LA Times : Gallery Scene : “A New Spin on LA Art” : February 2003

LA Times : Gallery Scene : “A New Spin on LA Art” : February 2003

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Calendar Weekend Los Angeles Times Thursday, January 30, 2003
Gallery Scene
“A new spin on L.A. art”
DJs energize the vibe at downtown’s Optical Lounge and Audio Lab.
By James Verini
Special to The Times

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What is it about the sight of a lovely woman in a sweaty tank top, her hands moving with studied precision, oversized earphones cocked half off her head, her body slave to – but at the same time master of – the beat? (This has nothing to do with the Super Bowl beer commercials, mind you.)

What, in other words, is so exquisite, so spiritually fulfilling, about watching a beautiful female DJ at work? One had ample opportunity to muse on this and other millennial questions Saturday night at the Optical Lounge and Audio Lab, a party – no, let’s call it an occurrence, or no! Better yet, a thing- thrown by Create:Fixate, a DJ and artists’ cooperative that makes a bimonthly habit of reinvigorating hope for original nightlife in L.A.

In a massive loft space deep in the downtown warehouse district, Create:Fixate has, over the last year, carved out its own miniature SoHo, drawing hungry souls weary of apple martinis and lingerie model in fish tanks to come get their break on with experimental electronic music and local art.

The setting is perfect – a picture postcard of gritty post-industrial landscape, just far away and difficult enough to find to throw the half-reluctant off the path – and the space is on that will forever be downtown. White brick walls lined with photos and paintings, ranging uncritically from the quite good to the not very. Of particular note were Rebecca Bihr’s photographs of decaying cushions and apples. And enormous windows that you can’t imagine not vibrating with bass. And a Saturday night crowd that could not have been more democratically and unconcernedly hip if Truman Capote had hand-chosen it with the help of Perry Farrell.

Grown-up skate-kids danced next to Asian women in red velvet jackets and cravats who danced next to tattooed, black-leather Brits who danced next to me who danced next to a group that looked to be Afghan Bedouins as reimagined by the Neptunes. And on the wall beside them was an enormous sunflower-shaped lamp made entirely of plastic spoons.

“I like to come to these things to look at the people,” said Caroline, an animator who came from Los Feliz for the privilege, voicing what was surely a widely held feeling.

And then of course there were the lovely DJs (they were not all women, but in a male-dominated sport, women catch the eye). Each moved in her own way, each with her own particular sound and terminology, of which there is a maddening variety. Liza Richardson, who hosts the electronic music show “The Drop” on KCRW-FM (and supervised the lush soundtrack for “Y Tu Mama Tambien”), spun a set and called to mind a jungle cat of some sort on the turntables, her lithe frame and focused eyes pouncing this way and that to produce a sound she’s dubbed “hi-tech funk inflected with Latin rhythms.”