BLAM! and Smack, Pow, Wow – Opening Exhibition “Concrete” is Amazing

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At last, Brooklyn and LA are united again, and it has nothing to do with the Dodgers. It’s all about the art.

Running through May 1 in DTLA,  “Concrete,” the freshman endeavor by BLAM (Brooklyn Los Angeles Meet) is a terrific showcase for artists from LA and Brooklyn.

Founder and “Concrete” curatorial coordinator David Spanbock says “With this opening show, we celebrate and reflect …16 individual artists from both East and West coasts. It is the belief that these two diverse centers of American creativity can co-exist…elements when mixed together can become something bigger, something stronger, like concrete.”

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Participating artists include Nadege Monchera Baer, Corey Bond, Paul Catalanotto, Dani Dodge, Kio Griffith, Pete Hickok, Richard Lebenson, Alise Mona Loebelsohn, Aline Mare, Alanna Marcelletti, Jesus Max, Vincent Romaniello, David Spanbock, Joe Wolek, Lena Kazakova Wolek and Alison Woods.

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Here’s a look at some of the art and some of the artists, eleven from the LA area, and 5 from NY. But don’t just read about this show, go see it.

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Alanna Marcelletti: “‘The Assumption’ is the first in a series working with ideas of home. I felt that in a shadow box you could contain the idea. The organza over the top, other fabric in the collage, I was looking for any fabric I could find, my grandmother’s nightgown, my old wedding dress. It’s a blend of architecture and psychological space, how I feel in a home. The layering in some more recent pieces aren’t as tightly strung as in this one, where it’s more like a skin. I had a baby about a year ago, and I felt as if I was channeling the changes to my body.”  The love and chaos around new motherhood is clearly a part of this beautiful work.

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David Spanbock: “All of my work is about the politics of transformation, the politics of human physics. I had the insight that a city is a collection of events and figures, creating a larger structure, and that’s what I’m working with here. I grew up outside of Manhattan but started painting in Santa Barbara.” Spanbock’s work can easily be seen in form and color as merging the east and west coasts, the prismatic like shapes capturing light and shadow.

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Dani Dodge: “My piece was originally a painting of New York. I covered it with silver paint, leaving some of the edges showing. Over the silver paint, I’m projecting a video I created out of the window of my car, driving from where I live downtown to Hollywood Boulevard. I also hand painted on the frames of 35 mm film, and converted those images to video. The hand drawn animation plays off images of the street looking at New York and LA. Los Angeles is moving and happening. I’ve tried to capture that in my piece and my joy of being a part of the LA art world.” The flow of the roadway, the bits and pieces of the original NYC scene on the edges of the current work take the viewer along for a bi-coastal ride.

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Aline Mare: “This is a transitional piece, I’m interested in the boundary between painting and photography. Growing crystals and painting them in relation to natural objects is the basis for this piece. The root, the bat wing with the crystal growing out of it…” The effect looks jeweled, translucent.

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Joe Wolek’s photography could almost be a painting, or a pastel drawing, whether he is photographing the back end of a Costco or tweakers searching for treasure in urban discard. “All this work from this series deals with found places. I don’t manipulate the image in any way. I shoot them in a long lens telephoto for compression of space, and then I stitch shots together for a wide angle view. My ‘Tweaked’ series, I have 15 pieces so far. The series is on-going, I come across these scenes and I’m not going to not include them.”

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Kio Griffith: “I’m doing a series of sculptures from poems. This is the second in the series, based on Alan Ginsberg’s ‘America.’ I call these haiku assemblages. Being half Japanese, I translate into haiku naturally. I deconstructed the Ginsberg poem to find the materials to create the piece. All the poems I work with have to do with my dad. He was a literature professor. I’m revisiting his favorites in the same way that a musical artist pays tribute to a musician.” Evocative of so many American past-times, using materials such as portions of a flag and a yoga mat, Griffith’s piece here is sinuous and exciting.

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Alison Woods: “I consider myself a cyborg artist,” she laughs. “Half computer work, half human. I do a digital version first, and then I paint, I hand-cut stencils. The layers and colors, some are spray paint, some poured.” Her works look as if they’ve flown out of a kaleidoscope. “As a graphic designer, I think of shapes and behind them, their emotive energy.”

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Lena Kazakova Wolek: “I’m working here in ink on yubo paper. The images are like my dreams, my insomnia. It’s hard to sleep here. I’m from a small town in Siberia, where night is like a vacuum, very quiet. But here, there is always something going on, I can hear my brain working and the sounds of the city, the freeway, the static energy. You cannot relax anywhere.” Her piece is about urban life and wakefulness, and what it means for her; the images dynamic and abstract, almost molecular.

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Nadege Monchera Baer: “I take a lot of photos of trash downtown. This represents that kind of image, or the image of what it would look like after an earthquake. I draw first, then just enjoy myself painting in acrylic color. I use light and bright color to depict the detritus. This is just one of a series.” Like a series of puzzle pieces, the images are meshed together, linked.

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Jesus Max: “These are very symbolic paintings. ‘The Curator’ is playing around with the word, which has the same root as a doctor, a healer, hence the medical items in the piece. ‘Bewitched’ is set in the same kitchen, it is about witchcraft, and there’s occult paraphernalia in it, including the little devil figure.” Beautifully hyper realistic, Max’s work offers pastel colors and rigorous attention to detail in a fantastic world.

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Whether it’s a kitchen, a house, a street, a root, a suburban store, an insomniac’s dreams – each of the pieces in this stellar exhibit are strongly grounded in a sense of place; this place, this city. While the New York-based artists were not present for interview, their pieces were every bit as strong, focused, and, well, ‘concrete.’

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BLAM is an on-going series of installations, with exhibitions both in LA and New York. When the inaugural exhibition ends, new shows are already planned for June and August here in the City of Angels, with a schedule of every other month expected locally.  According to Dani Dodge, an award winning installation artist active in this inaugural exhibit,  the initial show is designed to introduce the BLAM collective to the community. Visiting New York? BLAM’s East Coast edition will take place in June at the Bushwick Beaux Arts Center, and will be titled “Abstract.”

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BLAM Los Angeles is located at 1950 S. Santa Fe Ave #207, Los Angeles, CA 90021

“Concrete” will be open 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays to May 1, and by appointment on weekdays.

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