Word on the street in Hawaii: turn a corner, go under a bridge, pull into a parking garage, or simply stride the sidewalk for a while and encounter a large-scale assault of the sensory sort. This means murals—enormous in size, ambition or both, always beautiful, sometimes comical, many with a bold social undertone. These epic, eye-popping pieces pulsate with an energy and animation that give color, character and creativity to a place that is all these things and more.
Public art is nothing new; it’s long been a means of beautifying communities. But the practice of taking it to the streets is especially resonant in Hawaii, which nurtures a rich storytelling heritage and is a prominent part of Native Hawaiian culture. The fact that Hawaii is one of the most isolated places on Earth, her islands scattered in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, makes it a melting pot of different ethnicities, which has resulted, quite strikingly, in one of the most diverse, and imaginative, street art scenes in the world.
“Being based in Hawaii, Native Hawaiian culture is very important and we try our best to use public art as a vehicle to tell cultural stories,” says artist, curator and entrepreneur Jasper Wong, who founded POW! WOW!, an annual street art festival that gives participating artists—half of them locals—the opportunity to share one’s history and story via their own work of art. “It takes it directly to the general public without the barriers of other institutions.”
Named after comic book culture (“POW!” is how art impacts the individual, “WOW!” is the measure of one’s reaction to it), the weeklong event has become its own movement, in Hawaii and beyond, active in more than a dozen cities across the globe. Locations change, but the goal does not: POW! WOW! aims to spruce up communities, thereby changing their very fabric, helping increase foot traffic in once-forgotten districts in order to support small business, bring people together, prop up local creative industries, promote indigenous artists, and serve as an educational resource for community youth.
“We hope this will then help to build bridges between people and create a worldwide collective of like-minded individuals,” says Wong.
That the beauty of Hawaii is a wellspring of artistic inspiration may be cliché, acknowledges Wong, but it’s also fact. How an artist chooses to translate this is singular to personal experience, perception, and intention. The same is true in other places where POW! WOW! is painting the town—though no canvas could ever be considered as radiant as Hawaii. powwowhawaii.com
Written by Jenn Thornton
Photographs: courtesy of Jasper Wong and Brandon Shigeta
In the 1960s, artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) started creating lithographic prints. At the time the American artist was midway through a successful art career and had confined himself to sketches and sculpture and painting. His first two collections of lithographs, started at roughly the same time, are a study in contrasts, and how things that appear very different on the surface can have more in common than one might initially think.
Currently on display at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Line & Color: The Nature of Ellsworth Kelly exhibits these two collections side by side: Suite of Twenty-Seven Color Lithographs is a collection of brightly colored abstract works; Suite of Plant Lithographs is a classicist’s study, figurative and sparse, of plants, flowers and fruit.
Photographs (from left) Blue and Orange and Green (Bleu et Orange et Vert), 1964-65 Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015), Lithograph on Rives BFK paper, 35-3/8 x 23-7/8 in. (89.9 x 60.3 cm), Norton Simon Museum, Gift of the Artist, P.1969.019, © Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Maeght Éditeur; Camellia II, 1964–65 Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015), Transfer lithograph on Rives BFK paper 35-3/8 x 24-1/4 in. (89.9 x 61.6 cm), Norton Simon Museum, Gift of the Artist, 1969, P.1969.044, © Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and Maeght Éditeur
Though visually different, the artist meant for the two collections to mingle. Their connection? The soft geometric shapes of Suite of Twenty-Seven Color Lithographs were informed by the clear-cut lines and silhouettes of the plant lithographs—and vice versa. “Shape and color are my two strong things,” said Kelly in 2012. “And by doing this, drawing plants has always led me into my paintings and my sculptures.”
The different aesthetics of the two collections makes sense given Kelly’s biography, which includes postwar years spent in Paris studying classic art forms—and drawing plants—followed by a return to America in the 1950s that coincided with a burgeoning Abstract Expressionist movement in New York City. It was there that Kelly set up shop in Lower Manhattan alongside Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and others, and his bold, abstract works found a home.
Accompanying the exhibit are two of Kelly’s paintings. At nearly 30 feet long, “White Over Blue” consists of two oversized panels that hand alongside each other, commissioned for Montreal’s Expo 67. The other is “Red Orange White Green Blue,” a collage of five panels joined together to create an unbroken spectrum across the wall. Should one find oneself seeing double, the exhibit runs through Oct. 29.
For More Information: nortonsimon.org
Written by: Constance Dunn
The ninth annual Art Los Angeles Contemporary lands at Barker Hangar this month
Written by Jenn Thornton
The global art community turns its gaze to L.A., as Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar welcomes Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC), Jan 25-28. Now in its ninth year, the West Coast extravaganza will put the contemporary art world on show in a city as culturally diverse as its representation.
“As the international art community looks towards Los Angeles as a new global epicenter, it is essential to have an event that draws upon a comprehensive notion of the city,” said Tim Fleming, founder and director of Art Los Angeles Contemporary. “ALAC is a product of Los Angeles’ unique cultural community composed of an incredibly diverse array of artists, galleries, curators, institutions, collectors and enthusiasts.”
A quick glance at ALAC’s 2018 exhibitor list proves Fleming’s point. Along with a substantial group from L.A., including David Kordansky Gallery and AA|LA Gallery, are domestic galleries from San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit and New York, and an international contingent spanning from Montréal to Moscow and prominent points in between. Fair first-timers from Bogotá, Lima, and London will join both upstart and established galleries. This exhibitor group, as well as programming devised to provoke an examined discussion of contemporary art, will, as Fleming puts it, affirm L.A.’s emergence as a “powerful cultural hub.”
Another edition of note: the special issue Art Los Angeles Reader, produced in collaboration with Mexico City quarterly Terremoto and spotlighting contributions from leading curators, artists, writers and others. artlosangelesfair.com
3021 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Written by Jenn Thornton
“It certainly has been a trajectory, although it hasn’t been a straight line,” says Lindsay Pennington of her transition into interior design (Kentucky to North Carolina to California, to be precise). Hers is an atypical path, but hardly improbable. As a girl, Pennington followed her mom, an interior designer, on jobs (wallpaper samples in the back of the car). Her father was a landscape architect, her grandfather worked in the building industry, other family members were architects. Design is in her DNA.
But the academic Pennington excelled in school and was awarded a scholarship to Duke University. There she earned a law degree and met her future husband, a native of Utah, who, upon expressing his desire to return west, prompted Pennington to think, “I don’t know what you could possibly mean by ‘out west’ other than Los Angeles.” So that’s where they moved. Pennington found work as a securities litigator in DTLA and loved it. But the work became less academic over time, there was seemingly no end to it, and she traveled a ton. She also had two kids. On business trips in New York, she would invariably end up in some antique shop or interior store.
“I just reached my natural limit with it,” Pennington says. “I knew I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life. But I didn’t go to design school, so it was a pretty risky enterprise for me to strike out on my own.” (Not technically, perhaps, although one could argue Pennington’s youth qualifies as an education.) It was at a family funeral in Kentucky when, “It just hit me—how short life is, how quickly it goes,” she says. “ I knew that I had to give it a shot, because I wanted to live my dream.”
In 2013, Pennington launched Lindsay Pennington Inc. Since, she’s worked on local projects from Studio City and the Hollywood Hills to Laurel Canyon and Los Feliz across the country to New York. Though raised in the romantic Southern ideal (“You could eat off the floor of my grandmother’s house” and “I didn’t see an Eames chair until I was 25,” she says), Pennington’s sense is to create classic spaces with a contemporary cool that are “comfortable, warm, and cozy.” She’s more likely to use luxurious velvet opposed to less durable linen, for example, but always in an interesting way.
Putting a high premium on functional beauty, Pennington prefers playing with color and pattern (a stripe, a floral, ikat) in spaces with a neutral palette for flexibility and a modern freshness. “People don’t really call me for the all-white room,” she says. “I tend not to approach things from that perspective, because I’m thinking about how a rug will last. Will the kids spill something on it? Will the dog track on it? That’s the emotion.”
To Pennington, a home is a “living, breathing thing” with its own energy, so she loves a “collected over time” look that she uses family heirlooms and vintage pieces to achieve. She distrusts design without books, gravitates toward a good gallery wall, and creates space to “sit down, read a book, have a drink.” Pennington’s purpose-driven approach is also the engine behind her latest venture, LP Ltd., a bespoke decoration service for couples curating their first home. Intended as a more thoughtful way to combine possessions than the randomly assembled registry, the launch adds beauty and cohesion to one’s home. “We’re not just buying furniture,” she says. “We’re establishing an atmosphere and a mood. Because it has to be personal.”
For Pennington, design is—and has always been—personal. A place where she finds herself by creating for others. These days, that’s Los Angeles, where the city’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle comes “naturally” to her. She has a pool, dogs, people running in and out of her house, beauty beyond the window. “It’s a very different place than Kentucky, of course, but I couldn’t imagine living someplace else.”
Written by Constance Dunn
Nestled amid the design studios and body shops of Cypress Avenue in Hermosa Beach is a gallery signaling a big step forward for the South Bay art scene. Opening its doors earlier this year, Shockboxx is the brainchild of artists Laura Schuler and Mike Collins, who saw a local need for just such an independent gallery. “There wasn’t an existing space for artists to show,” Schuler says of the duo’s decision to open the gallery. “There’s a really cool art scene in Hermosa Beach,” adds Collins. “And there’s a lot of artists in Hermosa, Manhattan, Redondo.” Lots of artists, but not many places where they can show their work to the local community.
After securing the location, the duo was undecided on its ultimate use. Studio space? Gallery? “As we started to do the buildout,” says Collins, “the space revealed itself to be a gallery more than a studio.” Located in the midst of the Beach Cities’ artistic-industrial-creative neighborhood known as Cypress District, Schuler and Collins enjoy free rein when it comes to doing what they want creatively. “We have the freedom to come up with whatever we want,” says Schuler, adding, “Our shows are very specific.”
Specific not just in theme but also in allowing artists, many of them colleagues, to stretch beyond their tried-and-true themes or mediums. “That’s the shock part of Shockboxx,” describes Collins. “We want the art community and the patrons to know that if you come to one of our shows, we’re not going to repeat ourselves.”
Indeed. Their first show, “Break the System,” invited Hermosa artists LG Givot and Josh Barnes to christen the place by painting the walls in vivid scenes. “Off with Their Heads” explored the concept of heroes and villains, inviting artists working in mediums ranging from computer art and assemblage to sculpture and photography. We stopped by during “Shark Week,” when the walls were covered by local artists’ takes on the fish.
Collins and Schuler ultimately aim for Shockboxx to go beyond the role of traditional gallery and be a creative community resource, including everything from film screenings, book releases and even underground dining events with local chefs. “The thing we’ll do over and over again is something different,” states Collins.
Note: Mark your calendars for Sept. 9, when Shockboxx opens an Ed Moses tribute show; inviting artists will pay homage to the trailblazing Venice artist’s brand of abstract painting. “Ed came from a group of artists that are credited with putting the Los Angeles art scene on the map in the late 50s and early 60s,” says Collins.
Written by Jenn Thornton
“Work of art” might be considered a fairly rote turn of phrase these days, a maxim expressed from enthusiasm, but all too abundantly, it seems. Not everything is a work of art, surely. Unless you are interior designer Christine Markatos Lowe with a background in studio art, an M.F.A in Sculpture from the Art and Architecture School at the University of Pennsylvania, and mentorships with several industry giants—then you’re an artist whose work qualifies in earnest.
Trained in drawing, sculpture, and printmaking, it was Markatos Lowe’s transformative post-grad position in architect Peter Marino’s office that exposed her to a breadth of design she had never previously imagined. “I was hooked,” says Markatos Lowe, who spent several years with “Mr. Marino” before moving on to engagements at top design firms across the country, including that of White House designer Michael S. Smith, in Los Angeles. With a wealth of experience under her belt—and it must be said a great deal of confidence in her own vision— Markatos Lowe set up shop with her eponymous practice, Christine Markatos Design, which she founded in 2005. The Santa Monica-based firm now services clients on both coasts.
Bringing a bright, sensitive energy to her projects, Markatos Lowe visualizes elegant, expressive spaces. Hers is a perceptive aptitude; one potently applied, but filtered through a sophisticated eye. There’s the lovely sense of ease. Opposition and cohesion. The full run of color—using its spectrum, “from whisper soft to super saturated,” is a bedrock of her style. Each of Markatos Lowe’s designs, though singular, hinges on setting and sensibility. Does the project fit the client’s lifestyle? Is it appropriate to the architecture?
Primary to her approach is detail. “As an artist, I was taught to look at the entire composition, including the negative space rather than just the individual elements,” says Markatos Lowe, also a mother of two. “This point of view influences how I visualize my projects and ultimately edit the spaces.” Highlights of this lustrously designed array is a recently finished estate in Santa Monica; a residence at the Four Seasons Hualalai; a duplex in Greenwich Village; the Katherine Kidd Boutique in L.A; and the recent remodel of a 1940’s house in Malibu with sweeping views of the Pacific. Markatos Lowe also references an endeavor that taps into her penchant for palette; a home with a circular floor plan that allows for rooms surrounded by gardens, the colors of the which complement the hues of the rooms in “breathtaking” fashion.
With a rainbow of creative influences, Markatos Lowe says, “I find inspiration everywhere.” In fashion, fine art and form in nature. In the work of branded maximalists Tony Duquette and Renzo Mongiardino. And right outside the window. “To me, Southern California design is defined by the special quality of light and the lush landscape,” she says. “The projects I am most excited by allow me to play these assets off of each other in ways not possible in other geographic locations.” She’s made doing so an art. MarkatosDesign.com
Written by Wendy Bowman
When the co-founders of The Agency, Mauricio Umansky and Billy Rose, found that they were unable to serve their clients’ commercial transaction requirements, their solution was to form a new division to provide comprehensive commercial services, specializing in investment sales, landlord and tenant leasing representation, and strategic asset positioning— adding to the multibillion-dollar firm’s already thriving real estate brokerage and lifestyle practice.
Tapped to head The Agency Commercial Advisory, based in the company’s Beverly Hills headquarters, is industry veteran Alexander Koustas. Here, the skilled negotiator discusses the new division, L.A.’s up-and-coming commercial pockets and more.
Why is the time right to begin a new commercial division in Los Angeles?
With the emergence of L.A. on the global scene with respect to art, fashion and real estate, we believe now is the opportune time to be at the forefront of the commercial space.
What is your focus and goal with the new division?
To not only service our existing clientele base, but also to build a robust landlord and tenant representation platform to compete with the strongest commercial firms globally. The team will include seasoned professionals and leading real estate experts who bring together years of experience in various industry specialties— including development, asset management, investment sales and leasing.
Elaborate on the services the new division offers.
The merging of our respective strengths, coupled with The Agency’s global reach, makes for a truly dynamic and unparalleled partnership in the industry. As we continue to experience rapid growth in Los Angeles, commercial development and real estate ranks high for investors. In addition to being the provider for our clients and their commercial projects, the team will handle leasing, tenant representation and investment sales for office, industrial, retail, medical, special purpose, flex and multifamily spaces.
Tell us about your commercial background and what makes you a great fit to head the division?
I’ve spent years honing a craft in understanding the investment characteristics of commercial property. In my previous role, I was founding member and president of The December Company Inc., a boutique commercial brokerage firm specializing in high street retail, office and industrial leases and sales transactions. Prior to this post, I served as the acquisitions director for BH properties, where I was responsible for the deployment of $100 million in annual acquisitions throughout the Western U.S.; identifying distressed and value-added commercial investments for the company. With this experience, I have since moved into a purely brokerage role, which today enables me to see opportunities (or potential pitfalls) that may face my clients in a future lease or sales transaction. This unique skill set allows me to bring an unparalleled experience level to my clients and the company at large.
What are some of your top listings to date, and why are they significant?
4215 Admiralty Way is a prime waterfront building in Marina Del Rey with 1,400 feet of marina views, large windows and a loft-like ambience, perfect for an upscale restaurant or a unique tech office. 1360 S. Figueroa Blvd.—in the heart of Downtown L.A.— has more than 3,100 square feet of prime retail frontage across from the Los Angeles Convention Center and just minutes from the Staples Center and surrounding amenities. This area [is] part of a completely transforming live, work, play urban metropolis. 5215 Vineland Ave. is a 1,236-square foot mixed-use property in heart of the vibrant NoHo arts district, which is a young, trendy spot. This property has strong immediate demographics and access to robust multifamily density, along with a shared commercial parking lot.
What areas are hot in L.A. right now for commercial?
West Hollywood (always), Highland Park, Glendale/Burbank and Culver City. For example, in West Hollywood we’re seeing a demand for physical fitness use and restaurant space. In Glendale and Highland Park, we’ve seen an increased demand of and shift to upscale retail and boutiques. In Culver City, creative offices and showroom spaces are hot.
Are you seeing any trends in the market?
There’s a strong push towards creative office, open plan and warm contemporary office designs. The traditional office culture is changing the way people want to work and live. Inspired by the tech industry moving into the Westside of the city (Silicon Beach), the greater L.A. market is shifting to more open, bold cohesive work spaces.
Any predictions for what’s ahead for L.A.’s commercial industry?
Continued growth, with a particular push for architecturally efficient work and shopping environments. In addition to the hot areas mentioned earlier, we definitely will be seeing a continuing expansion of commercial retail into secondary and tertiary markets. Additionally, there is a continued movement of greater density in [A]-plus markets. We will see a continued trend in vertical development in high-density areas.
Finally, what does the new division mean for The Agency and L.A.?
As we continue to develop our foothold in L.A.’s commercial real estate market, The Agency is quickly becoming the leader in the industry for residential, new development and the commercial sectors. As L.A. continues to grow at a rapid pace, both commercial real estate and development is a leading investment for investors around the world. The Agency Commercial Advisory will further strengthen the brand and allow the team to be the provider for our clients and their commercial projects. We’re thrilled the commercial department is making a footprint in the city so quickly.
Written by Jenn Thornton
This September, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents its forthcoming exhibit, Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985 as part of the Getty’s Pacific Time Standard Time: LA/LA. The vibrant showcase of objects and ephemera from its focal provenances is, with broader consideration, a cultural exchange between domains with richly interlinked frontiers.
California and Mexico are irrevocably joined by geography, culture, and economics—ties that precede and transcend modern political borders,” say Found in Translation co-curators, Wendy Kaplan, department head and curator, and Staci Steinberger, assistant curator, both of the Decorative Arts and Design department at LACMA. “For centuries, people have moved back and forth between the two places, bringing objects, styles, and images whose meanings were shared as well as altered. [This] is the first exhibition to explore the full range of design and architecture dialogues between California and Mexico in this period.”
The show studies these interdependencies through the themes Spanish Colonial Inspiration, Pre-Hispanic Revivals, Folk Art and Craft Traditions, and Modernism. “All explore how in California and Mexico, design and architecture are strongly rooted in a sense of place, with local materials and traditions used to form a culture of specificity rather than an ‘international style,’” notes Kaplan. “And each found a more distinct voice through ‘translations’ of the other.”
Comprising the exhibit—a strong underscoring of LACMA’s dedication to Latin American art—are 250 pieces ranging from furniture, metalwork and ceramics to textiles, paintings, posters and more by 200-plus artists, architects, designers, and craftspeople. So rich in design and architectural discourse is this trove, Kaplan and
Steinberger find it difficult to play favorites. “In a show like this, it’s so difficult to choose!” say the curators, who nonetheless note a loan never before shown in the United States—a Bench from Casa Zuno, Guadalajara, c. 1925—as a piece of particular interest. Hailing from a house designed for José Guadalupe Zuno, once governor of the state of Jalisco, the bench was built right after the Mexican Revolution, when intellectuals championed neocolonial style as distinctly Mexican.
Though its design recalls furnishings from the Colonial period, it replaces religious iconography with socialist imagery. Found in Translation also surveys the ways that California artists, designers, and craftspeople embraced facets of Mexican folk art in their work; most surprisingly Japanese-American sculptor Ruth Asawa, known for her biomorphic hanging sculptures made from an intricate handmade mesh of wire loops, a basket making technique she learned in Toluca. “Asawa’s use of the loop is transformative,” explain the curators. “She took a utilitarian structure and made a wholly original, purely abstract body of work. The example we’re borrowing for the show comes from the collection of visionary architect Buckminster Fuller, who was one of Asawa’s teachers.”
Also of interest is material from the Summer Olympics in Mexico City (1968) and Los Angeles (1984). As sprawling metropolises, both cities employed a similar design strategy and used environmental graphics to visually unify the many Olympic sites. Look for posters, a map, a fabulous hostess dress from Mexico City and posters and sonotubes (supersized painted cardboard tubes) from L.A. In other words—or en otras palabras—the best of both worlds.
Found in Translation: Design in California and Mexico, 1915-1985 will run from September 17 through April 18, 2018. LACMA.org
Written by Jenn Thornton
Architect Christopher Mercier, AIA, wasn’t always the man with a master plan. As a teenager in his native Detroit, he wrestled with the future. A painter, Mercier leaned toward a career in the arts, but was pragmatic enough to consider the bigger picture while still in high school. “I thought, if I become an artist, there’s only so many things I can do, but if I become an architect, I can still do art.” At the intersection of profession and passion was Mercier’s métier.
After completing his undergraduate studies, Mercier went on to a progressive architecture program in Italy (under a then lesser-known architect Daniel Libeskind), a master’s degree at SCI-Arc and, in the most glaring endorsement of his talent, a spot at Gehry Partners, his place of employment for 10 years, until he departed the dream post in 2002 to establish his own architectural practice, with a modicum of trepidation at the time.
“I mean, it’s hard to leave that,” Mercier admits. “You’re working on these incredible projects, all over the world, and with great teams of people. It’s just a really hard thing to move away from.” When he did, Mercier met the full gravity of his decision. “I went from working on the biodiversity museum in Panama [Biomuseo] to literally designing bathrooms and closets,” he says, laughing. “It was humbling and crushing.” In those early but ultimately edifying days, even name-dropping
“Frank Gehry” into conversation didn’t prove particularly pivotal. “Most of my clients at the time didn’t know who he was,” says Mercier.
“I thought, what did I do? I’ve got to go back. But you learn quickly how to hustle, how to get work, how to make connections.” Today, Mercier’s gamble is L.A.’s gain. Informed by the principles Form, Environment, Research, his (fer) studio, located in an artist compound in Inglewood, is both full-service and fertile.
In conceptualizing modern spaces for creative clients, the studio’s architectural solutions are environmentally sensitive, heavily (but not solely) adaptive reuse, and across multiple sectors.
Its designed residences in communities such as Venice Beach, Santa Monica and the Hollywood Hills; commercial projects including Smashbox Studios in Culver City, a lobby and reception area for Hana Financial in DTLA, and restaurants Father’s Office, Connie and Ted’s and Downtown newcomer, Officine Brera, a modern Italian restaurant set in a 1920’s industrial warehouse.
Also completed is The Hayden, a 30,000-square-foot creative office adaptive reuse project in the Hayden Tract of Culver City.
Currently in development is a new public plaza behind The Broad, a temporary space that will connect to Otium Restaurant; the new pedestrian bridge at 2nd/Hope Station that will link the stopover to The Broad by way of its plaza; and the large-scale Cedros Market, a 100,000-square-foot retail, restaurant and office solution space in Solana Beach meant to accommodate expected growth in transit ridership while maintaining the community’s character.
Given Mercier’s background as an artist, his engagement with creative spaces is a logical focus, as is being a vital part of the urban renewal in Inglewood. Among his involvements here are painting art murals with at-risk youth, one can be found at Roger’s Park. “We’ve made a lot of efforts to work with the city,” Mercier says. “You want to engage with the community as much as you can, and give back.”
With a full docket of projects, Mercier is giving plenty these days, including painting regularly in his art studio and playing hockey with former colleagues at Gehry Partners.
“It’s how you progress as an architect,” he says. “You’re always thinking about the next big thing.”