Richard Chow’s Photography Converges at the Neutra

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Get ready to evolve. Convergent Evolution, a solo show by photographic artist Richard Chow at the Neutra Gallery in Silver Lake is a beautifully evocative mix of black and white images and a vivid color palette that show a wide and evolutionary range of Chow’s work.

Exhibiting images from radically divergent bodies of work, Chow takes bold risks in presenting disparate images that transcend beauty or social commentary, stimulating, challenging, and engaging the viewer in dialogue with the art.

Curated by Dulce Stein along with Chow,  the work here features predominantly black and white images, making the vibrant full color photographs in Chow’s “URBANSCAPE” series a striking focal point.

IMG_3481“A New Angle,” above, is a strong example the artist’s exploration of how color and form can be reimagined within the construct of the urban landscape. Bold use of color is an essential component here, and it seems as if Chow is painting with his camera, using his surroundings as a palate.  The intense colors and tight compositions that are characteristic of this series create compelling, dynamic images with an abstract modern aesthetic.

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In sharp contrast, images from Chow’s more recently developed body of work, “Distant Memories,” are an ethereal black and white, crafted by inserting secondary lenses between the subject matter and the camera.  In the series, the artist acts as curator of visual memories, questioning how they influence our individual humanity. Although the images, like the recollections they depict, are softy diffused and rely heavily on the use of light to convey emotion, the compositions are classic and strong.

“Memories,” Chow says, “are the result of a subconscious sifting through life experiences filtered through our emotional response. This process leaves them fragmented, somewhat indistinct.” The works, set against backdrops that are fertile ground for memories, explore subject matter that spans the emotional spectrum, triggering the viewer’s own memories.

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Chow’s most recent body of work, “Into the Light,” returns to his architectural roots, but features black and white photography. These images, frequently larger in scale and devoid of color, allow the artist to plumb the depths of light, form, and function, exploring the urban landscape in relationship to those who inhabit it. While the series shares subject matter with its architecturally based predecessor, “URBANSCAPE,” here the photographer uses light, not color, to convey tone, atmosphere, and context – resulting in compelling images with an abstract modern aesthetic. No less vibrant and engaging for the absence of color, these images show Chow’s  progression as an artist, the works becoming more experimental in nature. Chow makes extensive use of geometry to add structure and organization to images that are more abstract than his earlier works. These compositional techniques allow him to quite literally lead viewers into the light.

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The exhibition closes Sunday, so add it to your weekend list. The Neutra is located at 2379 Glendale Blvd. in Silver Lake.

  • Lisa Broadway with Genie Davis; photos courtesy of artist

Channeling Your Inner Art

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Feeling artistic, but don’t have a brush or a canvas to your name? Then it’s time to let an artist help YOU be an artist for the day. Channel your inner Monet or Picasso with a paint party that’s good for the soul.

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Above: Wine & Design 

Paint and sip classes have been around for awhile, but today there are some wonderfully unique places for you to choose when it comes to getting your art on.

Painting Wine & Design

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Lisa Flette is the studio owner at the bright and cheerful Wine & Design in Burbank. Offering painting classes for all ages and experience levels, budding artists are led through the process of painting an original creation based as loosely or accurately on a sample work as each  attendee desires. Each class focuses on a different topic or style – whether it’s a scenic look at palm trees, a super hero, or a live model class. Pure pleasure, Flette’s enthusiasm and professionalism make this studio one of the best takes on self-made art around. There’s a fine selection of wines and Firestone Walker beer to enjoy while painting, too.

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Sure, other spots offer painting instruction and a glass of vino, but few reach the pro level of Flette’s spot, where training is concise, innovation is welcomed, and the comfortable, spacious studio is both welcoming and intelligently run. Whether you’ve never held a brush before or you’re an artist in your own right just looking for a little group fun, every participant is treated with respect, and the atmosphere is as relaxed as it is lively.

Painting Dank Canvas

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Dank Canvas fuses cannabis with an art experience in the heart of Los Angeles, combining talented artist instructors, quality cannabis brands, and a relaxed environment in which to create.

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Owner and instructor Jennifer Korsen is also a muralist and professional artist, her skill and gift for sharing it is a high in and of itself. From classes to private events, the goal here is an immersive experience that draws participants into their own natural creativity. There’s even an arts and crafts bar for smaller projects.  The “puff and paint” experience provides fledgling painters with a cannabis product gift bag to take home along with their finished art on canvas.

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Above: Dank Canvas, Below: Paint Lab

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Paint: Lab

In Santa Monica, there’s Paint: Lab, a walk-in art studio. The sleek studio space holds two hour workshops as well as allowing clients to simply come in and paint with the guidance and encouragement of their professional artist staff. Lab fees include paint supplies, easels, brushes, workspace, and clean-up; canvasses are also available for an additional fee. Once a month, models for figure drawing are available. The goal: a welcoming space for practicing artists and folks who simply want to pick up a brush and give painting a try. Wine and Cheese nights are also offered.

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The Blending Lab

 

In West Hollywood, The Blending Lab puts the emphasis on wine with painting classes themselves just one of the options for a fun night out. Featuring local regional wines, this chic modern-industrial spot combines a flight of wine with canvas/brush/paints and the skilled instructors of Let’s Paint LA, for a true taste of art and vino.

 

So get ready to “brush up” on your artistic side – you won’t have to “canvas” the town to find the right easel for you.

  • Genie Davis; photos courtesy of art studios

Hostel Stays in LA: Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

hostel 2As we approach holiday season, out of town guests may be heading our way and looking for accommodations. When hotel rates are simply too high and there’s no room at home for visitors, hostels can make a great option for a stay. 

Of course, some travelers will complain about the difficulty of getting a good night’s rest at a hostel in a city as busy as Los Angeles, but sleeping soundly at a hostel is hardly impossible. In fact, getting the right amount of shut-eye is perfectly doable if visitors follow a few simple tips.

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Avoid Staying at a Party Hostel

All it takes is a little research to avoid party spots. Checking online reviews goes a long way toward determining whether a hostel is a quiet spot or a great hangout for partygoers.  USA Hostels Hollywood, Surf City Hostel, and Banana Bungalow West Hollywood are all known as lively, fun spots; but a quieter option is the Orange Drive Manor Hostel, described by Trip Savvy as a 1910 manor home with a serene vibe, yet located in walking distance of Hollywood attractions from the Capitol Records Building to the TCL Chinese Theater.

Tire Yourself Out

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Yes, one sure way to get a good night’s sleep is to be tired enough to sleep as soon as you hit your hostel’s pillow, according to travel blogger RachelRTW. With so much to see and do in LA from cutting edge art galleries and museums to taking a surf lesson at the beach, hiking the trails of Griffith Park, or visiting all the area theme parks, it shouldn’t be a problem to get ready to drift off into dreamland.

Bring a Sleeping Kit Wherever You Go

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Veteran travelers in the know keep this travel essential handy wherever they go. A sleeping mask keeps light away and comfortable earplugs mean unwonted noise can be easily kept at bay. Can’t sleep without music? Then ear plugs save the day. Keep an extra pair to listen to your favorite tunes, or perhaps white noise relaxation, such as recorded sounds of rain or ocean waves.  If you’re sharing your hostel space with other guests, this should take care of extraneous light and sound.

Avoid Alcohol

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Sure, Los Angeles is known for its craft brews from Angel City Brewery’s eclectic scene downtown to the wide array of tasty IPAs and ales in Torrance breweries like Smog City and Absolution. We even have our own whiskey distillery downtown. Not to mention the altogether awesome club scene from trendy speakeasies to revolving rooftop hotel bars. All the same, to get a good night’s sleep you might want to try an organic soda or sparkling water instead of these tempting alcoholic treats, at least close to bedtime, for a more solid night’s sleep.

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According to sleep expert Lisa Scotti in her better sleep guide, it’s wise to avoid drinking alcohol within four hours of your bedtime. It might be tempting to consume alcohol, but to get a good night’s sleep it might be worth considering avoiding it especially if you’re staying in a hostel. While drinking can help you doze off initially, the effect is only temporary, and you’ll end up restless, possibly waking several times for toilet breaks.

Turn Off the Lights

Sleep studies have shown that lights can make it hard for people to fall asleep. And this doesn’t just mean turning off that overhead light or your bedside lamp. Digital devices include light, too, and they can also be overly stimulating. Put the iPhone or Android away, turn off that laptop, and save Netflix for another time. And if there are others staying in your hostel dorm room and you get to the room first, follow this slightly sneaky but sweet tip from Indefinite Adventure –  turn off the main light but leave a side light turned on. Having a dim light burning encourages later arrivals from switching on the overhead light. They can still see their way around, and get the message that someone else is already resting in the room.

In short, whether you’re seeking a good night’s sleep and economical accommodations – or you have guests in town staying at a hostel, it’s entirely possible to get a great night’s sleep. And because hostel guests spend less money that those who stay in a hotel, there will be more to spend adventuring in Los Angeles.

  • Guest post, curated by Genie Davis; Photos: Genie Davis, Flickr, Pixabay)

 

Lauren Mendelsohn Bass: Art Noir

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The work of Los Angeles-based artist Lauren-Mendelsohn-Bass feels uniquely, passionately a part of L.A. itself. Perhaps that focus is due to the strong noir style of her figurative paintings. Film noir is deeply embedded in the culture of the City of Angels, and her art, with its noir narrative focus, is equally emblematic of the artist’s hometown.

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Mendelsohn-Bass has a sleek, seductive, highly sensual style to her work, and in each piece lies a wonderfully furtive element. It’s unusual and absorbing to see the way in which the artist creates a sense of tension and conflict, evokes a story that begins, as with any good noir screenplay, in the middle of things. Secret glances, the arch of a brow, the clasp of a hand, all of these convey psychological heft, the internal conveyed through external actions. This is the stuff of noir and of Mendelsohn-Bass’ lush, large scale art.

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Working in oil on canvas, Mendelsohn-Bass most often shapes works that are a combination of images, a consolidated, single-canvas triptych reminiscent of individual frames of film. Sometimes images are monochromatic, others are full color. There is a recurrent use of bright food images combined with darker images of people, sometimes in motion, sometimes in conversation. To unpack all of the visual metaphors in each of her works takes repeated viewings.

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Take “Preparations,” below, with the top of half of the work featuring four women. Three are sepia-toned, softly realistic figures; the fourth is the most dominant, a highly stylized, comic book-like black and white image. In each case, the women are in motion and in profile. The realistic renderings are in various stages of undress; the cartoon image is busily scrubbing a pan, frowning. Each of these women is preparing for something just out of sight, whether concealed visually by the artist or hidden, internalized by the subjects. The lower portion of the canvas is in full color. A plate of partially hidden, and in their own way, equally mysterious, cupcakes. A woman diving deep into blue water. What appears to be chocolate cake, with one slice missing.

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To the viewer, all but the cartoon-like image of the woman scrubbing her pan are sensual. The semi-nude renderings of the women painted in sepia tone, the curve and shadow of the female swimmer, the lush imagery of the desserts – all are a physical manifestation of longing, desire, reach perhaps exceeding grasp.  That dominant image, the black and white comic-book-like woman is scrubbing what exactly? Just a pan? A blood stain? The longing for more from her life? Is she removing the memories of the other images?

MB 10 Pick Your Poison

Above, “Pick Your Poison” follows a similar artistic trajectory,  juxtaposing four images, interconnected.  A softly focused, sepia-toned man reads a newspaper, smoke from an unseen cigarette resting in an unsettling cloud around him. A comic-book-style image of a man writhing on the ground, his form almost immediately raising the specter of unseen bullets or a hard fall. Empty thought bubbles emanate from his frame. Here the dominant image is a full-color cup of coffee being poured,  next to which the profile of a sepia-toned woman offers a tentative half smile, as if daring the viewer to ask her what exactly she is up to or what is going on here.  The correlation between reading the news, smoking, an injury, coffee, and the seemingly benign glance of a woman is up to the viewer: perhaps the woman is pulling all the strings here, or perhaps it is an unseen woman, one whose manicured hand is pouring the coffee, who is the ultimate in hidden puppet-master.

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Above, with “Full Service,” we have again a mouth-watering dessert, this one lemon meringue pie, an unseen woman – here, with her hands wrapped around a partially observable man’s neck, and a tray of realistic cocktails born by a stylized black and white comic book character. Would the full service of the title represent dining service from cocktails to dessert? Or would it include the potential homicide of the man?

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With “Call Me,” above, the artist’s intent seems entirely clear – a woman is cajoling a phone call from an unseen suitor with her friendly if a touch avid profiled smile, her seductive legs, her Marilyn-esque face and nude body, and center-stage, a very noir-era dessert, what appears to be Cherries Jubilee.

As with all Mendelsohn-Bass paintings, the urge to decipher them from the clues she leaves is as strong as the urge to simply admire, take the work in, appreciate the restlessness and desire her art captures. The noir in her visual stories is based around relationships; she is the hardboiled detective uncovering the detours and illusions of a case, the subtle and not-so-subtle actions of a femme fatale, the idea of what a femme fatale is, and the role’s feminist implications.

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As in her “Untitled” work above, Mendelsohn-Bass uses the female form, vibrant desserts – which have a highly sensual quality, and images that both literally and figuratively “dive in” to new psychological territory to examine the nuances of relationships. Of very LA-relationships, with our obsessions about the perfect body, the perfect appearance, the ultimately sinful dessert.

Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett – eat your hearts out.

Mendelsohn-Bass may very well be the quintessential purveyor of contemporary noir story telling, with one picture being indeed worth a thousand words.

  • Genie Davis; photos provided by Kristine Schomaker