A Road of Vision

Culver City is in the process of reinventing itself as an arts and cultural hub. Although on the rise for the last decade, much of the city's innovation has yet to be noticed by most living in Los Angeles County, and even by it's own residents. The lack of information of the city's own inhabitants became apparent once I began to share my weekend with friends who reside in Culver City who were unaware that a Culver City Art Walk even existed.

The arts have been traditionally associated with the hippie and hipster neighborhoods of Venice and Silverlake. Even the term "Art Walk" often brings to mind the well known Downtown and Venice Art Walks. Relatively new to the scene, now in it's fourth year, the Annual Culver City Art Walk showcased more than 40 galleries along Washington and La Cienega Boulevard this past Saturday.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, KCRW, L.A. Weekly and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles sponsored this year's event.

Parking was an hour-long scavenger hunt that left this reporter traumatized and wanting to ditch the self-guided tour and sink into the cramped benches of Father's Office among other burger and beer enthusiasts. Counteracting this temptation I went on a mission with the expectation of being exposed to new artists, free alcohol and snacks. Luckily, I was not disappointed.
Walking through the first few galleries, I was close to dismissing Culver City's attempt at a day long art walk as overly ambitious until I stepped foot into the borrowed space of ThinkSpace, a gallery based in Los Angeles that showcases the "ever expanding new contemporary art movement exploding forth from the streets and art schools the world over." Exploding it was, and I wasn't the only one spending more than an hour lingering in their rooms. 

ThinkSpace's exhibition held an energy that differentiated the exhibition from many of the first galleries that to someone in their early 20s was, frankly, sterilized and dry. Fortunately, ThinkSpace was the beginning of several exceptional galleries littered throughout the Art Walk. As is the case for most large-scale events, exceptional pieces and artists are dispersed among a gathering of an overbearing number of galleries. This weekend's event was no different, with galleries such as ThinkSpace, Kaplin Del Rio, the Corey Helford Gallery, and Roberts & Tilton bringing life to the daylong event.

Galleries opened their doors at noon but even gems like ThinkSpace only reached full capacity by early evening. ThinkSpace was the most welcoming with not only an outstanding collection of pieces, but live music, food, drinks and artists painting on canvases throughout the day. I found myself revisiting the gallery more than once hoping to see the progress of several of the artists' pieces. Mear One, an artist showcased at the exhibition, began with a blank canvas and within a matter of hours completed an acrylic depiction of a winged woman puncturing a drill into a symbol of corporate culture with the backdrop of what one could only say brings a viewer back to the production design of Blade Runner, all with the eyes of several patrons staring into his brushstrokes.

Exhibitions of political protests, social commentary, and the exploration of Los Angeles were explored throughout the Art Walk.

Koplin Del Rio, a gallery located on Washington Boulevard presented Memory of the L.A. Billboard: Telepolis in the Archetype, a multi-media exhibition focusing on Los Angeles billboards. According to the gallery, the show hopes to have both the "artist and architect attempt to extrapolate observations that precipitate the social network of our city and engage the viewer in the everyday semiotics of the most prominent of architectural symbols, and the role it has played in our psyche, questioning why the investment in symbols constitute the way we live."

Several pieces focusing on billboards and cultural symbols such as the Hollywood and Sunset Junction sign were showcased to a receptive crowd. In these pieces, many of our familiar Los Angeles landmarks were defamiliarized, showing a different perspective of our city to inhabitants who had assumed they knew their city quite well.

L.A. Contemporary, a gallery located on La Cienega Boulevard presented Ma Yaling's "Tiananmen," an outstanding exhibition that focused on the artist boldly protesting Chinese authority. Her works display herself in suicide performances with Tiananmen as a backdrop, a politically charged area that has become symbolic with China's oppression of its own people.

Although at first sight, I struggled with the urge to dismiss and leave the event, by the 6th gallery I realized that this year's Art Walk in a city that is still making a strong effort to assert it's identity had much more to offer than mere architecture models and photos hung haphazardly on local businesses' walls.
Overall, I can say with confidence that I am glad to have walked until my feet resented me thoroughly. Saturday turned out to be a day well spent exploring the streets that any domesticated Los Angeleno would never walk voluntarily. Art walks are a great opportunity to open the mind and expose oneself to work that a person may not come across otherwise. This year's Art Walk did precisely that.

Culver City is definitely a city that has and continues to revitalize itself. This year's Art Walk is evidence that the city is alive and breathing with locals and artists wanting to be seen and heard. Hopefully, next year, the number of visitors will expand and Culver City will be one step closer to gaining the following it deserves.