17 Jan
Emus, Pam Anderson and sadistic Barbies

Nothing like hopping on your bike on a summery January night in Los Angeles to seek out some art. The other night as the Santa Ana winds whipped around Santa Monica, I pedaled with my friend Ruby to check out the opening night of photo l.a. xx, the twentieth anniversary of the longest running art fair outside of — you guessed it — New York. I’d never heard of photo l.a., and when a photographer friend turned me onto it I decided to add it to my list of artistic discoveries in the City Of Angels. This is no DIY art movement and the crowd was pretty swank, but it’s a huge collection of amazing photographs past and present. Wandering around the Santa Monica Civic, where the opening took place, it kind of felt like strolling through the biggest photography exhibit on earth. There’s everything from B&W 1940s pics of tattooed sailors and pinups to untouched photos of Marilyn Monroe and Patti Smith to more refined, “artsy” photos of naked people and food. A personal favorite of mine was “The House of Life and Death” by LA-based photographer Niku Kashef. It involves a defiant looking pre-teen girl, a bow and arrow, Barbie dolls and horses. I could stare at it for hours.

Ruby and I strolled around with our wine and checked out a photo of two young shirtless boys on the beach drinking out of straws, which caused the very skeptical Ruby to comment, “Hmmm… suspicious.” We strolled on.

Hit the Jump to read about Pam Anderson’s boobaliciousness and Ansel Adams envy…

“We turned a corner and were accosted by a B&W pic of Pamela Anderson looking particularly skanky and boobalicious…”

We found some still life photos of ostriches or emus or something lying dead yet pretty on a silver platter. Ruby was less skeptical of this than of the beach boys. “I like the emu,” she admitted. “Look at its hands… well, they’re probably not called hands.” I agreed with Ruby and we strolled along.

There are some beautiful photos on display by Mitch Dobrowner, whose ability to capture nature would make Ansel Adams feel a little bummy. At the risk of sounding pretentious (which of course means I am about to sound pretentious) Dobrowner’s pics look like god took a photo. As we stared at his work we wondered aloud how the hell is he able to capture those images. They’re pretty astounding.

We turned a corner and were accosted by a B&W pic of Pamela Anderson looking particularly skanky and boobalicious. It was kind of a buzz kill so we hurried to the next booth which featured an “untouched” B&W of Marilyn Monroe. I loved it, you could see her flaws — the few flaws she had — and it made it all the more awesome. A woman walked up to me and explained that it was indeed untouched and she spouted off about the virtues of the photo, evidently mistaking me for a human being who could afford to buy such a thing. I played along, smiled, thanked her and went to find my similarly unemployed companion Ruby.

As we walked out of the exhibit towards our bikes, Ruby pontificated, “Just because it’s creative doesn’t mean it’s good…. Or art.” I agree. But how will you know what inspires you or turns you off if you don’t seek it out?

The photos are on display through January 17, and there are lectures and events all day, every day. Check the photo l.a. site for details. It’s inspiring, and worth the trip.

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