West Hollywood Arts Plan

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West Hollywood has always had a strong commitment to and interest in the arts. And now, as the city enters its 30th year, West Hollywood has now announced the next step in that commitment – establishing a formal arts plan. This extensive planning process bears the name “WEHO Arts: The Plan.”

Designed to explore the future of the arts, culture, and creativity in West Hollywood, the program is a community-focused cultural planning process. This inclusive program will be led by social practice artists Alyse Emdur and Rosten Woo, who are developing what the city terms “imaginative pathways for engagement.”

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It’s hardly a surprise that the city would want to create such a plan. Although WeHo is a diminutive 1.9 square miles in size, the city packs a mighty punch, conceivably providing more art per square mile than any other city in the U.S.

The plan to be developed will guide the work of the city’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC) and Arts and Economic Development Division (AEDD) over the course of the next five to ten years. The goal? To celebrate the city’s artistic and cultural identity, acknowledge the city’s support of the arts, and present a shared future vision that firmly secures the position of arts and culture in the city.

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It’s fitting that West Hollywood should come up with such a plan, as the city’s support of the arts has long been a vital force in the community. This year alone, the city has supported the massive, 40-day arts program One City One Pride, held live dance and music performances, poetry readings, art exhibits, and established poetry installations. And the city is now fielding applications for the position of its second poet laureate.

So just what is the city’s new art plan? Throughout the year, interested individuals – including both residents and visitors – are invited to participate in an interactive series of formal and informal conversations, surveys, and artist-led activities, all designed to gain insight into the city’s continuing arts programs, and formulate a vision for the future.

West Hollywood’s government, the ACAC and AEDD are after something special: an arts plan that nurtures the energy and creative vitality of the city. Artists Emdur and Woo will join the ACAC commissioners, AEDD staff, and a cultural planning consultant through December, to create and define activities and experiences throughout the community that encourage contributions to the arts plan.

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Emdur and Woo are uniquely qualified to interact with the topics of artistic and cultural practice in West Hollywood. Emdur is an LA-based photographer who has created works of large format photography, video, and drawings. Her personal aesthetic is to search for deeper connections within her subjects. Exhibited nationally and internationally, Emdur’s 2013 book, Prison Landscapes, is all about connection.

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In it, there are photographs of prison inmates positioned before painted visiting room backdrops depicting ideal landscapes – in front of which they can pretend, however briefly, to be elsewhere.

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A designer, artist, and educator, Woo is co-founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy, a New York-based non-profit that uses art and design to foster civic participation. He also teaches art and design at the California Institute of the Arts, Pomona College, and Art Center College of Design. Woo creates artistic engagements that help people understand complex systems, re-orient themselves to places, and participate in group decision-making.

The participatory projects Emdur and Woo will be presenting throughout the next six months are just one aspect of West Hollywood’s arts planning. Residents can also be involved online at www.weho.org/theplan and take The Plan’s quick online survey.

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In-person participation opportunities will be announced in the next few weeks, and will include arts and culture pop-ups, discussion series, and the WeHo Talks series. Just as the arts plan to be established will take into consideration the entire community, the planning process is meant to involve residents and visitors alike. Join in, as the city formulates its plan to remain a bastion of cultural support and programs.

John Mills at Rosamund Felsen – Not Just “For Your Eyes Only”

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John Mills’ solo show at Rosamund Felsen Gallery, For Your Eyes Only, is all about what you observe.  Above, the artist invites you to take a look.

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Above, Mills’ Nature Crush – are we loving nature to death?

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Evoking tribal art, Matisse, and the art of post-minimalist Richard Tuttle, Mills’ large scale oil, pencil, and graphite works are uniquely his own.  There’s humor and insight in these often symbolic and whimsical works.

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“For me, in the end, what I like to work on is visual signs, what makes an image, the lines, the shape, the form. I question the idea of consciousness. As an artist, the image ends up being a stand in for you, a mirror, a way to contemplate your existence,” Mills says.

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“I find pleasure in making pictures that can be light but that also bring in conceptual ideas,” the artist relates.

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Scoring his paint when wet, using pencil on top of dry paint, his work is all about “the process of making a picture.”

Whether you connect with his symbols or engage with the delicate yet edgy design, Mills work is about seeing, and his vision is one to behold.

The gallery is located at: 1923 S Santa Fe Ave #100
Los Angeles, CA 90021

  • Genie Davis; all photos: Jack Burke

For the Love of Carmine – Lena Moross at MuzeuMM

Artist Lena Moross, subject Carmine, artist's friend Natasha Pushkin

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Above, opening night at MuzeuMM – For the Love of Carmine

We’ve written about Lena Moross’  before, the passionate artist originally from St. Petersberg who has brought classical training and an impressionistic style to her now very-LA work. Running through July 11 at MuzeuMM, Moross’ large scale watercolor portraits in “For the Love of Carmine,” details Carmine, a transgender man that the artist met 5 years ago on a Hollywood street.

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Roses, wine, the delicate grace of an intensely female subject inside a bulky male body – these are the images Moross has captured with a magical bent. her paintings are sensuous, voluptuous, depicting a man/cocoon housing his female/butterfly.

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Moross says “Old European cities have areas where children play in the dirt and sometimes discover things like a rhinestone, or piece of foil, a remanent of something years or maybe even centuries past. They were treasures I would gather that I discovered. Even though they were found in dirt, after cleaning and loving these things, bringing them to light, each would reveal beauty and stories again and again. So for me, Carmine initially was one of these precious beautiful found rhinestones.”

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Carmine himself, above, in red.

She found her subject beautiful, and has created beautiful works about him. “Ultimately, it’s my decision what is beautiful or not.”

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Trust us – she made a profoundly lovely choice, here.

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Above, musicians Ketchup Soup, entertained the opening night crowd.

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Above and below, center, MuzeuMM founder Mishelle Moross; with below left artist Francisco Alvarado.

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MuzeuMM is located at 4817 West Adams Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90016

  • Genie Davis; all photos by Jack Burke

CB 1 Gallery: Images Layered and Exposed

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Above: Annelie McKenzie with her painting, “Elk Bum Scene.”

Two artists tackle the meaning of art and the meaning of life at CB1 Gallery in DTLA through July 17th.

Annelie McKenzie’s “Man in Canoe and Grizzly,” tackles the meaning of art, literally adding layers of of meaning to paintings she has reinterpreted in a re-imagining of a museum exhibition of Old Masters.

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“It’s a common practice of artists to do master copies to learn, but here, I’m reproducing works as my final pieces. I chose works by mostly Canadian, female artists,” McKenzie says. “I choose paintings tha are meaningful to me and then I’ll transform them with layers of built-up paint. It’s similar to a musical artist covering songs written by other artists, a re-interpretation,” she explains.

The exhibition’s title piece is based on a 1960 work of the same name by Canadian artist Gladys Johnston, an artist from British Columbia discovered by McKenzie in a catalog. McKenzie visited her studio and painted from the original work rather than a copy. “She was an outsider artist and icon to me,” McKenzie says.

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Canadian born and LA-based, the artist includes decorative frames made of caulking and gesso along with her paintings reinterpreting the original works.

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Created in oil, these canvasses have an enormous depth due to the artist’s practice of working with dry paint layers over time.  “I’ve always done mostly thick impasto work. But here I make my recreation by building the work with paint.”

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In “After My Mom’s One Painting,” McKenzie makes use of a painting done by her mother which was going to be thrown away. The still life she recreates is alive with color and swimming in the depth of paint that is 3-dimensional in its layered thickness.

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Also at CB1 is Susan Silas’ “the self portrait sessions.” Silas is taking on the meaning of life, aging, our own space and place in the world. Using photographs, bronze, and beeswax sculptures she presents an intimate exploration of self-portraiture in this era of selfies.

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Silas positions herself in front of a large mirror, examining herself and how she “reflects” in the outside world. Work in this exhibition looks at aging, narcissism, and aging, and intimacy.  In the show are photographic works from the late 70s through 2012, with castings created from 1992 to 2015.

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Above: Susan Silas with a large scale, color self-portrait using a mirror.

“The theme of aging has been around, and that of self-intimacy and public space, the disappearance of interiority, and how to navicage the question of narcissism. Women tend to demur and defer even now, so in a way, these works are about taking up a certain space in public. Narcissus was male, he was self-contained in a way, with his appreciation of himself. Women are taught that kind of self-observation is not okay,” she notes.

Throughout her work, Silas tackles “three major themes, sexuality, the Holocaust, and dead and decaying birds,” as well as these self-images. On display here are white photos of plaster casts, color photos involving the use of mirrors, casts of her face, beeswax, and bronze sculptures.

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What do we see in ourselves? What does the world see? These seem to be the root questions in Silas’ art, much as for McKenzie, the underlying questions appear to be what do we see in art? What layers can we expose or add to the meaning of art.

While the artists are very different in subject and approach, both have universal questions, themes worth exploring and uncovering, as well as works that are thought-provoking, beautiful, and memorable.

CB1 is located at 1923 S. Santa Fe Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90021

  • Genie Davis; all photos: Jack Burke