Laura Lark Loves You #2: Quake That Thing; California Uber Artists; Where’s a Man to Go?

by Laura Lark July 18, 2012

Questions? Comments? Ideas?

Send them to: [email protected] (or leave your message below)

Dear Readers,

Welcome back to Laura Lark Loves You! Please excuse the lack of an umlaut in the word “uber”–if anyone knows how to do that kind of stuff here, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

1. James Turrell, The Art World’s Original Party Boy

James “Badass Daddy” Turrell: Blowin’ Your Mind since 1966

Dear Laura,

Why does Turrell Inspire Inane Conversations? I tried to go see his holograms at Hiram Butler and three dudes were in the middle of the space loudly going on about South American and Spanish vacations – the last time I went to the Rice Sky-space for the sunset light show a bunch of frat kids were babbling the whole time.Wouldn’t this stuff go better with beer at an ice house? Why Turrell? Are they anti-quaker?He seems to inspire talking more than a bass solo at a jazz concert!

–Damon Smith
Dear Damon,

That must be really frustrating for you. I imagine that it’s difficult to really enjoy the sublime beauty of James Turrell’s works in such a raucous environment. I sympathize with your frustration and wish your experiences had been better, as the new installation at Rice is truly amazing, and we in Houston are very fortunate to have it here.

I see that you have problems, and I’m here to help. First off, I don’t wish to correct or offend you, but many of your issues lie in your misconceptions about the artist and the work. What people in the fine art world don’t understand is that James Turrell is not just a great artist and a Quaker who conceived the idea for the Live Oak Friends Meeting House in Houston–he is also the creator of the first real rave–a rather rustic affair in the New Mexico desert, and he is responsible for blowing millions of young people’s minds away with his groovy message of love and light.

Feelin’ the music, the light–the Spandex, dammit!

You ask “Why Turrell?”, but you can clearly see why people come to his work with the intent to socialize. Turrell’s work practically has the words “Peace Love Candy Raver” all over it. One of the biggest problems, as I see it, is that the dudes at Hiram’s and the frat boy types at Rice are just not cool enough. This is where artist intent deviates from reality. If those guys would just do things right and show up with a particolored wig and a few hits of X, they’d be great companions to your cosmic experience and you’d feel so good they couldn’t possibly get on your nerves.

I also agree with your disdain of the frat boys, as this demographic is totally wrong for the general Turrell vibe! It’s all about connection, and those types simply are not. But if you can’t envision the original rave concept with the work that Turrell unmistakably intended, if you can’t jive with the scene or feel too big of an age gap with you and the kids, you could take a look at the Rice Sky-scape and easily think, “Beam me up!” Therefore, anything you’d like to wear or bring that fits in with the Mothership Connection  is totally acceptable.

Good evening.
Do not attempt to adjust your radio, I mean art, there is nothing wrong.
We have taken control as to bring you this special show.
We will return it to you as soon as you are grooving.

Remember, too, Damon: James Turrell isn’t the only Pioneer of Art World Party, so to get all reverent around this stuff is a misguided approach. Have you seen the Dan Flavin installation at Rich’s? I was there last Thursday for the weekly drag show. I tell you–art appreciation doesn’t get any better than Flavin, dollar schnapps, a few pops of amyl nitrate, and anything Madonna! I could see the music!

If all else fails and you still can’t abide the behavior, slip one of the assholes a roofie. That’s how I took care of a couple of schoolchildren who wouldn’t shut up during Chelsea Girls.


Love, Laura Lark

2. California Uber Artists
(hum this subtitle and think Jello Biafra)

Mindy asks:  Should I move to Los Angeles?

This is a good question, but one I find impossible to answer on my own. You see, I rarely leave the plot of land I affectionately label “The Compound” (More Kennedy Than Koresh!). And though I am quite familiar with Southern California, as I once vacationed there yearly, my take on it is probably unrealistic. Unless it’s realistic to think that life there consists of rising every morning at ten, throwing on a bikini, sitting by the ocean, drinking Captain Morgan’s, and passing out till it’s time to pick up dinner at Carl’s Jr. Maybe that is realistic.

They’ll all be getting a little Captain in them, or I don’t know my Morganettes!

Nevertheless, I decided (as promised)  to consult those wiser than myself when I addressed topics I felt underequipped to answer.

With this in mind, I talked to a couple of friends (Al Herrmann and Eric Niebuhr) who grew up in Texas, moved to L.A., and either stayed for several years and left or are still living there. I also talked to Toby Kamps, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Menil Collection, as he was once curator and department head of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. I figured he’d have a pretty good take on SoCal. I also talked to a couple of artists and collectors who chose to remain anonymous. What mattered most to me in these conversations was what they did there and what they did to stay.

Niebuhr, now living in Australia, spent many years in Los Angeles, loves it, and encourages all who inquire to get packing and head west. He originally went there for his MFA in painting at Claremont.  Going to grad school made the transition to L.A. easier, he said, as he had friends there by the time he finished school. Eric, like everyone else, talks about the glorious weather. Al Herrmann,  having lived twenty years in Houston, says that he did not realize that he liked the outdoors until he moved there. Since that revelation, Herrmann has become a hiker, mountain biker, and runner. Further encouraging Mindy to head west, Al says,

There is theater. There is opera. There is music. There is Porn Star Karaoke (from which I recommend staying away). And for the Texan left in her, there are cowboy bars, with hitching posts with clients’ actual real – live horses tied to them.

Don’t be afraid of the Griffith Park Observatory! Not EVERY visitor dies a horrible and untimely death.

Everyone I talked to, on and off the record, agrees that Los Angeles has an exciting art scene. Toby Kamps says it’s a fantastic place for artists, and that the I-5 corridor is replete with excellent galleries and schools, and that a high level of debate surrounding the arts is always happening there. Like the others I talked to, Kamps has a high regard not only for the institutions in Los Angeles, but along the entire coast, from Tijuana to San Francisco. And if going to museums isn’t your thing and you’re sick of the same galleries, never fear: artist-run and artist-created spaces, like Mark Allen’s Machine Project or C-Level, pop up all the time. Everyone polled reported a high level of energy on that scene.

I slept outside for three days and Ben Stiller never showed up.

Could you fit in? Perhaps. Depends on your work. Eric Niebuhr seems to believe that everyone who goes there will find his or her niche, and the possibilities for young and under recognized artists are growing. Al Herrmann says that The Hammer recently opened Made in LA, the first LA Biennial, which focuses on emerging and underrepresented LA – based artists and has a $100,000 grand prize. And just think! If you go out there, you can read the Southern California version of Glasstire and explore all of the opportunities on THAT set of message boards!

Though possibilities are reportedly  abundant for all, certain types of work crops up more than others, and for good reason. As Kamps points out, the garage industries there–surfboards, skateboards, etc.–can provide inspiration as well as jobs. In one of the most stupefying and memorable lines I’ve ever heard in an interview, Kamps says: to not live in L.A. is hypocritical—we all watch too much TV and drive too many cars–might as well not fight it. Give Up: just like all those adorable posters around town tell you to do! Kamps also pointed out, when I asked why a Texan should relocate to L.A. rather than New York City (or Brooklyn), that Los Angeles is spread out like many cities in Texas, and that a Texan wouldn’t be thrown into a state of shock by living in a car culture. Probably true.

Don’t forget to pack your audiobook copy of “The Day of the Locust”

Also mentioned, naturally, was the great weather, and that a person can view the most exquisite sunset from his or her car…which brings us to the predictable downsides. Like traffic. It’s an unfortunate part of life, and it dictates what friends you will see more than you do. Places like the Bicycle Kitchen, promoting less driving, are cropping up, but it’ll probably be a while until they really catch on–if they ever catch on. Everybody still agrees that it’s a cool place, and those who live there are glad they do. Al Herrmann graciously listed his beefs with the place, despite his love for it. He misses thunder storms. Apparently left turn signals are very expensive, as no one there can afford them, and the lack of visible roadside signage is maddening. Service in grocery stores is also frustrating, and apparently Trader Joe’s needs a bigger parking lot.

One unnamed source points out that being good looking opens doors for a person in Los Angeles more than it does in New York. I think he’s right. I mean, the east coast kids are attractive and all, but if you want to see a really stunning grocery store sacker or barista, you’re more likely to see him in L.A. It only makes sense that the servants to the Pretty People be Pretty People themselves…

Does L.A. have a good pool of collectors? Is the market good there? It’s no secret that the economy in California sucks right now. This means that you’ll probably find a kick ass place to live for less money, but it might hurt your chances of landing that grocery store sacker job, even if you look like Charlize Theron. As far as collectors go, one put it fairly succinctly: anyone who collects art can afford to travel. Therefore, an art collector might buy stuff in L.A., Texas, Chicago, NYC–location means little.

Finally, I went to BLDGBLOG, authored by former Dwell senior editor Geoff Manaugh. Manaugh, a big fan of L.A., sees it like this:

L.A. is the apocalypse: it’s you and a bunch of parking lots. …No one’s looking out for you. It’s the only city I know where that’s the explicit premise of living there – that’s the deal you make when you move to L.A.
The city, ironically, is emotionally authentic.
It says: no one loves you; you’re the least important person in the room; get over it.
What matters is what you do there.

And if none of this helped, you could, as my friend Bill did, consult the I Ching:



I’ve done my best to present some options, Mindy. I hope they weren’t boring and that they help. All you gotta do now is decide whether or not to get in your car and drive.


3. Where’s a Man to Go? 

Dear Laura,

What’s your take on gallery bathrooms? I understand most of these places are public spaces and are fine with sharing their facilities with visitors. I was, however, surprised to find someone taking full advantage of the facilities at a recent opening. Granted, hors d’oeuvres were being served, but my stomach felt fine. I must admit that I am reluctant to use public facilities in such a manner, but to get to the question at hand, how do you feel about pooping in gallery bathrooms?

Pee Shy

Dear Pee Shy,

I would like to congratulate you. That string of sentences you put before me is downright tasteful–elegant, even. I was tempted to let it stand on its own, unanswered. But I wouldn’t be doing my job very well, now, would I?

I am sure it comes to no surprise that I frown on such activities. Unless you’re at an opening in the men’s room at a Citgo station in Vidor, you should know better. People like this are the reason why some of the gallerists I know make their facilities inaccessible. In certain galleries, you practically have to navigate a maze to get to the bathroom at all.

I have nothing funny to say here because this is no laughing matter! Looking at art should be an aesthetically pleasant experience–unless you’re at a Paul Mc Carthy or William Pope L. exhibition, and in that case you’ll want to drop trou and do your thing in the center of the gallery, for all to see. Otherwise, just stay home, for God’s sake! But if you find that you can not, truly can not contain yourself, you may go ahead and take “full advantage”. But only–and I mean this with no exceptions–if you bring your own copy of the Oxford English Dictionary for reading. That way people will see you coming. And run away screaming.

I like my art disgusting, not my gallery goers.

I certainly hope that our words serve as a deterrent, Pee Shy! Thank you for your conscientious behavior–and your fabulous style! If you could tackle the matter of errant dog owners next, I’d surely appreciate it.

Love, Laura Lark

P.S.: A million thanks for submitting questions! If you don’t see yours, I recommend that you wait patiently and stare at your computer screen until you do. It’s coming.

Questions? Comments? Ideas?

Send them to: [email protected] (or leave your message below)


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Nicola July 21, 2012 - 12:19

Chick, your writings are so witty. xo Nicola

Laura Lark July 27, 2012 - 19:07

🙂 Thanks!

start_ashby_high_rise July 22, 2012 - 14:16

Remember this acronym – DNDTD. And, no, it’s not a boy band.
Do Not Drop The Deuce.

Laura Lark July 27, 2012 - 19:06

let’s make t-shirts with that one!


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