November is Native American Heritage Month, and Stephen Zeigler is working toward making it an urban experience.
While Zeigler stepped away from being part of Downtown Art Walk, the change in leadership encouraged him, and his gallery 118 Winston, to jump back in with vocal advocacy and a street art spirit.
Current work at the gallery, being introduced during Art Walk, is an extension of this week's protests of The Autry, held by the Friends of the Southwest Museum. It adds to Zeigler's cause that he has championed: Native American culture.
"The Autry Museum took over the Southwest Museum's collection of Native American art with the understanding that they would keep the Southwest Museum open," said Zeigler. "It's looking like they will not be following through with that."
One of Metro's highly anticipated metro rail projects is the South Bay Green Line Extension. The Green Line's current western terminus is Redondo Beach Station, located on the edge of Hawthorne and Redondo Beach's North Redondo Beach section. If all goes according to plan -- and there's little to believe that it won't -- the Green Line will be extended further southeast along the old Harbor Subdivision Transit Corridor right-of-way, into the small city of Lawndale, through northern portions of Redondo Beach, and finally on down to Torrance's planned Transit Center.
Definitions of what communities constitute the South Bay vary, but most would include those between the Santa Monica Bay and the 405 Freeway, stretching from Palos Verdes Peninsula in the south to Ballona Creek in the north. It's one of the most diverse regions in the Southland, with significant populations of Canadian, English, Filipino, German, Guatemalan, Indian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Persian, Salvadoran, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, and West African ancestral origins, which means, of course, that the region also boasts an amazing variety of eateries. It's one of the most physically beautiful regions of the Southland as well, with stunning beaches and incredible views of the ocean. Even the huge oil refineries -- though they regrettably contribute significantly to air pollution -- are captivatingly beautiful in their own way.
Although there are predictably those attempting to slow the rail's progress, suburban development of the South Bay was largely spurred by the arrival of rail. In the early 20th century the Los Angeles and Redondo Railway transported new homeowners to and from the region, primarily comprised of chicken ranches, dairies, and small farms growing strawberries, celery, flowers, and other crops. That railway was soon absorbed by the Pacific Electric Railway. Red Cars traveled along the wide median of Hawthorne Boulevard, which was known as Railway Avenue until 1933. The Red Cars stopped operating in the area in the 1940s and '50s, but rail never disappeared. Freight rail played a huge part in the South Bay's industrial development. Today BNSF -- the successor to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad which arrived in the 1920s -- still operates in the region.
If we call the seaside Santa Monica, home of Third Street Promenade, one of Los Angeles' major "satellite cities," then we must also grant the title to Pasadena, which goes its own way in the opposite setting, under the San Gabriel mountains. Both incorporated in 1886, both boast populations around 100,000 (Santa Monica a few thousand lower, Pasadena a few thousand higher), and both have gained reputations for substantial, if not outlandish, wealth. Both independent municipalities have also, in their separate ways and positions — Santa Monica to the west, Pasadena to the northeast — maintained a psychological disconnection from, not to say a disdain for, the metropolis between them. In Robert Altman's The Player, Tim Robbins' movie-studio VP undergoes casual police questioning. "You're putting me in a terrible position here," he says, nervously. "I'd hate to get the wrong person arrested." "Oh, please!" responds Whoopi Goldberg's detective. "This is Pasadena. We do not arrest the wrong person. That's L.A.!"
Rafael Schacter holds a Ph.D, but as his twitter profile warns, it is "useless in an airplane-based emergency." However, as an anthropologist, he may reveal that international graffiti and street artists are a consult to the ills of society. He is the author of "World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti," by Yale Press, and the upcoming "Ornament & Order: Graffiti, Street Art, and the Parergon," from Ashgate. Schacter is an honorary research fellow at the Department of Anthropology at University College, London, and Co-Curator for the Street Art Expo at Tate Modern.
With "World Atlas" featuring a Los Angeles artist on the cover, we wondered if there is graffiti work in London that can be seen as a visual link to Los Angeles. "Not really, sorry!" He said. But he did have other insights for us.
In the Postmodern era, cities are defined by traffic, endless sprawl, and overlapping and intersecting cultures. International cities like London, Madrid, New York, and Los Angeles especially display these qualities. Many 21st century poets create verse that matches the frenetic pace and cultural diversity of our era. This week L.A. Letters spotlights two poets, who both in their own way create ultramodern poetry of collision that inevitably answers metaphysical questions as it unfolds and unravels.
Long-lauded in the Spanish-speaking world as the foremost Cuban poet of his generation, Jose Kozer was born in Havana, Cuba in 1940, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Czechoslovakia. In 1960 Kozer moved to New York City, where he eventually taught at Queens College until he retired in 1997. Author of 52 books of poetry and prose, Kozer is the first living poet of the Cuban diaspora to have a book published in Cuba after the rise of Castro and the revolution.
Along with seminal Cuban poet Jose Lezama Lima, Kozer is associated with the "Neobarroco Movement." These writers are known for "a poetry marked by complex collisions between perspectives, language registers and layers of experience." As noted in the introduction above, this type of poetry matches the pace of our times. Thus it's no surprise that Kozer's poems are difficult, and many have a very riddle-like quality. The more you read them, though, the perspectives become clearer and his frenetic pace gets easier to decipher.
As an Angeleno, no matter of how brief a standing, you tend to want to steer visitors away from Olvera Street. I, for my part, have caught myself wanting to steer visitors away from Olvera Street without appearing to steer them away from Olvera Street. People who live elsewhere have heard of this set of narrow blocks in the very origin point of downtown Los Angeles as a shoppable commemoration of the city's past as an eighteenth-century Spanish, later Mexican, pueblo, and they often want to see it for themselves. People who live here have heard of it as an unforgivable corralling and sanitization of certain particularly saleable elements of Latin American culture, a tidy serving of "fake" Mexican presence in a town with such a rich banquet of "real" Mexican presence on offer. Yet it has everywhere become deeply unfashionable to appoint oneself a defender of the authentic, and rightly so; in few other places does the concept of authenticity carry so little concrete meaning. I can come to only one reasonable position to setups like Olvera Street: neither for nor against. You can only enter and observe.
In the last three decades Monterey Park became known as the first city and suburb in America to have an Asian majority. Advertised in Asia as the "Chinese Beverly Hills," the city's unique social history has made it the subject of several books in the last two decades. What's less known is the city's long legacy of ethnic diversity on several fronts. The Chicano population has been significant in the city for over three generations. Dating back to Eisenhower, Monterey Park was called the "Mexican Beverly Hills," for upwardly-mobile Mexicans in East LA. Furthermore there have been historic enclaves of Japanese-American, Armenian and Jewish residents in the city from the postwar period. There's also a historical museum and fully functioning Observatory run by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society within city limits. I've met many remarkable people in Monterey Park over the years and their stories are the bedrock of this narrative. This week L.A. Letters explores the landscape, cultural history and evolution of Monterey Park.
Situated just east of City Terrace and north of Montebello and Unincorporated East Los Angeles, Monterey Park's first outstanding asset is the area's geographical placement. The core of the city lies just east of the 710 freeway and in between the 10 and 60 freeways. Three foothills form the city's shape. The central position puts it within straight line striking distance of Downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, even Long Beach and the Inland Empire. Following the Tongva, aka Gabrielino Indians, long existence in the area, the land became a part of the outlying area of the San Gabriel Mission before becoming a part of the Spanish Land Grant that became the Don Antonio Maria Lugo Rancho in 1810.
To wax reminiscent about a trip to the Beverly Center seems to me to be a fool's errand. I am not a person who dislikes malls, I actually rather like them. Sometimes when I want to escape the never-ending griminess and terminal "uniqueness" of city life, I will go to the Beverly Center, get a slice of Sabarro pizza and buy some new lipstick from Sephora. But, this slick and clean mammoth of a mall is comforting to me because in a town full of personality, it has absolutely none. It is like Cedars-Sinai Hospital behind it- except its cavernous, antiseptic walkways are lined with dresses fit for a Kardashian, instead of rooms filled with medical instruments.
So, while a trip to the Beverly Center is nothing to write home about, I could go on and on about my childhood memories of the annual North Carolina State Fair. Every fall would bring the rides, the funnel cakes, the carnies, and the dust covered "fun" houses, with their distorting mirrors and human sized hamster wheels. I loved the roller coasters, the sticky games one could never win, and the temporary carny town of trailers that sat on the outskirts of the fair! My friends and I spent hours riding the swings that shot into the sky, and touring the off-brand tent of oddities named "Riley's- Believe It, You're Nuts!" There was something magical about how temporary and transient the amusements seemed, and how exciting it was to drive a bumper car as dirty and worn as my family's Toyota.
Muralists wait for no one. Once the ordinance was passed, permits were issued and the month brought reminders that the Los Angeles mural movement has an international reputation, its original practitioners and instigators go back decades, and the future promises new approaches to bringing art to the streets.
Even with the clearest of minds, personal and historical memory ebb and flow. Recollections of our own past and that of the society around us often become shaped by current circumstance and selective recall. If one adds dementia to the mix, personal memories become scattered vestiges of our former selves that bound across the mind. Lest one thinks society as a collective operates any better, it does not. You need only point to the occasional survey of American knowledge of U.S. history to know the past might stalk us invisibly at every moment, but as Americans we seem blissfully unaware.
When two-time gold medal Olympic diver Sammy Lee disappeared for several days this past April, the issue of personal and historical memory took on increased importance. Suffering from the onset of dementia,the famed Korean American diver was tracked down by investigators, finding him safe and sound in Pico Rivera. While Lee's diminishing memory serves as a testament to the individual tragedy that dementia imposes on millions of people around the world, it also highlights Lee's place in historical memory, particularly that of Southern California. Few individuals serve as a through line for Southern California's racial politics and the impact of Cold War America on its Asian American residents, than Sammy Lee.
Born in Fresno and raised in Highland Park, Lee epitomizes the California Asian American experience. As a child, Lee witnessed neighbors picketing his family's presence in their community. Adolescence proved little relief from such slights. Despite being the 1939 diving champion of Los Angeles, Lee faced resistant school officials when he put his name on the ballot for school president. "This school has never had a non-white student body president," Lee's principal informed him. "You might as well get your name off the list." Lee didn't and emerged victorious, telling the bewildered principal, "My fellow classmates do not look at me as Korean. They look at me as a fellow American."