What do you think of when you think about an artist's studio?
Do you think about a small room, bare and simple? In literature and films, the image of an artist's studio is a small attic room in a poor quarter of Paris, perhaps, or an old factory loft in Manhattan's SoHo. Or a converted warehouse in a seedy part of LA's downtown. Artists have always had to scrounge for studio space in down-at-heel neighborhoods. And where artists go, other artists follow, building a community where they can exchange ideas and gain inspiration from fellow artists. The neighborhoods evolve - changing from poor, dangerous, abandoned to hip, trendy, and desirable in a lightning flash.
There's always a tension - why do artists create communities that soon become too cool for artists to afford?
Student artists need workspace too, and UCLA's Art Department has built a community for its graduate student artists that embodies the same interesting conflict between underground and fashionable; grungy and gentrified.
The UCLA Art Graduate Studio is located in a former wallpaper factory in Culver City's Hayden Tract. The neighborhood is improving fast, its former warehouses and factories home to creative businesses like architecture firms, software companies, dance companies, graphic designers and animation companies. With the Expo Line scheduled to arrive this summer, the neighborhood will gain even more attention among LA's art and entertainment movers and shakers.
The UCLA building still has a funky feel, with arched wooden beams overhead, peeling linoleum and concrete beneath, and even patches of old terrazzo flooring bearing the name of the former wallpaper company. The space has been partitioned into cubicle-shaped studios maybe 12 feet square for each student. It's closed to the public except for once a semester, when an Open House offers studio tours.
I've visited several times, and each time I get lost. The place is a maze of hallways, U-turns, short stairways, storage bays, and dead ends. But each time, you stumble onto something wonderful. This time, I turned a corner and found a hallway strewn with....something.
What is it? Rafia? Twine? Fiber? Paper? Noodles? It wasn't until someone walked through and I heard the sound the footsteps made that I realized -
Well, see if you can guess. Watch the video and listen as [The Man I Love] takes a walk.
The hallway is strewn with curling, noodle-like strands of ceramic. Walking through, you step on pieces that shatter with a clattering bell-like jangle that makes you laugh in wonder. The sound is amazing!
The work is titled "Mind the Gaps, 2012" and it's by artist Shoshi Kanokohata.
If you live in Southern California, keep your eye on the UCLA Art Department. The Culver City studios Open House takes place near the end of each academic quarter. It's a chance to meet new talent; a chance to see what's happening. Some of the work is hit-or-miss, but more often than not, you wander into a room and find something fantastic there.