NIGHT at the Music Center and my first time seeing my Porgy and Bess essay in print. In a swirl of beautiful voices and music.



Life’s Bits and Pieces

WHAT CHERI PANN reminded me of yesterday as she generously led me and my friend Patricia through the twists and turns of her home — the Mosaic Tile House in Venice — is that life is all about repurposing — plans, dreams, discards, old ideas of ourselves.



Pann and her husband Gonzalo Duran have been collaborating on this living work of art for more than a decade — adding rooms, levels and studio workspaces. As Cheri told us at the beginning of our walk through, the problem was, “It was a really ugly house. Really. We had to figure out something to do with it.


Both artists are native Angelenos entrenched not just in soil, but in the spirit of the place. Their personal story winds through the old bungalow — in the details day-to-day living as well as on whimsical canvases and within the intricate mosaics themselves.

As Patricia remarked as we prepared to depart to go and find some place to have a meal, wait out traffic and look at the water, “It really is a love song, isn’t it?”










for more info about the Mosaic Tile House click here.

“Love Thy Neighbor”

LAST NIGHT, I slipped in for the opening at the Craft Folk & Art Museum on the Miracle Mile.

Wilshire Boulevard was a bit of a madhouse as it was free museum admission day across the southland and LACMA, located just across the street from CFAM, was one of the venues participating in the promotion. (Which sent a pretty loud message about perhaps retooling pricing structures and thereby creating more access, but I digress …) 20140126-150110.jpg

This brought a healthy crowd into CFAM as well — on top of the opening guest list/party crowd. The current show, which features the work of three artists — Timothy Washington’s “Love Thy Neighbor,” Golnar Adili and Samira Yamin’s “Displacements” and Shirley Familian’s “19,275 Stamps — was packed, and offered a pretty vivid representation of the many faces/guises/spaces that make up L.A.

Consequently the galleries were really too bustling to spend much contemplative time up-close with all of the work. That will be for later. But I did get upstairs to the third floor to take a quick-spin through “Love Thy Neighbor,” as I’m putting together a profile on another currently-L.A.-based assemblage artist who grew out of this very same L.A. strain of the tradition.

This is Timothy Washington’s first solo museum exhibition. The show, which occupies the entire third-floor gallery, features a generous sampling of his creative evolution — engravings on aluminum, found-art sculpture, mosaics, wash-boards and wooden spoon pieces among them. Meticulously layered, each piece is a story within a story within a story, offering powerful visual narratives about both sense of place and state of mind. Looking forward to returning to spend more time with all of it.

Here’s a preview piece by Mike Sonksen that appeared earlier this week on KCET Departures.

Below are some highlights and details from some of Timothy Washington’s work.




The Round-Up: Collage Style


AS 2013 waltzes to its close, I’ve been going through the accumulation — ticket stubs, programs, over-the-transom galleys, gallery ephemera — reminders of some of the events that caught my eye and ear this year. It was a rich year. I been long out of the habit of making lists and ranking experiences, but this collage of where I’ve been is, in a certain way, a substitution for all of that.

Looking forward to what awaits in 2014.

Happy New Year, All.



I HAVE to say, it was quite odd to be a tourist/journalist in my own town. Late last month, I was part of a 15-member team of journalists selected to be Getty/Annenberg Arts Journalism Fellows. What that meant was ten days of deep-immersion in segments of L.A.’s art culture. As I say to anyone coming to Los Angeles for the first time — it’s impossible to sum it up in a sentence. Same would go for the art scene.


I found myself criss-crossing familiar paths and meeting up with folks I have worked with, interviewed or have only known peripherally until now. It was a chance to reconnect with some of them and go behind the scenes, in some instances, in a fashion I hadn’t been able to until now. I’m still processing the experience which in certain ways, as couple of the journalists joked, was a lot like being on an episode on “Big Brother — ten days in a hotel and bus with folks you don’t know. I also had the extra-dislocating element of being “at home” but without my car. One of the strangest moments related to that was waiting on Halloween night for a cab that never arrived …

Also unusual, but helpful, was seeing the city through a set of 14-different creatively critical eyes and realizing the pressure that this city is under because it is often both over-exposped and under-clarified. I pulled back to try to make a mental map of where we’d been and the conclusions I might make. A good exercise for any long-time resident of any place — native or otherwise.

Below are just a few shots of some of the spots we passed through (Infinite City the opera based on Italo Calvino’s novel staged throughout the grounds at Union Station, the Watts Towers, the James Turrell show at LACMA, the Getty behind-the-scenes, the Bootleg theater, Disney Hall, Thank You For Coming, the Sheats/Goldstein House designed by John Lautner) — which honestly is just a tiny fraction of our ten days.



















(top image Edward Lifson)

Last Light Over Little Tokyo


TEN DAYS of sort of being a tourist (with a purpose) in my own town. Just finishing the USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Fellowship. I’m still processing. Much of it was spent rolling around town exploring theater, visual arts, music and architecture with more than a dozen other journalists. More in a bit, but I now need to catch up on assignments themselves, but here is a view from my HQ for the last ten days.

What a gorgeous perch I had over the Historic Core. L.A. looked at its best this week.

Thanks Fellows!

water runs through it

SATURDAY NIGHT a troop of friends and acquaintances (12 of us in all ) convened at the Kirk Douglas Theatre to take part in the DouglasPlus run of three one-act monologues —Trieu Tran‘s “Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam”, Roger Guenveur-Smith‘s, “Rodney King” and Luis Alfaro‘s “St. Jude.”

It’s been decades since given myself over to an afternoon-into- evening set of performances and each of them conveyed deeply intimate stories about family, blood, place, love and belonging.

Threading through each is the metaphor of immersion — a baptismal or conversion. A cleansing.


This cycled through my thinking as the day wore on and I continued to bump into even more acquaintances, contacts and connections from various corners of my past — my different beats at different news desks and posts over the years: Poets and actors. Journalists and teachers. Community activists and preachers. We all were reconnecting, it seems, with a past still to be reconciled. It brought up old business — riots and divisions and territory: wounds that had formed scabs, but never really healed correctly. Each piece struck so many in tender or forgotten places. I watched audience members emerge red-eyed or simply glassy. Not just out of sadness but, I think, feeling a deep sense of connection to the many tributaries of the stories — fathers and sons, the flow of family shifts and allegiances — and perhaps most significant of all what happens when you push outside of pre-perscribed lines.

What also hit home was the fact that two of the pieces are set here in Los Angeles, and the third, — with its immersion in the identity politics and the arm-wrestle of assimilation — could very well have simply swapped in L.A.’s physical coordinates and progressed without a disorienting hitch.

There is about another week to this run — and the Douglas is an easy and intimate spot to experience theater. See them if you can.

— After the show with Luis Alfaro

Private Stories into Public Art


A FEW weeks back, I spent a good part of the day roaming around inside the memory (and studio) of Inglewood-based artist Michael Massenburg — for a piece I was putting together for KCET. He works with found pieces, discards — newspaper, fabric remnants, cast-off pieces of wood — and refashions them into art.


He does the same with the stories of neighborhoods — the faces and voices of those who came before us. Since so much in Los Angeles is quickly jettisoned, discarded, Massenburg has set himself on a path to find value in what has been tossed away and in so doing he carefully creates lost layers and contexts.


His most recent installation at the Farmdale Station on the Expo Line — “Life in A Day” — tells the story of the neighborhoods fanning out around the tracks — not just coordinates and intersections — but the very details and nuances that distinguish one place from another. His work doesn’t just resurrect ghosts but re-assembles history.

My full piece is up here at Artbound|KCET

images: by Michael Massenburg

Silver & Light

ABOUT A month ago, I sat in the shade-dappled courtyard of the Central Library downtown with photographer Ian Ruhter when he was back in Los Angeles, ostensibly for a small West Hollywood gallery show. But our conversation was about something larger, a life-shifting exploration that has been threading through his mind for a couple of years now.

For this latest endeavor,  The American Dream Project, Ruhter has taken to the road, traveling the country in an reconditioned delivery truck that serves as both camera and darkroom. He has set about to record personal stories about dreams —  success and failures — across America, while pushing the boundaries of an antique photographic process — wet-plate collodion. The images feel like dreamscapes — they float, they hover in your consciousness — the stories and the faces. The germ of the idea started here, in Los Angeles,  in the heart of old downtown:

From my piece now up on the KCET Artbound blog:

“If image is any real measure, Los Angeles might seem an unlikely launch for the pursuit of truth: It’s a place better known for the evocation of the hyper-real — with its impatiently re-imagined landscape, its denizens, nipped and tucked into subjective perfection.

But photographer, Ian Ruhter, who also calls himself an alchemist, knows enough about chemistry to understand that stumbling upon new ways of seeing — is about reactions — a collision of forces — that create something new. . . .

Against the backdrop of stepped-up gentrification, Ruhter, holed up in a downtown L.A. loft at 6th and Main, two years ago, had begun tweaking and bending the possibilities of an antique photographic process — wet-plate collodion — a technique that dates back to the 1850s. Instead of “film,” a photographic surface is coated with sensitized material — the exposures, protracted, the development, too a sensitive affair.

The results dismantle our concept of time. The effect of the chemistry — the dappled surfaces, the blurs and bubbles, the shock of the perception of texture on a two-dimensional plane, an iridescence that sometimes mimics the luminescence of a half-shell or a surface shimmer that replicates motion — demands a second look at something or someone you might look past or through.


To read more about Ruhter’s background and the full trajectory of the project click here: 

photo by Ian Ruhter via KCET