Saturday, March 20, 2010

Totems in the Forest

It was an Ace Gallery kinda Saturday. First day of spring, perfect LA weather. About time! I went first to the Eastern campus. This is such a beautiful and large space in The Wilshire Tower, an old Art Deco building on Miracle Mile built in 1928.

The current exhibition was a series of mostly gigantic paintings by John Millei from his Maritime series. There must've been more than a dozen rooms of various sizes all full of huge paintings, some of the rooms with great views of Wilshire Blvd. I kept thinking what a shame it was that the space was barely utilized. It's just begging for various functions including Avant-Garde art performances, yoga classes, lectures, parties, book signings.

Then it was off to the Western campus in Beverly Hills. Amazingly, there were even more paintings by Millei from a different series of gigantic Picasso studies. Some of the Maritime series were pretty but, I'm not sure they warrant 10,000 square feet. The only excuse would be if the artist were actually a 50 foot tall giant and even then it's a little excessive.

But, what I was really there to see was Herb Alpert's Black Totems and luckily I came on the perfect day. Later in the evening a Chamber Music recital would be performed in the large room where the totems were set up. So the floor space was filled with chairs and a stage. There was also large sound baffling foam on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. It created an environment reminiscent of a rain forest. Ok, maybe that's a stretch but I loved how the primal black trunks were seeming to grow out of the underbrush of chairs and up into the floral-like baffling. I kept expecting to hear water droplets or some exotic bird calls as I explored. The sunlight through the skylight was reflecting off of the metal chairs and the white walls infusing the room with a soft, full light. It was dim in places but no dark shadows.

This is not how the sculptures were supposed to be viewed of course but I was fascinated by this temporary accidental installation. I would've loved to see these powerful sculptures anyway but the added environment made me feel like I was seeing something special. I love the large abstract work, it sometimes almost approaching representational forms, like people's bodies or animal shapes. They do seem to be alive and growing or shifting. Very mysterious. Show is still up through May 25. It's free, be sure to see the totems before they disappear in the mist.

5514 Wilshire Blvd. (Mid-Wilshire)
9430 Wilshire Blvd. (Beverly Hills)

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