Monday, October 27, 2008

Sculptured Pecs in Malibu; Getty Villa's Roman Statues & Outdoor Garden

Closed in 1997 for 9 years, the Getty opened its Italian villa doors again in early 2006. After multiple last-minute attempts to check out the Getty Villa, we finally got our act together and called a week in advance for tickets (they're free but attendance is limited with tickets only good for certain time slots each day.) I gotta say, for how much fore planning it takes to get the tickets, I was a little underwhelmed by it all.

The grounds--a replica of an ancient Italian villa buried under the ashes of Vesuvius--are definitely a more fitting backdrop to view the largely Roman and Greek statues and artwork than the modern Getty Museum, but the meticulously clean and orderly villa lacks much personality. I was more interested in the gardens than the artwork and we joined the audio tour of the gardens. The individual headsets magnifying what the live tour guide was saying were great but the guide's information centered around Italian history more than what we were looking at, and we soon lost interest and broke off to view the gardens on our own.
The petite herb garden looked nice but would have been more interesting if it came with plaques highlighting the names and uses of the different plants and the main garden with a rose bush flanked reflecting pool and the sparkling Pacific in the far distance was picturesque but there were no benches to sit and enjoy the space. Overall, the grounds were pretty, but more in a faux-authentic, Disney-fied way.

Inside, the majority of the original artwork has been moved to the new Getty and the remaining art focuses primarily on Roman, Greek and Egyptian sculptures, artifacts and paintings.

The Getty Villa is one of those things that's been on my to-do list for a while, so I'm glad I checked it out but if you're curious on what it looks like without really wanting to be bothered to book advance tickets and drive up to the Pacific Palisades, the pictures here pretty much cover all the highlights of the Villa.

Getty Villa
310) 440-7300 for advance tickets
Tickets: Free
Parking: $10

Monday, October 20, 2008

Artsy Politics: Ronnie Conal's "No Spitting, No Kidding" Exhibit at Track 16 Gallery

I've been on an artsy kick lately (hitting up Bergamot Station, the Getty Center and John Lautner's architecture exhibit at the Hammer in the past couple of weeks), and also on a bit of a political kick (thoroughly into TV's presidential debate season), so I was excited to check out L.A. political artist, Robbie Conal's "No Spitting, No Kidding" exhibit opening at Bergamot Station's Track 16 Gallery this past weekend.

I wasn't familiar with Conal's work prior to the exhibit but was intrigued when I read a profile describing him as one of Shepard Fairey's inspirations and contemporaries. Apparently, Conal has quite a following; several hundred people--a good mix of older, serious artsy-fartsy folks, casually curious art appreciators like me and black-rimmed glasses-wearing Westside 30-somethings--turned out for the event.

Spread throughout 5 large rooms in the 6,000 sq foot gallery, the exhibit is a retrospective showcase of his work over the past 25 years. The eye-catching collection includes large, goopy oil paintings of political figures with pithy slogans (my favorite is the above portrait of Reagan sandwiched between the words CONTRA and DICTION), smaller charcoal-on-canvas caricatures of iconic political personalities and splashy mural-sized collages skewering our obsession with pop culture (American Idol, Michael Jackon and even Alf and the smurfs get an artistic shout-out.)

I could explain the clever and visually arresting art pieces in more detail, but they say 5 pictures is worth five thousand words...

The opening reception invite touted a surprise musical guest by a "Hollywood Bowl" headliner. The amps and guitars set up in the corner clued me in it wasn't going to be the Philharmonic but I was stoked when L.A. Latin/hip-hop/punk band Ozomatli greeted the crowd. The surprise bonus concert capped off a great night of complimentary booze and conversation-starting artwork. Ozomatli played a breezy 6-song, 40 minute set, including a band-&-audience group serenade of 'happy birthday' to artist and birthday boy, Ronnie Conal. The fact that the high-energy concert was inside an art gallery--usually a venue that encourages hushed tones--made it even more fun. Even better was seeing the gray-haired art-crowd contingent enthusiastically bopping their heads to the punky, 8-piece band and grabbing flyers to the 2am afterparty at an undisclosed location in downtown L.A.

The exhibit runs through November 22nd. Whether you agree with Robbie Conal's political philosophies or not, his visually arresting artwork is worth checking out and a great excuse to visit the greatly underrated Bergamot Station art galleries.

Ronnie Conal "No Spitting, No Kidding" Art Exhibit
Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station
2525 Michigan Ave, Bulding C-1, Santa Monica
Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Whatever Floats Your Boat: A Session at "Floatation Location's" Sensory Deprivation Tank

Yesterday, I headed to Venice’s Floatation Location to redeem my gift certificate my friend Melissa gave me for a complimentary ‘float session.’

Although sensory deprivation water tanks are purported to be an ultimate relaxation inducer—their website lists benefits including alleviated stress, diminished depression and anxiety, released muscle tension, deep meditation and even freedom from habits, phobias and addictions—the Floatation Location is not for the pampered Burke Williams Spa attendee. Tucked away in a non-descript mini-mall along Venice’s beachfront walk, the bare-bones space has more of a vibe of a home office/reception area...but with two doors leading to a set of super duper bathrooms equipped with a shower and enclosed metal bathtub contraption.

Don’t let the grungy setting sketch you out; the tank is filtered, drained and cleaned after every float session, and the near ton worth of Epsom salts kills off any lingering bacteria from the previous floatee.

Owner Chris Rymarz greeted me and gave me the low-down; “you take off your clothes, shower off any lotions and soaps on your skin then go float in the tank.” He handed me a set of ear-plugs (to protect against salt-crystals in your ears after the water evaporates) and explicit instructions to keep my face dry (so the salty water won’t run into and sting my eyes or nose) and left me to it.

I had no idea what to expect (a coffin-like capsule? A giant dunk tank like at a fair?) but the float tank is like a regular bathtub enclosed in a 5ft-high metal contraption with a refrigerator door opening. I opened the door to find a dark but shallow bath.

I sat down in the 14” deep tub and close the door. Complete darkness.

Being inside a pitch black box is surprisingly not claustophobic at all, the darkness makes the space around you feel more vast and outer space-like than tight and enclosing. The warm water is only about a foot deep, but with 800 lbs of Epsom salts dissolved into the oxygenated water, I had the buoyancy of a cork; as a laid down, my limbs and torso automatically floated to the top. Lined with a black interior, it’s too dark to see anything and there’s no difference if my eyes are open or closed. With my ears half submerged underwater with earplugs, all I can hear is the sound of my own breathing (which automatically shifts to a slow, deep inhale, exhale) and my heartbeat.

Laying on top of water is really comfortable, but I’m a fidgeter so I rotated between the various poses Chris recommended; arms out to the side in a yoga Savasanah pose, arms bent by my head in a ‘hands up or I’ll shoot’ position and entwined behind my neck in a ‘reclining in a deck chair’ pose. Relaxing my mind took a bit longer, but I slowly embraced the nothingness and entered a calm, dreamy state.

Thoughts drift in and out of my head then soon, I feel ready to get out. I have no sense of time and worry it hasn’t been long enough (I want to get my gift certificate’s worth) but when I check the clock, I’ve been floating in oblivion for 70 minutes. I can still feel my achy, knot-filled shoulders and I'm pretty sure the float hasn't cured me of my bad habits, but I feel both super relaxed and refreshed.

It’s hard to explain the experience but the closest description is as if you were sleeping, but also awake so you can consciously enjoy the feeling of snoozing. Floating might not for everyone, but it's an interesting-enough experience to try if you want to block out the world for an hour or so.

Floatation Location
Hours Vary, call for an appt: 310 255-1905
$50 per session