Downtown News : May 31, 2004
Historic Core Multi-Media Show Grabs Attention, and an Audience
by Nora Zelevansky
From the crowds at the Chung King Road openings, Brewery art walks and Gallery Row’s initiation festivities earlier this month, it’s no secret that Downtown’s art scene is gathering momentum. Apart from gallery and residential conglomerates, however, there is another type of catalyst to the scene’s development: individuals who recruit emerging artists and hold sprawling, open-to-the-public parties.
Perhaps the most prominent example of this is Michelle Berc, who on Saturday, May 22 lured some 1,000 people to the Historic Core’s Spring Arts Tower, at Spring and Fourth streets. The art party, held under the umbrella name Create:Fixate, was Berc’s ninth Downtown (she hosted her first here in 2001). The next is scheduled for July, and future events will unfold about every other month.
The Historic Core gathering was an exercise in sensory overload. Pink polka dot paintings welcomed revelers into the refurbished Art Deco building’s mezzanine, which was filled with pieces from 28 artists and semi-circles of partygoers forming around four live painters. All while a dozen DJs, including KCRW’s Liza Richardson, spun.
The overall goal, says Berc, is to lure revelers who don’t regularly think of purchasing art, and connect them with artists struggling to break into a seemingly impenetrable gallery world. “It comes down to who you know,” Berc says. “Many of the artists at Create:Fixate [have] sold their first pieces at one of my shows.”
Of course, others are there for the good time. As attendee and clothing designer Idris Morehouse says, they’re just a good party option for maturing ravers. “Some of the energy fueling this event is from DJ culture,” Morehouse says. “Create:Fixate is not just an art scene, it comes out of rave culture. As we [ravers] get older we need to get more serious, add some light and something to look at to our parties.”
Berc is a former film editor who says she finds curating a similar challenge. Both, she notes, involve quilting images together. “Although there are different mediums presented in each show, I think there should be some sort of synchronicity as a spectator moves from one artist’s work to the next,” she says.
The first two years of Berc’s events unfolded in her loft at 11th and Central. As the number of participating artists grew she sought other venues, holding one party in Hollywood and three in Beverly Hills. The Spring Arts Tower event was her first in Downtown since August 2003. Berc says attendance and sales numbers (18 pieces were purchased) were just as strong as at the westerly locales.
Berc’s objective is to combine the underground art party scene common Downtown (DJs, cavernous spaces and “live art,” artists who create pieces during the course of the party) with the tasteful presentation of a gallery (good lighting and pieces hung with ample room between them).
Tim McCormick, whose paintings evoke a twisted version of children’s book illustrations, says his involvement in previous Create:Fixate exhibitions was beneficial – he sold a few pieces and landed a gallery show in Santa Monica. “At my point, it’s important to get out to whoever I can, keep plugging away and see what happens,” says McCormick. “What’s great about shows like this is that you get seen by so many people.”
Admittedly, the level of work was uneven, which is typical in underground shows. Some came from artists who had never shown before, while other participants have had gallery success. Highlights included McCormick’s new paintings, and pieces by Doug Murphy, who creates irreverent images of Lego structures.
Sci, a one-named member of band Sol Rising that played at the party, seemed surprised by the turnout. “When I first got here [to L.A.] a year ago I heard Downtown was alive once, a long time ago – like a ghost town. Now, I see there’s truly a renaissance going on.”
Berc continues to look at submissions, and invites young artists she meets at underground shows to Create:Fixate. All-female and sculpture shows are in the works, and her July party will focus on photography. As for Create:Fixate’s newest Downtown home, Berc says, “This is where our roots are, and I’m hoping it helps the revitalization.”
Visit createfixate.com for information about future events.
WHERE IT’S AT
Art parties like Create:Fixate transform unlikely locations into one-time hotspots, but Downtown is home to an eclectic mix of venues whose unique atmospheres and hip crowds create Downtown’s scene.
Zip Fusion A swanky eatery by day, this Arts District locale transforms most weekend nights into a lively lounge, where DJs draw a young, energetic crowd.
744 E. Third St., (213) 680-3770.
New Otani Hotel The Standard’s rooftop may enjoy a higher profile, but the annual summer beer garden atop the New Otani Hotel is one of Downtown’s hottest attractions. Beginning June 21, the rooftop opens weekdays from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. with $4 mugs and $6 plates of Japanese barbecue.
120 S. Los Angeles St., (213) 629-1200.
Figueroa Hotel Business types, hipsters and Staples Center refugees mingle poolside at the Moroccan-themed hotel, which ranks among Downtown’s most exotic, and surprisingly cheap, bar scenes.
939 S. Figueroa St., (213) 627-8971.
Traxx Bar The Art Deco splendor of the Traxx bar inside Union Station draws quiet types looking for a bit of old L.A. A jazz band serenades the sipping crowd every Saturday night.
Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St., (213) 625-1999.
Grand Star This Chinatown fixture draws a packed house every other Friday night, when the Firecracker dance club goes off. Fun-seekers also come each weekend for karaoke and live jazz.
943 Sun Mun Way, (213) 626-2285.
Dangerous Curve Downtown’s wild side turns out for the Saturday night art events at this experimental space, where bizarre performance art is de rigueur.
1020 Fourth Place, in the back of 500 Molino Street lofts, (213) 617-8483.