Monday, May 27, 2013

Brewery Artwalk Spring Session 2013 - Makes SD Artwalk Look Like a Pile of Puke

A month after my excursion to the LA Brewery for their bi-annual Brewery Artwalk show, I've finally been able to get my thoughts (and a rad photo album, below) together about what I saw.  As expected, Brewery Artwalk isn't like your standard art festivals in the street, sponsored by banks and restaurants, etc.  There are no tents and awnings, no watercolors or silly crafts.  No fenced-off beer gardens regulated by security, and no tourists in bunched up pastel shorts and fanny packs could be found at this Artwalk, and thank God for that.  What wasn't expected was the incredible scope of talent, the personal feel, and sheer magnitude of this event and of the LA Brewery.  I just hope I can do it justice.

LA Brewery is largely considered to be the largest artist colony in the world, and has been in this location since 1982. The colony covers 23 acres and was originally built in 1903 as an Edison steam-powered electric plant.  It spent most of its heyday as a Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery, so really, artist colony or not, it was only a matter of time before hipsters would be visiting it in droves in the 21st century.  At least this way it's for a good cause and something genuine.  The Brewery is now divided up into live/work spaces for the artists, and houses about 600 of them, everything ranging from professional architecture and photo studios to amateur/hobby artists who are more collectors than they are professionals. 

As I said in my preview article on this event, I've been driving by the Brewery for years on various treks to and through Los Angeles.  It's located on the west side of the 5 freeway, just above the 10 before you get to Hollywood, and it's almost impossible to miss due to its size. I was sure the Brewery was abandoned. Call me part amateur archaeologist, part fallen raver, but I have a strange penchant for creepy old abandoned buildings and warehouses, and I fantasized about breaking in with my friends and running around snapping photos, looking for ghosts and scaring myself by crawling into a fermentation vat or something.  Unfortunately in this day and age you can't really get away with B&E as easily as you used to, so I'm more than content with the bi-annual Brewery Artwalk, which allows visitors almost full access to the grounds and buildings of this amazing place.  When I found out about it, needless to say I was thrilled.

The Spring 2013 Brewery Artwalk took place over a full weekend in April, during which time the grounds and  large number of the buildings and studios were open from 11am-6pm and access was free.  About 100 of the 600 artists were showing, but most of the buildings were covered in that cross-section.  I got there rather late on Saturday, but I had been in contact with Kristine Schomaker, one of the resident artists and the person who does all of LA Brewery's press and social media beforehand, so I somewhat knew where I was going.  Kristine is a fascinating person with a really interesting and modern twist on her art, combining it with social media and second life, and I felt she warranted a separate article which will be published in early June.

Though I didn't have much time on Saturday, I spent a good deal of the day there on Sunday and  I was able to see quite a few of the exhibits, and the format of these was what was so extraordinary.  Rather than having an aisle or two of party rental tents with the artists' wares on display, the artists actually opened up their live/work spaces to the public, and visitors could just wander into their house-cum-studio spaces to not only see their art, but kitchens, living rooms, cats, and children.  Many of the artists had prepared food or had pizza and drinks for guests, and friends and fans lounged and talked together on furniture or out in the garden.  These spaces were truly open to anyone, and it really added to the fun and authenticity of the event.  In one of the studios I actually saw someone go into the guy's fridge and eat some grapes.  It was so charming.

If you didn't find enough food while you were picking through the artists' kitchens, there was one party rental tent which served homemade food and sangria as well as craft beer and wine.  As this is really a fully-functioning small town, there was also a bar/pub which also sold food.  But really who could think about food!  There was so much to see and take in.

For my own part, I spent my time at the brewery torn between taking pictures of the incredible architecture and soaking up the history, taking pictures of the random street art and stickers everywhere on the grounds, and actually doing my job by talking to artists and taking pictures to feature their art.  I hope the slideshow above strikes a balance.  You can see a full list of the artists and links to their work on The Brewery's website, but some of the notable artists from my perspective were as follows:

Copyright Coop
Coop!  Graphic street artist and notable art toy collector actually has his main studio right inside the LA Brewery!  To me that was the find of the weekend.  I had no idea.  Coop is very well known for his iconic Devil street bombs, and he had the original metal stencils on display in his studio.  It was really cool to see those stencils just hanging out next to his toys, and I managed to get a few shots of some of his new pieces, but unfortunately many of them didn't come out.  There was a series of heavy-set naked witches that was especially cute.  Check out his website for more new stuff!

Copyright Pease22 Studios
Yoshi Hashimoto/Peace22 Studio - Yoshi Hashimoto was definitely the individual photorapher with my favourite body of work.  He had very clean prints, some modified with color, and a commercial style which was also very unique and inspiring.  As his little girl ran around our knees at his studio, he mentioned that he had been thinking about doing the San Diego Artwalk, which was taking place the same weekend.  I said "don't bother."  He's too good.

Copyright Kristine Schomaker
Kristine Schomaker - As I said before, Kristine's art blends her involvement in Second Life/RPG and real life creative arts.  I don't want to give away too much yet, but check out her website to take a look at her cool concept pieces.

Copyright Two-Bit Circus

Two Bit Circus - This was definitely one of the more creative exhibits I saw.  Two Bit Circus is an interactive multimedia art experience, where the collaborators have put together a number of games and interactive tests which feature art and tricks of the eye.  Think Banksy's street bomb video games but way more elaborate and large-scale.  This was also one of the biggest studios I saw, and while I took many pictures of the games, they didn't really come out because there were lazers shooting through the shots and other light problems, but I also had a hard time not photographing the cool old building to death.  Check out their site, it's super-fun.

Copyright C B N C

C B N C - This ended up being a clothing/lifestyle line, but I was just really interested in the art on their walls.  Apparently the biker is one of the symbols for this innovative line, which combines fun street art images with wearable and usable products.  There's definitely a bike tinge to it.   Yes, those are boobs on the typewriter.

Copyright Oscar Magallanes
Oscar Magallanes - Some of Oscar's art can be said to look a little Shepard Fairey-esque, but it really is a whole different thing.  All the paintings are done on wood board, and Magallanes' material is much less media/pop related and more focused on Mexican-American lore and animism.  Once you look at the pieces, you'll quickly see that the only similarity is some of the colors.  His pieces are soulful and eerie.

The only problem I had with the show was there was not enough time to see it all, much as I tried, and it's impossible to fully explain the magic and amazement of this colony, its buildings, the artists and the people.  You'll just have to go and experience it for yourself.  The dates for the next Artwalk haven't been fully nailed down, but it should be sometime in October.  Do yourself a favor and go.  It's one of those experiences which is unlike anything else you'll see or do.  GO.

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