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.
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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Both were beautifully presented.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Day Trippin’ – When You Just Want to Get Away from LA

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Los Angeles isn’t just an urban wonderland, it’s a wonderland with proximity to easy day trip escapes. It’s a cliche that you can be skiing in the mountains in the morning and surfing on the beach in the afternoon – and yet, it’s a cliche that’s actually true, too.

Here are a few ideas for fast getaways  – and some of the activities that make those getaways fantastic fun. 

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Big Bear Lake

Kitschy carved wooden bears? Check. Terrific mountain views? Check. A beautiful big lake for boating? Check again. And of course, when those mountain views are snowy, there’s skiing too – just a little over two hours from DTLA. Castle Rock Trail offers beautiful views and some unique rock formations. Check out the charming Big Bear Alpine Zoo, a rehabilitation facility offering injured, orphaned and imprinted wild animals a safe haven; 90% of all the animals are successfully released back into their native environment. Browse the eclectic shops in the heart of Big Bear Village, taste Nepalese cuisine at the Himalayan Restaurant, or join the nightly karaoke fun at Murray’s Saloon and Eatery. Want to stay overnight? There are plenty of cozy cabins, sleek condos, and even seven public campgrounds. 

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Temecula

Mountains not your thing? Try the rolling wine country of the Temecula Valley about a two hours southeast of LA. Lush vineyards and equally lush bed and breakfasts abound; tasting tours, weekend concerts, and beautiful spots to picnic are all a part of the winery scene here. Callaway, one of the largest, offers splendid views of a rolling terroir. Experience the wow of a hot hair balloon ride or visit the new gastropub in Old Town Temecula, Crush & Brew – just like it’s name suggests, there’s both local wines and local craft beer on tap.

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Joshua Tree National Park

Climb giant boulders, experience the otherworldly landscape, walk the gentle path through the fuzzy Cholla Cactus garden, or enjoy the stunning outsider art at the Noah Purifoy Foundation outdoor museum near by. In the spring, the desert blooms with wildflowers; and any time of year, you’ll thrill to the vast vista from Key’s Point. You’ll want to find the somewhat elusive trail to Samuelson’s Rocks, where an eccentric miner and farmer carved Biblical and political sayings before this land was parkland; or take a guided rock climbing course and learn to belay with the best. Of course there are more than several other amazing things to see and do, from the meditative Integraton Sound Bath to the terrific music scene at Pappy & Harriet’s just down the road in Pioneer Town.

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Las Vegas

After the solitude of Joshua Tree, perhaps you’re looking for something with a little more action? Las Vegas is a longer trek, but the under-five-hour drive has grown a little more interesting these days with some outsider art stops along the way, including Ugo Rondinone’s vibrantly colored installation, Seven Magic Mountains.

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The bright colors of the rock sculpture sponsored by the Nevada Museum of Art and New York’s Art Production Fund, the installation makes the perfect vivid intro to the neon brightness of Vegas itself. An online reference for all things betting and gaming states that brick-and-mortar casinos ruled the world of gambling for centuries, but have since ceded to online gaming options. But the eye-popping fun of splashy theatrical acts, high end restaurants, luxury spas, and luxury shops – as well as themed “world travel” experiences such as Italy at The Venetian casino and hotel or Times Square in the heart of the New York New York casino and hotel – not to mention, Paris, Monte Carlo, and fine art and stunning gardens at the Bellagio – are a huge draw. Don’t want to get behind the wheel after a night of high rolling? There is always a deal to be had on an overnight stay or a weekend fling in Las Vegas.

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San Diego

Two and a half hours from downtown Los Angeles, another wonderful SoCal city awaits. San Diego is a sprawling and bright mix of great beaches, charming history, and world-class museums. Find seaside amusement park fun at Pacific Beach; flower gardens in Carlsbad, sea caves and pine-studded trails in La Jolla, which is also home to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Don’t forget Legoland, Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo, either. Enjoy superb Italian cuisine in Little Italy; exciting nightlife in the Gaslamp District; beautiful bay views, and the white sand beaches and classic Hotel Coronado on Coronado Island.

So if you’re ready to get away from LA for the day – there are plenty of reasons to go.

  • Guest Post with Genie Davis

 

The Oaks at Ojai

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The Oaks at Ojai is a splendid retreat, an inclusive spa and fitness destination, and an intimate space that lends itself to a variety of getaways. From mother/daughter duos to best friends weekends, and couples, as well as the solo traveler, the resort has a refreshingly cozy, welcoming quality.

A pretty, shaded pool, a strong series of exercise and yoga classes, full meals and snacks, and evening entertainment, keep guests busy – if they want to be. The large, relaxing, Spanish-style rooms and peaceful, tree-lined grounds of the intimate resort are equally enjoyable for simply relaxing. And of course, a full compliment of spa services includes pampering massages, facials, and skincare.

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One of the most delightful aspects of our stay were the recently revamped accommodations themselves. Beautiful updating didn’t hide the romantic and artistic 1930s era features of the property.

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Original architectural touches such as these alcoves made for a private dressing area, above; historic tile work below remains a part of an otherwise thoroughly modern bathroom.

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A favorite feature: colored lights emanated from jacuzzi jets in the tub. A definite ahhh moment.

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Bedding is comfortable and rooms quiet: while the spa is nestled in the heart of Ojai’s hip California boutiques, and just a stone’s throw from the terrific art at the eclectic Porch Gallery,  the spa has a calm and drowsy vibe making early morning fitness classes easy to attend. Sure, you can go out in the town, visit a wine tasting room, listen to jazz just down the block – but you may prefer to stay in.

The graceful lobby area makes a terrific place to relax and read.

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The small gym space is flooded with light.

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Yoga, exercise, meditation, and more – the Oaks’ rejuvenation schedule is happening from morning to night in a spacious studio.

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We tried Pilates, restorative yoga, and stretching. The weather rained us out of aqua aerobics, but other guests with linger stays swore by the fun. In town strolls and area hikes are also on the schedule. Classes were well run and attended; geared toward both newbies and a moderate level of exercise.

With three meals a day plus tasty snacks such as soup and juice smoothies, guests truly never have to leave the grounds. Options for vegetarian and special food requests are easily accommodated, too.

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The spa focuses on meals that are filling yet healthy, keeping calories low and an emphasis on fresh and organic fare. No alcohol is served; but meals are often multiple courses, with salads or soups, entrees, and deserts such as chocolate covered local strawberries.

Our meals included a truly good mushroom barley burger, an amazing green drink featuring pineapple, parsley, coconut, and cucumber, and a well seasoned tofu  stir fry.

Spa treatments were lovely and generously timed: it was my boyfriend’s birthday so he received the pampering facial, neck, and hand massage. He loved the experience – and proved that while The Oaks has long been known as a destination for women, it makes a lovely retreat for couples, too.

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The spa shop offers the opportunity to purchase the delightful creams and scrubs used in the spa, along with clothing and sundries.

An inclusive and relaxing space, The Oaks has the vibe of a retreat center, and the spirit of renewal in a space homey enough to list classes and meals on daily handouts and serve butter-less popcorn while showing DVDs of recent films after dinner.

Low key is the ultimate accolade here. There’s no pressure to exercise  – although there are plenty of classes – or even partake of the spa’s  signature services – guests just come to relax and renew even if that means reading a book by the pool.

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With reasonable  pricing, weekend or week-long stays, and everything but spa services included, this is a chance to get away and maybe leave behind a few extra pounds, too. Or at least the weight of daily stress.

  • Genie Davis; photos: Jack Burke