Angeles, my husband and I took him to The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. Housed in the Martin Luther King library on the campus of San Jose State University the center is open most days. Having already visited the center in the past for readings, I endeavored to experience this place anew.

My own experience during past visits to this Steinbeck sanctuary included introductions to emerging authors and poets as well as a brief handshake with Steinbeck’s son, Thomas. This visit was one of discovery compelled by my desire to know more about the man so many admire.

Getting to know an author is a complex, involved business. Reading works of literature, poetry or commentary can’t quite give a reader the full understanding of the person. The works will never fully show the author’s method of writing nor the instrument or influences used in the craft.

Walking up to a side table, I noticed a ream of paper sitting there for anyone to pick up and review. Curiosity getting the better part of me, I picked up the stack of paper as the docent walked over to describe the item I was holding. The long, legal sized papers were copies of Steinbeck manuscripts. Holding them up to read, I noted for the first time that John Steinbeck had minute and scribbled penmanship, practically illegible to the untrained eye. The pages are chock full of line after line of minuscule, quickly written prose. Paper was scarce when Steinbeck wrote so he literally filled pages with words creating his masterful stories, allowing only a slight margin on his work pages. In addition, I am told that he wrote in pencil, never pen.

The center is modest in size with two small offices in the corner and a visitor desk welcoming inquiries. High windows, allowing the warming California sunshine into the room also providing ample light for reading and exploring the space. A quiet place, with its worktables, colorful posters and broad bookshelves housing the largest collection of first edition, John Steinbeck works. The collection of books, is augmented by thousands of related materials such as personal letters, photographs, original manuscripts and even a few of the author’s own pencils, giving this archival collection a singularly refined focus.

We are shown by the docent, Steinbeck family pictures as well as pictures prepared by the publisher. Studio posters are available for study as they tout a movie based on the various books. Steinbeck is, after all, an American classic.

A Steinbeck enthusiast would have to make the pilgrimage to this place in order to appreciate the depth of these collected works and artifacts.

The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies

San Jose State University

Room 590, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

San Jose, CA 95192 0202

T:  408.808.2067

Libros Schmibros is the Artist-in-Residence at the Hammer Museum

What happens when two of my favorite things pair up?  A unique bookstore fills the gallery of a contemporary museum.  A while back David Kippen, book critic and former director of literature for the NEA, noticed two things:  the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles didn’t have a bookstore while the local libraries were cutting hours, and that he owned 7,000 books.  In response, he opened Libros Schmibros, a small store front in Boyle Heights where the community can borrow books or buy them at a heavy discount.  It is run by volunteers, that’s right, it’s a true labor of love.  All of literary LA loves this concept, so much so that the Hammer invited him to the westside of LA to take over the lobby gallery for six weeks.  Think a pop up bookstore museum style.  Same rules apply here, books are available to borrow or buy at a discounted price.  In fact, residents of Westwood and Boyle Heights can buy the books for a dollar.  Anyone else heard of a local bookstore selling books to locals for a buck?

Part of the back mural

The store is packed with books under a banner on the back wall depicting Los Angeles literary figures.  The banner itself is worth entering the gallery.  But the books won’t disappoint either.  They’re all arranged alphabetically by author, fiction, non-fiction, all genres are shelved together (with the exception of California history and art books).  I like the mixture, it felt strangely efficient.

What would a bookstore or a gallery installation be without related events?  Libros Schmibros hosts several over the next few weeks.  I attended a quiz about LA History last weekend in honor the reissue of the Los Angeles in the 1930s:  The WPA Guide to Los Angeles.  Halfway through the quiz, my team was in the lead.  I think this is more indicative of my ability to pick teammates among strangers than it is of my knowledge of LA history.  Unfortunately, I had to leave before the second half of the quiz began so I don’t know the ultimate winner.  Even on days without events, the website lists the hours of well known volunteers (guest workers) such as authors and film makers so the public can stop by and ask them about their artistic work.

It’s a charming space, stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.

Libros Schmibros at the Hammer Museum

10899 Wilshire Blvd

Los Angeles, CA 90024

T:  310.443.7000