Hot Rods at the Art Park

The Barnsdall Art Park has a funny feeling about it when you go up there. Originally planned as a “progressive theatrical community” by the eccentric heiress of an oil fortune it feels like a place that was once striving to create great cultural things but has since been somewhat forgotten in the vast cultural landscape of Los Angeles. The grounds are amazing, with a sort of random Frank Lloyd Wright building and a view from the top of Olive Hill that sweeps over a vast portion of the Southland basin. Already almost 100 years old, the place has the architectural pedigree and fancy real estate that suggests the high minded ambitions of someone looking to impress the muckety mucks of Los Angeles.photoBut those muckety mucks have a lot of options for cultural stimulation now in Los Angeles and most of them live far west of this oil baroness’s impressive cultural artifact. So what does this certainly well endowed board decide to do now? Turn the keys over to one of the many grad school approved collectives that program much of the city’s noodling art adventures? Or, invite this guy and friends in?photo 3photo 1photo 2You have to admire the populist impulse of bringing in one of the most notorious members of L.A.’s hot rod scene into the Art Park for a mini-retrospective of his wild and crazy art work. Robert Williams first came to most peoples attention for his mind blowing, disgusting painting that blazed across the inside cover of the Guns n’ Roses Appetite for Destruction album. He then went on to found Juxtapoz magazine, which still publishes art born of the hotrods, band posters and the streets. All of these artists seem to have almost nothing else in common beyond great skill and interests that lie outside of the stuff you see at the Hammer Museum.photo 2photo 4 photo 4 photo 1While I as looking at this Mark Dean Veca painting,  I accidentally made eye contact with this guy:photo 3All in all this exhibit is an exciting and inspiring collection of extremely well made crazy shit. Some of the work leaves your consciousness almost as soon as you walk by it, while other pieces stick a bit longer if for no reason than the conundrum of trying to figure out how it ended up here amongst this other stuff. Maybe that is great thing about this exhibit, many of the artists have gone on to blue chip galleries and respectable museums that have nothing to do with this scene. But it was this populist, democratic art scene and the vision of Robert Williams that gave them a little shine in the first place. And that’s worth going to check out. Plus the place is great for picnics.