Friday, March 23, 2012

MAKING ART BETWEEN THE STREETS


BRUNNING DOWN THE HOUSE
         Echo Park, CA – When I ask my peeps in the scene how they feel about LA, the answers always fall in two slots. It’s either ‘I Love LA’ or I hate LA; there is nary a wishy-washy in-between. For my readers who have never been to Los Angeles, or to New York City for that matter, it is easy to find reasons not to like living in ‘the big city’. After my week long stay in the Big Apple back in high school, I understood the tagline, “It’s a great place to visit but…” Before Occupy LA I used to feel the same way about Los Angeles. That all changed when I got to see the Blade Runner level of the town, without all the rain.
        Having been one of the oldest communal gathering spots [settled September 4, 1781] and the least racially divided, there is a mystery that is the art/style of the place and the people. This same quirk, if you can call it that, is also found in the architectural variety of design found everywhere around the city. When you spend two months on the ground, sometimes in the rain and wind with the people of LA, Angelinos as they are called, rather than just swooping in as a passenger to see a show like youse lived in Joewzee at twrdy-twrdy and twrd, something happens to you, especially if you are a romantic at heart. Being back in Echo Park, a hipster [in the nicest sense] area by night, for a Valentine Holiday was just the break I needed from the revolution.
        I’ve mentioned that LA is hilly. The hills are short and choppy so the city is built out and the hills are built in, making the landscape and structures multi-leveled like something drawn on a tourist t-shirt. I found this out one day as I walked along the Sunset Blvd overpass that runs over Glendale. Peering over the railing and looking down, I noticed that the end of the block art gallery had an entrance on Sunset Blvd and an entrance on Glendale. How interestingly peculiar since the Sunset entrance only descended a floor at the doorway when I had seen it open on nights of past visits to the district, see archive OLA stories. I made a mental note to come back later that first Friday in town, as my Spidey sense was tingling.
        Returning that night to the last doorway on the block which was now open with a sign announcing Rafa’s Lounge, I sidestepped the raised first step and walked down the one flight of concrete steps to the lounge floor. A turn to the left in one direction revealed a sitting room with a table in the center and walls where paintings or drawings were hung. However, a turn to the left and straight, led down a hallway and an angle to the right with more small rooms on the left and on the right a cutout revealing a cabaret, complete with a stage and café tables. All this, the hallway and the cabaret butted into a bar where the signature painting used on the lounge business card hung. The painter is Rafa, a full-time welder [his day job], full time artist [paints and sculpts], and part-time gallery operator [Fri-Sun, most weekends, 1836 W. Sunset Blvd, Echo Park, 213-413-4464, next to the vintage clothing store] of Rafa’s Art Lounge.
        Getting the grand tour from Rafa who was the only one there when I entered at around 8PM, the mystery of the two entrances on two different streets was solved. At the hallway turn to the right for the cabaret area, should you look to the left, a short hall reveals another flight of concrete stairs, this time leading down to Glendale Blvd. Though new to me, Rafa is in his 15th year of hosting the gallery spot and I’ve heard a Brit owned the place, which is like a redecorated large apartment built between two street levels, before that. The tour also reveals the talent of Rafa; in the style of the cabaret décor which is the most recent addition, in many of the paintings, and in the metal sculptures that are found here and there.
        Winding back over to in the sitting room, Rafa showed me the work of the current artist in residence, William Brun. ‘Mr. Brun is expected later this evening at any minute’, said Rafa to this reporter but alas, I was done, with my curiosity sated, it was up the stairs back onto Sunset as Rafa called, “He’s here! William Brun is here.”
        I turned and walked back down between the streets to discover art being made.
Gathered at the table in the sitting room were several artists with William Brun at the head of the table end away from the entrance. One of the artists was actively sketching a comic book panel and as I found out later, this was Michael Jasorka (see Close Encounters of the Graphic Kind).
       William Brun is in his 70s and he credits his long career as an artist to the undying support of his wife Melinda. Sporting a ten o’clock shadow, and being the senior fellow, we all chimed in our outlook on the current state of affairs as I threw in my most recent Occupy observations for feedback from a well seasoned mind. In the end we were all left with points to ponder upon before William untied his bound together portfolio to show some of his work to me.
       We had started conversing about picture art rather than music which is my usual beat. That was a pleasant change for me. All of us dropped the names of our favorite pop culture artists and experiences as we chilled between the streets. From time to time I would see a guest stroll past the hallway door headed to the cabaret. I told William of the art scene in Temecula as I talked of the valley, the mountains, the clean air, and the magic of the area.
       “I am a 20th Century artist. My canvases tell allegorical tales spanning over 44 years. I’ve been making images, expressing my thoughts as I record my family, my friends, and my models on canvas, paper, and computer prints. I am always ready to exhibit these works of art to the world.”
       I would label the art style of William Brun as classic modern retro and I feel a showing at the Merc would draw patrons, especially fans of T-town talent Sherry Williams. Because if pictures were music, William Brun’s art would be jazz!

William R. Brun, artist, 213-925-5652, or PO Box 75359, Sanford Station, Los Angeles, CA 90075





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