Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Monday, September 5, 2011

It was hot last week, 109 degrees anywhere inland and flat.  And however great the eastside is, if you don't live up the hill, you are inland and flat. I like the heat, I like the sauna.  But I also like it for its contrast to the perfect SoCal weather. Perfect SoCal weather = warm, on the edge of hot during the day, and then a drop off in evening air temp that makes you get your sweater... add, just a little wind or rain to wash the sky clear.

It was one of those days, one of the first few of the season.

I slept late, woke up happy *sandwiched in on the second day of a three day week-end*, and made coffee. I talked to my sister on the phone and went to Missy's yard in Silverlake  The champagne and cupcakes were extraordinary- but we also got the gratuitous rainbow, lavender sunset
and then, rare thunder and lighting.

I am glad I was listening to music and_ awake, to hear the rain. Its a very good Los Angeles day, 3 am, the rain stopped. Its so quiet, except for the idle sound of a skateboard being flipped up against the wet curb.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I am in one of those alley access spaces in Los Angeles that is like the junkie sister to Japan's outdoor rooms. Space is not folded so tightly on itself here, nor so refinely detailed- but you can still get the feeling that outside is as domesticated as the inside and passing between is almost seamless. The (western expansionist) mentality to conquer or at least engineer nature has drawn the line very clearly in our collective mind between domesticated space and that which is not controlled. Japanese thinking does not differentiate the two so clearly.

Los Angeles does share the value of impermanence.

I like burry edges. LA usually achieves the lack of definition through inattention to space. We are spoiled by climate and abundance. I appreciate, I am at home, in the under done-ness of LA.

This place is in an alley off Temple, defined by 3 concrete frame brick infill walls, a taco truck closes the alley side, they have spread out a couple tables and chairs on the asphalt below. The sky is a saturated blue and there is no darkness. Christmas lights and power lines hang across the deck. I sit on an outdoor couch under a chandelier that is the full moon. Its a balmy night and the weather outside is just a little bit better than inside.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Graffiti-free LA River / Mary Ruefle's erasure poetry 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I saw the Mountain Goats perform at the El Rey. John Darnielle played a black pin-striped guitar in a black suit, pink tie, and bare feet. I did not capture an image so good, but I did sketch people while I waited. I gave the most labored portrait to its subject, a security guard. He was not altogether happy with the belly I gave him, or rather the one he possessed. My favorite drawing of the group is the most efficient, it looks like the guy I was saw across the dark theater. It looks like a guy I see at most shows.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Tile House

When we arrived, George Ehling was tiling the inside of garage. He had simultaneously a design underway for the floor and walls, completely independent of one another and harmonious.  The other single garage, a board formed concrete structure at street grade, was also a work in process. George had on sloppy weekend work attire that might suggest a hobbyist who retired at night to a corduroy lazyboy and comfy standard issue living room, but we were about to get a genuine Hollywood tour, complete in showmanship and talent.

Our group, organized for Obscura day by de LaB, was waiting for the rest of the members to arrive, but George could not wait. He kept trying not to start the tour, with irrepressible fits and starts we were drawn into his property. What might have been a short journey up his hillside property was an odyssey of tile work. The front wall, the exterior stairs, the every small landing, and entire façade of his house is covered in tile. It is hard to relay the extent and intensity of the work.  Expected tiled features, such as a fountain or fireplace, met with the completeness of tiled walls and ceilings, and then extended to the unexpected bed, bookshelf or tiled rock.  Architectural follies contained an outdoor shower and laundry facilities.

Ehling’s work is not charming due to obsession or naiveté.  The work displays great variation in style and scale.  He is an excellent colorist and inventive in has pattern making.  There are examples of figuration and abstraction.  He explored shifts from neutrals to color using the same patterns. He traveled to Europe to study tiling techniques, but got most of his tile from the trash behind tile suppliers in Los Angeles, with a few special pieces purchased from Europe. George made the formwork himself from coffee cans, buckets, plywood and wire mesh. He was a strong man working in Hollywood in front of the camera and behind as a scene builder. His concrete capitols are casts from the studio’s prop departments. George’s enthusiasm has a beguiling innocence. He is very enthusiastic and passionate. He was also funny and surprising.

George likes to share his work with people. We were invited to hear stories of his family and neighbors over the years and saw pictures of a rescue he made when he pulled a drowning woman in the Seine River. He cut quite the muscle-bound figure. He started the project in his forties. George appears to be a fit 70 year old, except he is in his 80’s. His wife doesn’t want him on a ladder anymore, but he says he does not lack the energy for the work. The nights when he can’t tile are harder to fill, but he is learning to use the internet. His stories of the process paint a picture of his family and a neighborhood.  He talks about how many people have stopped to talk to him over the years while on the ladder and it seems this was a very important part of the process, describing a particular kind of neighborhood feeling that George said existed before “ this area got fancy.” His neighbor’s son, who is his son's age and still close to the family, drove us up to his house, which says something about what it was like to grow up in the neighborhood 30 or 40 years ago.

It was hard to tell what kind of house this was before George arrived. It is an intimate estate now because  the totality of its treatment serves to incorporate its outdoor spaces, it seems both rambling and intimate at the same time.  It was certainly a well appointed house with handsome rooms but not particularly large by today’s standards.  The other reason it difficult to picture the house in its previous incarnation is that George and his family have been inventive in the way they have chosen to live in it. They rent out two different areas including all of the bedrooms. You have to wonder if it is for the income or the social interaction. George had consolidated his family closely around the grand living room, with his son’s room in a very small library off of the living room, and the master bedroom in a salon style room open to the living room and to the courtyard at the back. In the courtyard are the architectural follies containing an outdoor shower, George’s temple of the body as he called it, and spire topped laundry enclosure.  George said he wouldn’t do filming, but he loved doing photo shoots.  They pay good money and they left the food, which he and his wife could live off of for days. When his piano virtuoso son was young they used to invite neighbors into the house for concerts, they put out a spread and ask for a donations. The continuity created by the equal embellishment of indoor and outdoor spaces, the continuity between family and community, the creativity of both George’s work and his way of living are a charming example of Southern California life.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I noticed how remarkable the day was within a block of leaving my house Friday morning. The ascension up my palm tree lined street was a drive into the cloudy blue sky, a panorama of mountains, the Hollywood sign, the Observatory. Los Angeles looks even more beautiful after the wind than after the rain. I left the studio to meet a friend for lunch, walked across the river and the train way to Union Station. I stopped on the bridge to smell the crisp fresh air mixed with fragrant new blacktop.