Monday, September 5, 2011


Well, we're back. A good part of the weekend was spent in preparation for the big move back from the beach, and the return drive us took us the long way around, via the west part of town, in what turned out to be a fool's errand. A slightly annoying re-introduction to Los Angeles traffic--though it was relatively light, thanks to our having chosen Sunday for the drive...

We did go to the VIP opening of that big art event I mentioned in my last entry. Flag Stop was billed as "an unprecedented alternative contemporary art event," hosted by South Bay Lexus in Torrance. The upscale car dealership stripped out their entire facility--everything from the sales floors to the repair bays--leaving a massive open space for curated exhibitions inside; and outside, in the parking area, for rows of individual PODS--portable storage units converted into temporary galleries and exhibition spaces. One of them was occupied by our friend Valerie Wilcox, whose work I wrote about in an earlier entry in The Buddha Diaries, and who was much involved in the organization of the event.

It was one of those art events that is more about the hob-nobbing than about the art itself. There were simply too many people to catch up with and too much art to see. I hope that the following two days--the full duration of the exhibition--attracted plenty of people to actually look at what was on the walls. It was a remarkable assemblage of Southern California artists, mostly young and (to me at least) mostly unknown. I don't get around to the galleries as much as I used to. My overall impression was that the creative impulse continues to thrive in this part of the world, producing a fantastic variety of work in every medium you could think of. You have to love the spirit. No matter the wildly divergent quality, it's always a joy to see the results of the creative mind at work.

The highlight, though, was unquestionably the vast, airplane hanger-like space devoted to a museum-quality retrospective of the work of Bob Zoell, curated by former Los Angeles County Museum curator Howard Fox. It's twenty-five years since I wrote the text for a book about Bob Zoell that was scheduled for a publication that never happened. More's the pity. Bob is one of those remarkable artists whose work is too rarely seen in the mainstream venues, perhaps because of its insistent idiosyncrasy and, I think, its spirit of irreverence. His huge abstract paintings certainly have reference to such art terms as "minimalist" and "hard edge", but they are absolutely not reducible to those terms. They are confrontational in their deceptive simplicity, joyful in their sheer exuberance and, well, kind of funny. They're serious, certainly, but seem to refuse to take themselves too seriously. They make you smile. Here's "Hoots" (cel-vinyl on canvas, 168" x 168", 1989):

Bob's wry, sometimes caustic wit and powers of observation also find expression in the play of words, and the interplay between words and their social circumstance. His street art, using the medium of the familiar traffic and pedestrian signs you see everywhere, has been posted in public locations throughout the world. Here's the mock maudlin "I Wish I Was Happy"....

I also like "Nobody Understands Me, Call the Police" and "Stop Smoking: The End Is Near." And the more acerbic "Vote For the Party That's Destroying America."

Not much choice there, some might say. If you explore Bob's site a bit and take a look at his images, I think you'll get a kick out of his work. It was certainly a wonderful surprise to find it quite lavishly installed at Flag Stop, if only for a weekend. And a statement posted on the entry wall which included a quote from what I wrote those many years ago.

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