Friday, April 28, 2006

The Brewery's artless walk...

What an incredible location. There on the northern outskirts of downtown LA, smack dab in a drab industrial wasteland, lies The Brewery Art Complex. Over 300 unique, live-in artist's lofts spread out over 21 buildings on 17 acres butted up against the very functioning rail road tracks. It's huge and it's dilapidated in all the right ways. The original brick brewery buildings with their walls covered in enigmatic signage make up the core of the complex, reminding us that once upon a time, commercial architecture was not hideous by nature. Additional low- tech modern structures made from poured concrete and corrugated metals compliment the grounds nicely. Sure it gets hotter than Hades there, especially when you have a tin roof over your head and no a/c in the middle of August... but hey, these are artists. Suffering releases creativity molecules...Right? If the Brewery's bi-annual art walk is any indication, the answer is: Wrong.

I've been going to these art walks for five or six years now, and each one is incrementally more disappointing than the next. The idea is you spend the day walking in and out of all the artist's studios seeing their work and drinking their cans of Tecate beer. It's pleasant enough, but don't come down here and expect to have your socks blown off. Word is that all the really good artists at the Brewery shut their doors because they don't want to be associated with all the doodlers and the lost rich kids who dabble in fingerpaints. Fair enough. But where's the community? Fitting that it's called an art "complex" not an art "colony." There is no unifying spirit here. There is no collective sense of bonding creative visions towards some larger idea or cause or mission. Hell, they don't have to save the world - the mission could be fame: we're the coolest art colony in the world. But as is, you get a deeply unsatisfying cocktail of isolated ego trips going nowhere... 300+ desperate cries of "I'm special!" that confirm just the opposite.

Let's rethink this incredible LA resource. Let's put together a team that goes around the world inviting artists and thinkers and other fiercely creative individuals to the Brewery to band together as part of a loose collective force... A thriving common ground for artmaking, creative play, open conversation, and critical action. These are the kind of think tanks we need to balance the thorny likes of The Heritage Foundation and The Cato Institute. Functional and vocal arts collectives are of vital importance to unborn ideas and progress everywhere, and we're simply missing the boat.

Now that I've slandered the Brewery into a pile hops, let me say something nice. For me, the queen of the Brewery will always be Carlee Fernandez. Also hats off to Christian Ristow, Babbette Hines and The Found Photo, Bookfinger, and SuperHappyBunny.


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