Shift and Fade: Ecstatic Art Adventures at BLAM


Above, curators Dani Dodge and Alanna Marcelletti

BLAM is always the place to be for edgy, interesting work, and that is certainly the case with the current exhibition, where the artists works are clearly their passion, filled with creative intensity palpable to viewers the moment they enter the gallery space.

Shift and Fade, the latest exhibition at the always fascinating BLAM – Brooklyn Los Angeles Meet space in DTLA is a vibrant mix of large-scale installations and 21 small sculptures. One of the most fascinating aspects of the exhibit is the fact that quite a few of the artists participating with sculptural works have worked in 2 dimensions only previously.

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Above, artist Tom Dunn with a piece from his series based on a fascination with film memorabilia. The piece is titled Margot Robbie Panties Infused Vodka.

The dimensional aspects are certainly not the only part of this absorbing show that merits consideration: curated by Dani Dodge and Alanna Marcelletti, the artists here were encouraged to use their works as emblematic of their personal identities.


Erika Lizee dazzles with a 12 foot site-specific sculpture that is partially created on the gallery’s wall space; Fran Siegel’s woven drawings fill the back room,  Hugo Heredia Barrera works with a dazzling display of fused glass and wire. Using unusual materials and common ones, the artists present a cumulative exhibition on identity and the way in which such identity shifts with time and in the process of creation.  

Everywhere one looks, there is a different, glowing piece.

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Hugo Heredia Barrera says he has worked in glass for over 25 years. “My idea is to exploit glass in very different ways fusing with wire cable. I untwist the wires and fuse them between glass inseide a furnace, shape it, drop it on the ground and hammer it. This piece is from a series called Floating Souls. I work in light and shapes.” The artist notes that whenever he is asked to do an installation he visits the space and plays with the idea of light and shape. “I hung this piece from the ceiling beam here, if I had other beams I would have expanded it differently for the space.” Heredia Barrera created his art form initially accidentally when a piece did not turn out as it had planned and he threw it in the dumpster, it fell and broke. That fortuitous accident led to the creation of his unique artworks now.


Alison Woods also hangs her work here from the rafters. “I’m really a painter, but Dani carried me into the show and said I had to make a three dimensional sculpture. It’s the Greek goddess Ares, the goddess of discord, and element from a painting. I used paper mache and acrylic paint. It seemed like something I could do, remembered from my childhood and lightweight enough to paint and hang from the ceiling.”


Kristine Schomaker cut up eighteen years worth of paintings using a box cutter to create her rich and evocative stacked work. The act of cutting and altering past works is something of a overall transition for the artist. “The paintings here were cut to be 12 x 12. My work lately has been about reconstructing beauty,  so I wanted to approach the cutting here almost like plastic surgery,  reconstructing something that was beautiful before I started.”


Erika Lizee painted the blue portion of her stunning sculpture in her studio, on clear artist-grade acetate. The grey portion was painted directly on the wall at BLAM. “It took two days. I start with a big drawing and cut the acetate into dual shapes,” she relates.  Titled “Seed of Life,” the piece “ties into sacred geometry…representing the time before you’re born and the tangible versus unintelligible, what happens to us before birth or after death.”  The piece appears to go inside the wall, a physical manifestation of the mysteries she is presenting thematically in this unique and beautiful piece.

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Fran Siegel created her works entirely of paper. “They are all about locations and reconfiguring drawing as a way to take things apart and put it back together. There are a variety of perspectives and moods. All three pieces were created based on three different continents, with different vantage points and reconstructions.”

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Alex Kritselis created a gorgeous video piece. The diminutive work is hardly small in scope, revealing the image of a snake in the roots of a tree with a “video image manipulated to look like a line drawing. Originally the video used was a close up of a filmed snake pit,” the artist explains. The piece is evocatively titled “Before the Descent. ” A revelatory piece.

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Steven Wolkoff wrote a word – message – in acrylic paint and placed it inside a glass bottle. “It’s like putting a miniature ship in a a bottle, the word is a little bigger than the opening but it bends, requiring some time and patient. It needs to be wet enough to bend but not too wet.”

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Beatrice Wolert created a live work. The Brooklyn-based artist used plastic cake decorating bags containing paint to create brilliantly colorful “living” sculptures. Puncturing the plastic, the drips on the ground covering below that will firm up in consistency over the course of the exhibition she considers to be “representing Los Angeles as the paint forms on the ground.”  Beautiful to see it as it happens and to see the end result. “I am using paint as a symbol of the artists in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.  I enjoyed filling up the bags, the process of filling. The colors are the colors of nature using the Pantone matching system. They’re memories of a sumer garden in bloom. I studied the plants in the Bartow Pell Museum,” she relates. “The color matching system is based on the colors of bird feathers.”

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Nadege Monchera Baer took some of her drawings, laminted them, cut them. The resulting work resembles a sea creature. “It was in my studio, I drew it on dualar and I assembled it.”  The untitled piece inspired the artist to create other pieces in a similar fashion. “I want to do more of this, laminate different drawings. I love the possibility that the door has maybe opening to doing something else with my work.”

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Jennifer Celio created a sculpture using “all of the pencils I’ve used in the last ten years. I couldn’t bear to throw away the stubs. My dad did the same thing,  he had a jar of pencil stubs. There are 360 stubs in my piece that includes a wood panel and acrlic paint to create the hexagon pattern. I’m glad I saved them all those years,  I wouldn’t get of them,  and now I’ve made art from them.”

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Lena Wolek created sculptures that utilized different parts of her background. Fur which is an important survival aspect of life in her birthplace of Siberia, porcelain that “represents a porcelain factory that five generations of my family worked in.” As always, this chameleon-like artist works in materials we have not seen her create in previously. Her versatility is matched by her ability to create beauty from diverse materials.

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Co-curator Alanna Marcelletti created a piece that expresses her self-transformation into a mother. “The figure is carrying sage because you become a shaman as you become a mom. It’s a full circle piece linking a period from my 20s to now.”



Kio Griffith employed blueprint film found in Japan in an area affected by the tsunami. “It’s part plastic, part paper,  treated with bleach that east away at the plastic to reveal the paper. The double image is about my heritage which is half Japanese,” he asserts. “It’s about a story I got fro my mother, in which my grandfather, in the Japanese Imperial Navy was in the same battle as my uncle in a submarine. On the same battleground, my grandfather shot at my uncle. I’m combining the different blueprints of these different ships from different nationalities, depicting an area where lines meet…” and lives intersect.


Co-curator Dani Dodge incorporates Tab cans and sleeping pills in her work. “The piece is talking about when I was young, and I never expected to live past age 23, and when I did, I had to make decisions about my life. I had a difficult time as a young person and a single mom, and had a lot of unexpected things happening in my life.  So many people think about chucking it all when there are so many adventures ahead. You can live through troubled times and have incredible adventures, you just have to know it’s going to get better. This is a piece saying it really does, even when you might think it won’t happen,” she attests. “As more curator than artist here, I created this using materials as a metaphor for personal history.  Everyone here had a personal stake in the show. I think that’s really what speaks to people here is something true and honest and beautiful.”



Other highlights includes a sculptural version of David Spanbock’s rainbow colored abstract work, above.

Exhibiting artists include: Nadege Monchera Baer, Hugo Heredia Barrera, April Bey, Arezoo Bharthania, Debbie Carlson, Paul Catalanotto, Jennifer Celio, Dani Dodge, Tom Dunn, Kio Griffith, Jenny Hager, Pete Hickock, Alex Kritselis, Erika Lizée, Alanna Marcelletti, Bhavna Mehta, Kristine Schomaker, Delbar Shahbaz, Fran Siegel, David Spanbock, Jesse Standlea, Camilla Taylor, Vincent Tomczyk, Joe Wolek, Lena Wolek, Beatrice Wolert, Steven Wolkoff, and Alison Woods.

Truly, honestly beautiful: that sums up Shift and Fade. Go see it before it closes October 30th. BLAM is located at 1950 S. Santa Fe Ave. #207 in DTLA’s warehouse district.

  • Genie Davis; photos: the brilliant Jack Burke








On the Distant Horizon: Beauty is Not a Mirage at BLAM



BLAM, the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Meet exhibition space hits a home run again with an insightful, magical exhibition that transports viewers out of the August doldrums to distant places both real and imagined.

This multi-media show closes this weekend, so pack your metaphorical suitcases and road-trip it to the realm of On the Distant Horizon in DTLA.


The theme of the exhibition is mirage – something there and not there, “impossible and improbable,” as the press release puts it. But the beauty of the exhibition is more tangible – strongly evocative art in a variety of shapes and forms.


Curator Joe Wolek says the inspiration behind the exhibition was the fact that it was taking place in the month of August – opening was August 7th – a month when people, including the folks here at DiversionsLA, travel.


Above, Wolek with his own work.

The exhibition is a vacation in itself. “We started playing with location and place.  My work as a photographer is focused on a specific location or place, but as I visited artists’ studios looking at work, I decided I wanted to make it more lyrical and poetical. The title came from the idea of seeing what’s there, what’s concrete, what’s unknown until it comes into sight,” Wolek explains.

Running in conjunction with the exhibition was a series of evening events, performances, video screenings, and coming up for the closing on August 28th, a party replete with vacation slide show and home movies.


“The exhibition is an artistic investigation, and a way of looking. Artists don’t simply accept delusions and illusions. They create,” Wolek says.


Participating artists include: Nadege Monchera Baer, Dani Dodge, Andrew Freeman, Todd Gray, Michael Isenberg, Ben Jackel, Alanna Marcelletti, Hanna Mattes, Jesus Max, Joey Morris, Ruben Ortiz-Torres, Julia Paull, Max Rain, Christopher Rauschenberg, Shelby Roberts, Amy Russell, Mitchell Syrop, Joe Wolek, Augusta Wood, Kim Ye and Kent Young.


Above, Todd Gray wearing attire belonging to Ray Manzarek.

Todd Gray, is also performing a durational piece in conjunction with Made in LA 2016 at The Hammer Museum by wearing the clothes of Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the classic rock band the Doors. So a part of that performance overlapped with his appearance here.


Here, as seen above, are images  that are taken from his work in Ghana. “I’ve been working with landscapes there.  The piece called ‘Serotonin’ on display here is my front yard. The idea behind the piece is technology intersecting with landscape in Ghana.”


Nadege Monchera Baer, above, presents a compelling piece that visualizes a beach clean-up after an oil spill – in a positive light.


“I’m always painting changes in the environment. I’m trying to show our concern about the environment. This is almost a study. My work is usually focused on larger pieces.”


Installation artist Dani Dodge, above, a recent recipient of a national public art award from the Americans for the Arts, created a full immersive and interactive experience in a room separate from the main gallery. Her piece is about both literal and figurative travel, inviting the viewer/participant to answer questions about where they really want to go in life.


Above, Dodge, center, is joined (l to r) by Kristine Schomaker, Baha Danesh, Aline Mare, and the author.

Before entering the room, participants create – with instructions – paper airplanes and fly them into the room, first writing on them expressing where they want to go in life.


Some of us are prosaic: “Iceland, Italy, and Ireland,” I wrote. Others create more spiritual expressions.


Once inside the room, there is a comfortable chair to sit in, a series of slides to watch and Poloroids to rifle through. The walls are covered in shiny silver Mylar, a riff on the industrial, unattractive ceiling of the main exhibition space which also “reflects” the image of each participant in the room’s personal travel scenario.

“I played with the idea of the ugly ceiling and the beauty of travel. I stayed with those two ideas,” Dodge says. She finds travel to be “aspirational.”


Entering the room, viewers can pick from a stack of distractions – from alcohol to Facebook – in a stack of Polaroids, watch the slide show unfold, and slip into a complete and reverential world of memories created and imagined.


“Many of the slides are mine from childhood, others are random vacation photos I purchased on eBay,” Dodge states.


Enter the room an attendee at an art exhibit, emerge a little more well-traveled, a little more in-touch with the longing, the change, the mystery of travel, and what it means to others besides ourselves. It’s a dream-state of an interactive space, and must be experienced to be fully appreciated.


Back in the main exhibition space, viewers will find works that include a piece by Alanna Marcelletti, above, “Wendybird,” whose delicate brush strokes are reminiscent of crow feathers. Crows appeal to the artist because of the families these intelligent birds create.


Her piece melds images that evoke Alice in Wonderland with Peter Pan, shaping overlapping stories on thin, fragile paper. “I’m dealing with gender stereotypes, womanhood, and childhood fiction,”  Marcelletti says.


Kim Ye’s “In Pursuit of Leisure,” shown above, utilizes a latex cast of a lawn chair mixed with a latex cast of toilet seat to play off the idea of just what leisure time means.


“I often work in latex. It’s one of my main materials. Liquid latex, when you paint it on a surface, it becomes both a copy and a negative of that surface’s shape. Many people use it for making molds, I use the mold itself as a piece.”


Jesus Max’s “Paradise,” above, features butterflies in a surreal landscape. “This painting is based on 19th Century American landscape artists like Edward Church. I introduced a disturbance in a traditional scene. The butterflies in the redwoods and the torn wall paper are a look into a background that is dark. The meat grinder and the bone in the middle reflect the idea of violence hidden behind the bucolic.”


The opening reception of On the Distant Horizon was Aug. 7th, the anniversary of the 1959 launch of Explorer 6, the satellite that sent back the first digitally transmitted images of Earth.


This weekend, find your own images of Earth, and realms beyond imagining, from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, or attend the exciting exhibition closing from 3-6 p.m. Sunday, August 28th.

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

  • Genie Davis; photos: Jack Burke

Smacking Good Art Goes BLAM: Aperture


Once again the Durden and Ray space in DTLA plays host to the bi-monthly BLAM, combining the work of Brooklyn and LA-based artists in one well-curated exhibition. This time, the subject and title is Aperture. Light certainly shines on these artists, in an exhibition which runs through June 26th.

Curator Pete Hickok says the genesis of the show in a “larger sense takes on the idea that an aperture transfers, flips, and distorts an object from its original form to what is represented.”

Exhibiting artists include: Robert Acklen, Ariel Brice, Hannah Greely, Kio Griffith, Alissa Polan, Rachel Mica Weiss, Shirley Tse, Joe Wolek, and Lena Wolek.


Above, artist Hannah Greely and her “Seascape,” which uses cardboard, gypsum cement, wood, paper, and tempura to dissect a wave on a beach. She divides three dimensional space into two dimensional planes, creating a work that requires active participation by the viewer to fully absorb the piece.


“It’s much like the concept behind the whole show,” Greely says. “I’m trying to dissect pictorial space and see what happens with the translation, stretching the wave into three dimensions.”


Above, artist Shirley Tse with her “‘Squaring the Circle”. The piece uses a foam core with highly reflective fabric that shimmers, ripples, and takes on an entirely different character as the viewer looks at the work from a variety of angles. The effect is of motion, although the object doesn’t move, of shifting light, although the light doesn’t change. “‘Squaring the Circle ’ was an ancient science riddle in medieval times,” Tse explains. “Scientists tried to figure out how to transform a circle into a square, but it couldn’t be done.” Instead of an exact translation, they came up with the mathematical symbol of pi, an approximate number. Here, Tse  deals with the notion that people consistently desire to “equate something, to solve something. In reality, many entities are so unique you can’t translate them. I love the idea of diversity, of idiosyncracy.”



Above, curator Pete Hickok. “The criteria I had for artists in this show was the idea of transformations of mediums, images, and objects and how they worked together. What interested me was approaching subjects in different mediums such as photography, sculpture, and paintings. The show is about process.”



Above, artist Lena Wolek with her beautifully evocative “Zima” and “Vesna,” two of three works the versatile artist exhibits here. Below, her plastic-bag pillows, “Four Moons: Calisto, Thebe, Ananke, Lysithea.” Each of these works use ink on Canon photo paper.


Wolek says “I used the backside of the photo paper, rather than the photo surface. Working with black India ink, I drew and painted multiple layers, removing and adding ink like in photographic process. I thought about the importance of timing, of light, of water, and I used those elements in creating these pieces. I would draw black on black, then wash the ink, adding another layer.”

The works are seasonal images. “It goes to my Siberian background, the black and dark winters, the white snow, the monochrome. In the winter it’s a state of hibernation, during which you anticipate the explosion of colors. These are images about rest.,” she says. Wolek, used to a quieter environment gets little rest here. “The sound of the city is never quiet. These pieces are also about insomnia.”


Above, Rachel Mica Weiss’ “Mirrored Threshold” uses reclaimed old growth Douglas Fir in a piece that has the quality of a fairy tale mirror. Who or what is fairest here?


Above, Kio Griffith’s “The Confederate General of Big Sur,” a translucent, multi-layered piece that includes Poloroids and panaramic photos, clear tape, and a polyurethane envelope.

Below, Alissa Polan’s postcard collage, “We’ve been around for over two decades. Red Chair and the Grand Canyon).” The poetic piece is a visual dichotomy.


Below, Joe Wolek’s captivating “Birdie” employs video footage, a video player/monitor, and a mirror to invite viewers through the looking glass and into the sky at a kind of secret life of birds. Observation takes flight.


And speaking of observation, below, another look at Greely’s sculptural dissection of a wave.


The gallery is located at 1950 S. Santa Fe Ave. #207, Los Angeles, CA 90021. Hours are 12-4 Saturday and Sunday, or by appointment.

  • Genie Davis; all photos by Jack Burke

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



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.”


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.


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.



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.



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.



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.”



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.


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.’


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.