Taking Found Art to the Highest Level: Diverted Destruction 10 – The Alumni Show at Loft at Liz’s

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Above, gallerist Liz Gordon in her give-away installation room.

Through September 6th at Loft at Liz’s, the 10th annual Diverted Destruction exhibition is the perfect example that one person’s detritus is another’s – art treasure. Curated by gallery owner Liz Gordon, the show features the work of a number of renowned Liz’s exhibition alums: Aaron Kramer, Charles Dickson, Dale Brockman Davis, Dani Dodge, Dave Lovejoy, Doug Pearsall, Joe Davidson, Joe Sims, June Diamond, Mike Saijo, Pamela Grau, Rosalyn Myles, Ruben Acosta, Steve Olson, Teresa Tolliver and Terri Hartman.

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Over 60 artists have participated in the show over the years, whose mission it’s been to inspire people to be creative with items that would otherwise be thrown away. This year’s show asked participating artists to create works with the waste of items they personally use and customarily discard. Another change in this year’s show: while giveaway tables filled with found-art items Gordon collects have always been a part of the show, this year, Gordon installed a Projects Room Giveaway Installation as a part of the exhibition space. 

“I love doing installations. This year instead of throwing all the items out on tables, I decided to create an installation that resembles a store with all the items that I am responsible for disposing of. Everyday it is replenished because box lots come to the store everyday.When the show ends I find teachers to give all that is left.
The collection for the following year starts immediately, piling up in my garage or in The Artist Boxes until the last Saturday of June when there is the Diverted Destruction Opening Reception for that year,” Gordon asserts.

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Discussing what led her to start a found materials show and give away in the first place, Gordon explains “I’m passionate about this show. I believe it is important to be aware of how much garbage each one of us creates.  It is vital that we as consumers do the best we can to minimize the amount of landfill material we create.”

As the owner of Liz’s Antique Hardware as well as the gallery, Gordon has access to backlots with items that would otherwise be tossed; these are items she offers as part of the giveaway collection. “Many items that come in are broken, too new or not relevant to the store.  There is a section in the back alley of the store that we have always called The Artist Boxes.  That is where these types of items accumulate throughout the year,” she relates. “The first year I did Diverted Deconstruction, I thought to put those items on tables and give it away to anyone that may want to create Found Object Assemblage. A couple examples of the type of items that come in frequently are half hinges which are incomplete, another are damaged vintage glass doorknobs.”

Gordon says she decided to make her found art show an annual event immediately after holding the first one.

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“I saw the positive response to the works that were created and everyone had a great time picking through the heaps of giveaway finds.   By the third year, a free Assemblage Workshop was added.  Artists from the show are asked to come to guide those in attendance. This year we have had four workshops.”

Upcoming on August 19th from 2 to 4 p.m., artist Dani Dodge instructs.

“I also collect throughout the year my personal refuse to put in the giveaway.   Corks, bottle caps, magazines and much much more.  I often find items in the garbage.   The fabric stores in the area give me their sample books.. After I saw one of the stores throwing them in the dumpster I went around asking the stores for them instead of throwing them away.  They are delighted to have a place that they will be
used instead of being thrown away.  Artists need materials!” she enthuses.

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While Gordon is thrilled with each work in the current show, she says her favorites are Aaron Kramer’s kinetic toys and Charles Dickson’s feet.  “They are so clever and so much fun,” she says.


Dickson’s mixed media left and right foot “Carbon Footprint” features a wide variety of colorful ephemera incased in plastic.

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Kramer’s toys include “Differential” which utilizes Pelegrino bottles to create a gravity-assisted fascinating motion sculpture. His “Intense Wood” is an artistic pinball machine.

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Dani Dodge’s “The Last Lamenting Kiss” utilizes items left over from her room-size installation “Personal Territories at Lancaster MOAH gallery, including mattress skin, stencils, fabric, thread, and even some of the boxes from the frozen meals she consumed while creating her work.

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Frozen food boxes, wedding dress tulle, and battery operated holiday lights are her medium in “I love you until the end of plastic.” Her glowing, dimensional wall sculptures are like celestial orbs in the gallery space.

The mixed media “All Lives/Black Lives Matter” offers Braille inscription on an otherworldly LP; Michael Hayden offers a series of encaustic and mixed media works that shimmer with blues and copper and aquamarine.

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June Diamond’s recycled glass, paint, and steel sculptures have an ethereal look; contrastingly, the pieces also evoke anchors as art form, utilizing chains and design angles that feel rooted.

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Pamela Grau’s sculptural works utilize tennis nets and metallic patina as well as other found objects, creating works that like her “Nubia” feel like icons from an ancient time.

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Ruben Acosta’s “At the Cross” and “Bits and Pieces” focus on wood among its found objects, the pieces feel burnished and ancient.

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Terri Hartman’s large scale chicken wire, newspaper, paper, and organdy thread “And Women Weep” resembles a suspended Egyptian sarcophagus.

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Indeed, there is a sense of reverence and elegy – as well as playfulness, an interesting and complementary dichotomy – in each of these works.

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In short, go for the art exhibited, attend a workshop, and stay for the long term in an awakened awareness of human wastefulness – and how we can utilize that waste to create something beautiful.

  • Genie Davis; photos courtesy of the gallery and Genie Davis



Val Kilmer: His Latest Role as an Artist in Gabba Gallery Pop-Up


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Most people know Val Kilmer for his film and theater roles, but there’s a new part in Kilmer’s dramatic quiver that is less familiar to his fans – that of artist.

“I’ve developed strong and nuanced themes in my art from acting and performance that relate to iconic images or ideas – so there’s a thread of the icon and the Iconographic throughout the exhibition,” Kilmer said of his four day pop-up at Gabba Gallery in late July.

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While the artist’s renown certainly piqued interest in the exhibition, the power of his work more than stood for itself. In Icon Go On, I’ll Go On, Kilmer creates a series of icons – iconic characters he portrayed; icon-like abstract images with a strong spiritual bent, and words representing and directed at the icon that is “GOD.”

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The exhibition title itself refers to lines in Samuel Beckett’s 1953 novel, Unnamable — “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Kilmer, who resides and has a studio in New Mexico, is making his own existential declaration, having survived and healed from a run in with oral cancer. While healing, he created art.

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Divided into three main sections, the work was highly spiritual in nature. Using metal panels as canvas for his acrylics and laser cut works, some images are representational, some abstract. All in all, there were over 100 works on display, including sculptural pieces.

According to gallery owner Jason Ostro, “There is a lot of meaning to his work. Val is a very deep guy.  Super kind and extremely creative, it’s been a pleasure to work with him,” he notes.

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First up were a series of representational works with himself as a character  – Doc Holliday, Batman. Using stencils, he depicts these mythic images in an easily recognizable way, yet somehow the images are deeper than what we see on the surface. There is something otherworldly about them, as if the person who was portraying these figures were hovering just beyond the visual frame.

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Kilmer’s abstract works were beautifully colored, evoking images of the universe seen through a telescope, the stuff of ethereal, vivid dreams. Painted on metal with a black background, the shiny base of these layered, richly colored works pulls the eye deeper into the painting. Described as having a “blackhole” quality by Kilmer, there is the sense of seeing into another dimension. If the artist’s depiction of his character personas felt as if another being was hovering “off camera,” here, the viewer feels as if a different spiritual plane was floating just out of reach.

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The third section of the exhibition featured large laser-cut metal panels of the word “GOD.” Individual panels were grouped together, inviting viewers to viscerally see and connect with the word and the meaning of God. Groupings of some sixteen of these panels were paired with individual panels; others featured personal, handwritten thoughts, meditative exercises.
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There was even a neon piece created by Kilmer, a kindly commandment.
Ostro relates that the show came about when a patron of the gallery who loved the energetic vibe of the space brought the gallery to the attention of Kilmer’s staff. “One of Val’s ‘people’ came to initially see the gallery, and after a few hours of talking and laughing, they loved it. I was told if Val was interested, he would be at the gallery sometime the next day.  I opened the doors at noon, and he was standing there eager to check out the space.  After talking for a few hours he said he’d get back to me, and a couple days later, we were planing his art show for July.”
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Above, gallerist Jason Ostro.

Kilmer fans and art lovers take note: the new exhibition opening Saturday August 12th at Gabba, Cratedigger 2, features several works by Kilmer in the second iteration of a terrific show that pays homage to the art of the record sleeve. Over a hundred international and local artists will be exhibiting.

Ostro adds that a smaller, solo show of Kilmer’s is already being planned for 2018.

  • Genie Davis; photos: courtesy of Gabba Gallery and by Genie Davis


Manhattan House Redux: The Sweet Summer Menu to Savor



Chef Juan Torres, right,  restauranteur Brett Schwartz, left

What can we say about Manhattan House? Located in Manhattan Beach, this is a restaurant that as we’ve said before, could hold its own in DTLA, or the heart of the “other” Manhattan. Sophisticated, fresh, farm to table cuisine; a buzzing atmosphere; and a terrific, supportive staff combine to make a stellar dining experience.

We were delighted to meet the restaurant’s new chef, Juan Torres. His take on the restaurant’s cuisine will veer into the Italian-inspired, while keeping the focus on seasonal ingredients.

“We are going to be introducing six fresh pastas made in-house every day. We’ll also be including whole animal butchery twice a week. I’ve been training our staff on the pasta as we speak, eight hours a day we’ve been working on it,” Torres attests.


We began our meal with cocktails: the gorgeous La La Land and the spicy The Thriller.  The latter features a heady mix of Karma tequila blanco, Cointreau, fresh kumquat and serrano chili, and lime juice, served on the rocks. I thought La La Land was something special, a smoky flavor permeating the Grey Goose La Poire, with lemon, vanilla, Chartreuse, and dill, served up.


Each made a great companion to our first courses:  a lush heirloom tomato burrata salad, with balsamic and EVOO;  and a crisp, deliciously spiced yellow tail crudo, which thin shavings of fresh zucchini, onion, and red pepper.


Both were beautifully presented.


Gluten free and vegan never tasted as good as with the roasted cauliflower, a heady mix of the cauliflower with crispy buckwheat, celery, pomegranate, pine nuts, and a lemon caper vinaigrette. Light yet entirely fulfilling, it’s a perfect summer dish.


The house take on beet salad is no slouch, either. A variety of golden and red beets accompanies pistachios, mixed greens, armidda, and a light balsamic dressing.


But perhaps the most sublime dish is the saffron risotto with sweet corn and basil. Golden, delectable, and rich, it is not heavy, suffused in flavor, and wonderfully aromatic.  Truly something to savor – and I don’t say that lightly.


Squid ink pasta with was an intense dish, earthy, hearty, and seemingly infused into the house-made spaghetti noodles. With it, we tried the La Vida Pura, another perfectly suited on-the-rocks craft-cocktail, this made with Del Maguey ‘Vida’ mezcal, grapefruit juice, passion fruit, mint, and Peychaud bitters.


We finished with a whole branzino special. A perfect fish, rubbed with garlic salt and pepper, grilled over zucchini and a lettuce and tomato salad, it was flavorful, tender, simple, and utterly beautiful.


But let’s not forget dessert: two very different dishes here. We had the restaurant’s signature Panna Cotta, creamy and smooth, a blend of vanilla, raspberries, and basil.


And we were able to try a brand new desert, a light, fragrant granita, with rose’ jelly. Slightly astringent, it was both refreshing and unique, the rough texture of ice contrasting just about perfectly with the smooth jelly beneath it; the flavor sophisticated and edgy.

Be aware that because specials, fresh ingredients, and seasonal favorites come and go, you may not find the same dishes daily.  But rest assured, what you do find will be delicious.

There is only one more thing to say: no matter where in LA you live, you should spend an evening at Manhattan House. There’s plentiful, free lot-parking, too. Dinner nightly; brunch on Sunday.

Manhattan House is located at 1019 Manhattan Beach Boulevard, just off Sepulveda Blvd.

  • Genie Davis; photos by Jack Burke

Intimate and Intense: Cathy Immordino



Above, “Reflection” by Cathy Immordino.

A powerful and intimate photographic artist, Cathy Immordino tackles subjects that are profoundly global, relatable and moving. Her subjects are carefully and beautifully rendered in highly emotional works that touch on the environment, immigration, feminism, motherhood. In each of her series of works, Immordino’s message is passionately personal. And it is that deeply personal approach that creates work that feels so universal: if it matters to her, it matters to the viewer.

Whether it is a touching image of a young boy, sepia toned, with a downward gaze or the magical image of “The Portal,” in which a tabby cat is strolling toward what could be the entrance to another world – or the stairs to a busy outdoor space – Immordino’s gift is to capture the ordinary and give it an extraordinary spin.

Her series Pilgrimage of Heritage delves into heritage, myth, family, story telling. Many of the pieces here have a dreamy, otherworldly quality, an element of magic as in the twinned images of “The Spirit Guide,” where a young boy points by a rocky arch on the left side of the work; on the right is an image of a grave. Many images here are digitally manipulated, some are photo montages. There is a sense of visual alchemy here.
Above, “Spirit Guide”; below, “A Cry for Help.”
A Cry for Help is an intensely moving black and white series about Immordino’s own experience with the fraught complications of her pregnancy. While images here may also be digitally enhanced, there is a raw, deep-seated emotion that is the core of this work.
Her Festival of Lights series documents raves in a vibrant and abstract take that evokes the full, frenzied experience; while all the charm, poignancy, and vulnerability of childhood is on display in her beautiful, dusky series on her growing child, Tom Volume 1. The series is mostly sepia images, rich, timeless. 
L.A. River goes blue and grey as it tackles the respect or lack of it for nature, the containment of the Los Angeles River, and the power of nature itself. This series of landscapes is infused with loneliness and limitation, and straining at the edges, the power and regeneration of a natural resource that could serve as a stand in for life itself.
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Below, right, the artist’s work at Photo LA.
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The artist is originally from Minneapolis, and her desire to create began with a gift of a Polaroid camera which she received when she was just five years old. The circumstances of the gift may have influenced her eye. She was recovering from a severe car accident – and today there is a certain aspect of healing and tenderness that is a marked part of her work. Whether that is a stretch or not, Immordino’s eye for the personal and compassionate developed early and remained with her through the realization of another creative aspiration, acting.
Having now moved from being in front of the camera to behind it in her professional life, Immordino has tackled a variety of subjects. Her first professional photo work documented the party scene and raves; today her focus is fine art photography.


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Now based in Los Angeles, Immordino’s work is exhibited nationally, with a current exhibition at the Hilyer Art Space in Washington, D.C.. Locally, in September, she’ll be exhibited at the Los Angeles Center for Photography; in October her work will be seen at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

“I started photographing to remember the world that exists at that particular time in my life…  Every picture I take I want the viewers to be moved to change the way they perceive the world around them,” she says. Working to capture her own unique point of view in every image, Immordino adds “Some images are photomontages, while others become prints made with alternative processes.”

However she shapes her images, both fierceness and devotion shine through her work. Viewers can see for themselves:

August 18-19 – Chocolate & Art Show at The Vortex, 2341 E. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90021.

September 30 – “Fresh” exhibition at the Los Angeles Center of Photography.

October 6 – Port of Long Beach exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

  • Genie Davis; Photos provided by the artist