Chung King Road, Chinatown, Gallery night. Late 2015. The sun’s weighted belly slid down past the horizon creating the early evening, pushed a clean breeze over the western hemisphere including the cobblestones of the 500-foot pedestrian alley built in the 1940s in downtown Los Angeles. On each side of the alley, brick buildings—storefronts with large opaque windows--smiled close in mute complicity, in Asian inspired architectural acknowledgement of things of which only that they knew. Not all buildings are inhabited, just the few where galleries found an affordable space at the time they moved in.
Where was this gallery? A professional friend, an artist, curated an exhibition “Werewolf.” We wanted to show support. However we couldn’t find the gallery. As we continuously went from end to end of the pedestrian ally we were glad of the short distance. We were glad that any bodies buried beneath the cobblestones consisting of LA noir history had long ago rid their flesh released the trauma of their insult, and were now just cool bones supporting the structure of the street chattering between themselves only to be heard by those living who remembered or who read. Noir today exists elsewhere, in South America, other places—I don’t want to consider it or even know. There’s too much local and world violence to process nowadays. But no longer on Chung King Road. It only shows art and the artists who attend, while maybe murderous don’t because they make art.
Where the hell was this gallery. We were moths entering any gallery that was lit—looked around, we would gladly have purchased red wine. We walked into Coagula, showing Emma Sulkowicz, “Self Portrait.” We looked into the window of the Poetic Research Bureau @The Public School (aka Telic) and observed the intelligentsia not quite comfortable entering into their self-familiar society. We walked in or by, whether or not they were open or closed: Fifth Floor Gallery, Francois Ghebaly Gallery, Sabina Lee Gallery, Sam Lee Gallery, LeBasse Projects, POVevolving Gallery & Fine Art Printing Studio, Jancar Gallery, Ed Freeman Photography. We did know the name of the gallery, we asked and we were pointed to the Charlie James Gallery. It was brightly lit. We flew in relieved.
We smiled towards the coterie of the casually well-dressed crowd, our heads went straight up two stories high arriving at the wooden trussed ceiling. We felt the smooth white of the walls brushing past our shoulders as we walked through the space, the breeze entering through the open glass door finding more openings in our clothes contributing to our sense of comfort. We looked at the 30’x40’ foot artwork securely hung not without some cost, but didn’t see any evidence of an exhibition named “Werewolf. “ We asked, we were pointed to a staircase that went below the floor of the gallery as well as where to find red wine for free. Charlie James has a basement where they allow artists to curate exhibitions.
With red wine in hand. Descent. From the overview from the top of the stairs the large hip cramped crowd parted into individual smiling figures as we descended --enthusiastically pleased with each small piece attached to the walls, placed on simple pedestals, in spite of the fact the ceiling wasn’t more than 10 feet high, the space not more than 1000 square feet and that the room was so hot one wanted to remove one’s clothing, cut off their hair and dig into the cement floor for fresh water. It was as if the weight of the “real” gallery above was pushing its prominence down into this lower space making it aware of what it really was. Brick walls painted white, pattern of bricks squarely protruding in between each piece attached to the wall maintaining their own “brick” presence in spite of the work around them.
Darting between bodies, we looked at the work. Thematically, visually, we didn’t really identify the work as specifically “werewolf” and supposed it was a generality to discuss that art is transformational and in this case, in a spooky way. Not all work was spooky. Laura Krifka, whose work is rather creepy, did have a small piece in the show. This artist was the opening exhibition of the inaugural opening at CB1 gallery, one of the first large galleries to open in downtown LA. Galleries are following, such as Wirth and Schimmel--Shimmel, having been the chief curator at MOCA being thrown out of the garden (MOCA) by the then Director, Dietsch who was then thrown out of the garden (MOCA) by pretty much the entire city of Los Angeles. Rosamund Felsen opened up a space within CB1. A current phenomena in LA is that the NY galleries are moving here where the real estate is cheaper and where you can actually rent a home with a yard and tree maybe one which produces oranges. It must be. In LA traffic, cars never honk at each other. I have noticed an increased car honking experience when driving. Wait until their first earthquake.
The only real werewolf we encountered was our artist-curator friend who has long wild curly light brown hair occasionally worn in a man bun, his beard is out of control, his body hair we can only guess at and all stuffed into a second hand suit which seemed rather small for his narrow, sensitive frame but which showed the seriousness and professionalism of an artist behaving as a curator. He had to be hotter than anyone in that room but he was incredibly pleasant and appreciative. Following him, I have observed that he is involving himself inward aimed towards creative madness, which happens to creative people … an intentional push away from how one is supposed to think, reject the inanimate human chatter, find an undiscovered ground for experience and expression, be crazy for a while. He did name this exhibition. He is an artist who became at this moment a curator.
After looking at the work, the heat in the room was really too unpleasant, the wine had been drunk, the hugs had been made. We transformed ourselves into a gravitational breeze not minding being below ground but not at that moment forever.