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PETER FRANK


LETTER TO NEW YORK

Thanks for coming to the openings of those shows I helped organize in No-Ho! I wish we'd more time to talk and hang out; oh, well, next time. But that quicky September visit might be the only time we get to see one another for the rest of the year--unless you join the art wagon train headed west.

Have you been reading or hearing about the Big Boys' descent on L.A.? Pace Wildenstein and Gagosian have both opened in Beverly Hills, Sotheby's has relocated in B.H. to larger, spiffier quarters, and Fred Hoffman--who was originally supposed to be in with Gagosian, or am I just recalling rumors?--just reopened his new emporium within striking distance of Bergamot Station, and has kicked off a New Yorkocentric first season with George Segal's photo-sculptures. Pace Wildenstein is also recycling New York-approved stuff, with Chuck Close's mega-portraits of Roy Lichtenstein, Alex Katz, Lorna Simpson, etc.; William Wegman's latest (and some of his best) dog shots (mostly with the late Fay Ray's sons and daughters--Nicholas, Satyajit and Hip Hip Hoo); and a buncha things on paper by Georg Baselitz timed to coincide with Mr. Upside Down's retrospective at LACMA--yep, the same retro that the Guggenheim had last spring.

If all that doesn't make Los Angeles the first stop on the New York road show, I don't know what does. And then, of course, there's the real road show, the three-day Chateau Marmont Art Fair rearing its hipper-than-hip head for the second time, at the beginning of next month. Given all this New Yorkana flooding the local scene, I don't have to come back, except to see you and my family, and to get in some walking. Actually, with the gallery clusters in Bergamot, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and La Brea Avenue, one can put in at least a little bit of legwork in the process of art-hopping. But only a little--with too little shade, making the prospect of hoofing it anywhere in this burg a sunburn-risky business.

The UV-intensive environment had been one of the principle things that prevented me from moving out here earlier--that, and the difficulty of finding a genuine egg cream. I thought I had the latter finally licked earlier this year; an old New York delicatessen family moved out here and opened up a deli with all the trimmings, training every one of their waiters to shpritz and mix the U-Bet and the seltzer just right. There was a lot of other stuff going for Ziggy G-s deli, too (best pastrami, best chicken soup, open 24 hours, comfy space), enough to prompt me to give 'em a paragraph in the Weekly's latest "Best of L.A." issue. Wouldn't ya know it, though, the very week the issue comes out, Ziggy's gets into a spat with the landlord and splits its digs precipitously. The sign on the door reads, "CLOSED due to circumstances beyond our control. Watch for our reopening soon in Beverly Hills." (Circumstances beyond our control? Should this come with a test pattern?) Reopening in Beverly Hills, eh? First Barney's, then Pace Wildenstein, now Ziggy G's. Here comes the neighborhood.

Pace Wildenstein went in right above Planet Hollywood. Now why is Planet Hollywood in Beverly Hills and not in, well, Hollywood? Pretty much for the same reason the Pace isn't, cuz there's little proper about Hollywood. Have you seen the 'wood lately? No? Okay, do you remember Times Square about four years ago, just about the time the big rehabilitation project was getting off the drawing board? Okay, add Mann's Chinese Theatre, a lot more runaways, and a bunch of earthquake-terminated buildings and you have Hollywood today. But if Times Square can rehabilitate, Hollywood can too--and is trying.

Can you envision Times Square as a primo neighborhood for alternate art spaces? Yeah, actually, it does make sense. More sense than Hollywood Boulevard--but there they sit, LACE and LACPS, amidst the souvenir shops, the lingerie outlets, the desperate individuals pounding the pavement and the worn bronze stars embedded in it. LACPS, now known as Re:Solution, has been quick off the mark, ecstatic just to be housed in a decent-sized space. LACE has been sluggish, but now, a year into its new home, and with the usual change of directors, it's finally getting its performance schedule together. In many folks' estimation, the performance programming at LACE is even more important than the exhibition schedule.

Places to see new stage work and hear new music are unfortunately too few and far between right now. Happily, as LACE's revivification demonstrates, we're no longer sitting around bitching about it. A new generation of perfo-venues is beginning to pop up, in places both expected (Glaxa, a club-like space in Silverlake), and unexpected (the new Art Center in Huntington Beach--dude!). We'll see how varied, durable and manifold these prove to be, but anything is welcome after the dearth of the last few years.

What we could really use is a new art magazine or two. Instead, there are fewer and fewer. Artweek is now a monthly (never mind the name, the schedule ain't the same). And I told you that we've had to suspend publication of Visions [Frank is the editor of Visions, just in case ya didn't know already--Ed.] until next year. At least we now reasonably hope to have it up and running again by mid-1996. Raising the funding to make up for the loss of the major backer--our printer--proved a daunting task, and in this age of fiscal fear, a virtually insurmountable one. I think we're now on the right track: we're assembling a board of advisors (advising on matters of both production and financing) and it looks like a new printer has been attracted who is willing to donate some in-kind work. I bite my tongue, of course, it's reality when and only when the next issue hits the stands.

I know, I know, what do we need a printer for anyway? Just put the friggin magazine on-line. Oh, it would be nice to have a Visions Web site, I guess, but our readership is still made up heavily of paper addicts, four-color glossy freaks, and other publication heads. For my money, cyberspace is a good place for writin', but not so good for lookin'. The quality of image retrieval still doesn't rival print reproduction, and it takes so damned long to download a picture file. ArtScene has a site, and seems to be making energetic use of it--I just helped judge its first on-line art competition (would you call that determining an artist's Net worth?). But in general the technology, which had been outstripping demand, is now lagging behind it. Aah, but that's this month. . .

I'll tell you what I'd really like to see: a monthly digest of reviews and commentary about art in Southern California done as a glorified newsletter, no color repros (if any at all), minimal advertising, and covering as many venues as possible. ArtScene tries to do that to a certain extent, but it has only so much room, and has to devote most of that room to listings. There are plenty of useful and/or successful newsletter-format art mags around, from Print Collector's Newsletter to Umbrella, so there is a demand for word-intensive coverage. You know, such a Southern California Art Newsletter could be collated and desktop-published by one person (althought s/he would need someone else to manage business and distribution). The big costs would be the paper (which is no small expense these days!) and the phone. Contributors could send in material on disk, or even modem it in, layout could be done ad hoc, and. . .and. . .and. . .

No, no, a thousand times no. I'd love to edit such a thing, but publish it? Hey, just what I need, another formidable project. Starting work towards a doctorate isn't enough, huh? Gimme a break. And in the meantime, gimme a call. As the Italian dietitian said, Ciao belly. . .

P.(h. and D. still to come)