Wednesday, February 29, 2012

West Adams Art Tour

Like watching artists work and visiting new galleries? There are a few sites in the West Adams district worth your notice.

The West Adams Heritage Association will hold its 3rd annual Art in Historic Places tour on March 24, from 10 am to 4 pm. It's self-guided, walk or bike at your own pace. That's one of the artists on the left, ceramicist Arthur Tobias.

The William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, a UCLA building on Cimarron that houses rare books and manuscripts, is part of the tour.

Another stop is the California African American Museum. "Places of Validation, Art, and Progression" is the museum's current exhibit, with photos and work and journals of places throughout the city that were hot spots for art in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s.

The check-in point is a popup gallery in a 1920s pharmacy building at 1824 South 4th Ave, at the corner of Washington Blvd.

The house on the right is the 1912 Mrs. Sally Wilshire residence, one of the lovely homes that you'll get to see on the tour.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Clock Tower at Grand Hope Park

Today's mosaic sits near the 9th and Hope entrance of Grand Hope Park.

The park was designed by Lawrence Halprin, who also designed the Clock Tower. 2.5 acres of land was purchased for this park in 1980, but the actual construction took place from 1989 through 1993. Grand Hope Park was the first major downtown park to be built in a century--the previous being Central Park in 1870--which we now know as Pershing Square.

This park is on Hope between Grand (of course) and Olympic.

Grand Hope Park was supposed to open in late 1992, but got delayed over whether or not a security fence was needed. The Community Redevelopment Agency (remember them?) who funded the park decided the fence was needed and asked Halprin to design one.

Halprin was an architect and landscape artist, and a lot of his work is along the Pacific. He did the landscaping plan for the Seattle World's Fair in the 1960s, and United Nations Plaza and Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco. He also designed the FDR Memorial in Washington DC. And in Los Angeles, the Bunker Hill Steps.

The dedication of the park was in June1993, when artists took part in a multicultural celebration there. Including the world's largest accordian concert (maybe), arranged by Joe Vento.

The CRA put $20 million into the park. It's filled with art, including bronze statues of sleek coyotes that are just big enough for children--life-sized, iow. Gwynn Murrill designed those. Other contributing artists were Raul Guerrero, who designed the Hope Street Snake Fountain, and ceramic tiles and bird stencils along the pedestrian walkway (in the ramada), and Lita Albuquerque, who contributed to the main fountain, where the beauty is in the way the water feeds in, not out.

There is also poetry by Wanda Coleman and Kate Braverman along Poet's Walk.

As for the Clock Tower itself, the CRA even commissioned special music for it, from composers John Carter, Michael McNabb, and Ushio Torikai. Carl Stone did the arrangements--or at least, that was the plan. My information was written before the park was completed.

These pictures come from PublicArtinLA, which also has a history of the park. I shamelessly adjusted the contrast and brightness to bring out the color, and cropped one.

The last photo shows the inside of the tower, where there is also mosaic work and inlay.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Philip Marlowe's Los Angeles

I'm finishing my second Raymond Chandler story in a week. The Little Sister, and before that Lady in the Lake. 

It's like being in a time machine.

Lady in the Lake starts outside the Treloar Building, which "was, and is, on Olive Street, near Sixth, on the west side. The sidewalk in front of it had been built of black and white rubber blocks. They were taking them up now to give to the government, and a hatless pale man with a face like a building superintendent was watching the work and looking as if it was breaking his heart.

(the work--like all of Chandler's books--can be read online)

The Treloar Building, of course, is the Oviatt Building, where Restaurant (or Club) Cicada is now. Chandler doesn't mention the Lalique glass or other appointments. However, Lady in the Lake was first published in 1943, and the reason the rubber sidewalk is being taken up in the first paragraph is that rubber was needed for the war effort. Most rubber sources were in Asia and controlled by Japan. The U.S.A. needed rubber for airplane and truck tires, so any rubber was fair game.

That's the Oviatt Building above, taken in 1931, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library. And here's the entrance today, courtesy of My guess is that Chandler made up or transposed the rubberized sidewalk, because the dark-colored blocks are still there...or maybe they've been restored.

Cicada puts on 1940s-style band concerts and dances periodically; check their website

In The Little Sister, a murder takes place at the Van Nuys Hotel. Hey, I've been there! I even blogged about it! It's now the Barclay Hotel at 4th. Here's how Chandler describes the place:

"Once, long ago, it must have had a certain elegance. But no more. The memories of old cigars clung to its lobby like the dirty gilt on its ceiling and the sagging springs of its leather lounging chairs. The marble of the desk had turned a yellowish brown with age. But the floor carpet was new and had a hard look, like the room clerk. I passed him up and strolled over to the cigar counter in the corner and put down a quarter for a package of Camels."

A quarter for a pack of cigarettes...and he gets change back.

The Oviatt Building and the Van Nuys Hotel have one other link, aside from being LA locations used by Raymond Chandler. They were both used in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sea Dream in Compton

Today's mosaic is at the Mona Park Swimming Pool in Compton. Just because it's cold and summer swimming pools with the sun glittering on the water and baking on my skin sounds so nice.

Dakota Warren, a local sculptor and mosaic artist, created and installed this work in 2008. It stands 8 feet tall and 120 feet wide, and the artist says it is " Multimedia, Decorative concrete, mosaic, stained glass, brushed aluminum."

The waves are painted on a color stained concrete top coat. The flying fish (below) and dolphins are crafted of powder-coated aluminum and are mounted on the surface. Between the bricks are ceramic tiles and mirrored glass.

You can see more of Dakota Warren's work at his website. He's done another swimming pool mosaic in Mesquite, Texas, one on the Human Services building of Irving, Texas, steel mosaics in Merced, and even one in New York.

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission asked for the work, which is at 2291 E. 121st Street in Compton, pretty much between Mona and Willowbrook.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 17, 1962...wazzup?

Huzzah! My internet has remained connected for nearly three days! No funky screens with diagrams of broken components, no flashing red light on the modem. No wondering if I should post Mosaic Monday on Wednesday or just wait till next week. I'm going to celebrate by finding out what was being reported by the Los Angeles Times 50 years ago.

Former presidential candidate Richard Nixon refused to endorse a couple of Republican congressional candidates who were members of the John Birch Society. Remember them? I see on Wikipedia that they consider themselves anti-totalitarian and strict original constitutionalists (meaning what? that they believe in counting slaves as 3/5 of a person? or that only white men can vote?)  Hmmm...Wikipedia says Fred Koch was a founding member. Where have I heard that name before? Anyway, the John Birchers were very much against the Civil Rights Movement, believing it was riddled with Communists.

Since Nixon was mulling a run for governor--and shaking hands and kissing babies as he toured gold country up north--that was news. He made that run and lost--this picture is from October. (what is that stuffed animal doing on the ladder?)

We were getting ready to shoot John Glenn into space--that anniversary will be on Feb 20--fist man to orbit earth!

Conductor Bruno Walter died in Beverly Hills on Feb. 17, 1962--at his home, and the address was thoughtfully given on the front page of the paper. TV actor Joseph Kearns--Mr. Wilson on Dennis the Menace--died also, after spending a week in a coma following a cerebral hemorrhage.

Our population was up by 58,870 in one year. The city of Los Angeles boasted 2, 572,616 people, and the county: 6,332,538.

The photo on the left is not from the Times, but from the Hollywood Citizen News/Valley Times collection of the Los Angeles Library. I include it because it's dated February 15, 1962. It shows the Lenack family of Reseda stocking their backyard fallout shelter.  Seriously. "Their underground shelter houses a TV set, phone, canned goods, lanterns, and furniture," according to the library notes. And pillows.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Downtown Long Beach Mosaic

Today’s mosaic is on an unoccupied building on Pine at 4th Street in downtown Long Beach. Its columns make it look like an old Home Savings and Loan, but I learn from both Lillian Sizemore and Adam Arenson that it’s a former Bank of America. The bank branch closed in 1984 and the building—or at least part of it--went through a series of tenants. It was a Mexican restaurant, Leonardo's, and more recently, a club called The Vault 350, with a concert stage--kinda like a House of Blues. Snoop Dog, Kanye West, and BB King--iow, BIG names played there.

Who knows what it will be next? Lillian Sizemore has ID’d the mosaic as one done by artist Ben Mayer, who also did library mosaics (here’s a link to one in Norwalk) and owned a design firm...but he did much more.

I'll quote from my old post: Ben Mayer was the first person to photograph a nova from beginning to end (all 36 hours) and capture on color film all 108 of the Messier galactic objects. He globe-trotted to photograph 13 total eclipses as well, and he wrote  four books on astronomy. 

Not only that---he actually invented and patented astronomical devices that are widely used by scientists.

The building went up in 1950, but the mosaic itself was part of a million dollar renovation done in 1967.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Artist Filmed around LA, and John Bengston Has the Details

John Bengston, who's written three books on silent movie locations in Los Angeles (I have the one on Chaplin), has been posting on his blog about LA locations used in The Artist.

Turns out--whether in homage or just because these places had the right feel--that the Oscar-nominated movie was shot all over our city.

The Los Angeles Theater on Broadway, where Chaplin's City Lights premiered in 1931is also the theater where George's film flops. The proscenium arch is pretty unmistakable, as you can see in the pictures below right--the then and now views.

The lobby staircase, with its ornate railing, is in the movie too--George carries Uggie down it after seeing Peppy's hit movie.

And according to an LA Times article by Richard Verrier, a scene from a Muppets movie was also shot here--Kermit gave a speech on that staircase!

And the Justin Timberlake scifi/thriller movie In Time used the Los Angeles Theater lobby as its casino.

This undated picture is from the Los Angeles Public Library collection, btw. (you may have to spell it 'theatre' to find the photos.)

Read about scenes and Los Angeles Theater history here at Bengston's blog. He's got pictures of the place during Chaplin's premier, and several shots from The Artist.

Or go to this post about the Orpheum Theater. There were several Orpheum's in LA's early days, but only one holds the name now.

Here's another post about Los Angeles homes and street scenes used in The Artist and in the Chaplin film The Kid.

You want Buster Keaton's connection to The Artist? Bengston's got a post on that too, about the studio in the new movie (actually shot at Keaton's old studio home) with a Roger Rabbit connection.

Harold Lloyd? Covered. The site common to both is the stage of the Orpheum Theater downtown, in the beginning of The Artist. The exterior and signage of the Orpheum can be seen in Lloyd's Safety Last! and Feet First.

Then, of course, there is the Bradbury Building. That's in The Artist as well, and Bengston has a post on it. That post has a great mini-history of the Bradbury, too.

Thank you, Mr. Bengston. I sure hope I caught all my misspellings of your name.