Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Union Theater

What a history this place has!

Today, it is The Velaslavasay Panorama on 24th between Vermont and Hoover. What is a Velaslavasay Panorama?  According to their website, "an exhibition hall, theatre and garden dedicated to the production and presentation of unusual visual experiences, including those of the 360-degree variety."

More description:  the exhibition space "encircles the spectator within a fully enveloping atmosphere; the vast painting, of a continuous surrounding landscape, accompanied by sound stimulation and three-dimensional elements, affords the viewer an opportunity to experience a complete sensory phenomenon."

It's also an event and screening venue. Huell Howser has visited and filmed there. Gardens and a gazebo sit in back of the theater building. But basically, it's a huge, round theater.

Panoramas/cycloramas have been around since the 1800s...wonder if a young Walt Disney was inspired by them? They're all over the world, and I've visited the one in Gettysburg.

This building existed before 1920, and was a 400-seat movie theater for awhile, then a silent screen vamp turned it into a live theater.

Deb Pawlak--author of Bringing Up Oscar--first clued me in on the building by linking it with silent movie actress Louise Glaum, who installed a live theater and acting school here in 1935. Pawlak's Facebook page, Tales From Tinseltown, gave a quick capsule view of Glaum's career: 100 films between 1912 and 1925--and that after a live-theater career.

Wikipedia has a good article about Glaum and her theaters, including this one.  The author clearly went through the Los Angeles Times archives to list the productions and reviews of Glaum's theater, which seems to have been a abig part of the Los Angeles theater scene for awhile.

The Louise Glaum Little Theatre of Union Square closed in 1939, and the building became a movie theater until the 1950s.

Here's more from theVelaslavasay Panorama website: "For a time in the 1970's, while serving as the headquarters for the Tile Layers, a student from nearby USC operated an after hours weekly film series, showing cult and underground films and Saturday cartoon matinees for the neighborhood children."

The building stood empty through most of  the 1990s, served as a storefront church intermittently, and was bought by the Velaslavasay Panorama in 2005--an outfit which had previously been in Hollywood. This picture was on the Google map page.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mosaic Art Show in Long Beach

The 2nd City Council Art Gallery in Long Beach is hosting an exhibition of mosaic art that is truly beautiful.

There are landscapes, abstracts, portraits, sculptures, 3D works--over two dozen pieces, all unique and all mosaic. This sweet picture to the left won a prize and is part of a series of Alice in Wonderland mosaics by artist Doreen Adams. You can see more of her work here.

The exhibit is called "Tesserae: The Art of Mosaic" and I thank Lillian Sizemore for telling me about it so I could attend the Artists' Reception last Saturday.

Artists' gallery receptions are so great because you get to see wonderful things, nibble on cheese, and drink wine while hanging around brilliantly creative people, hoping some of their talent may rub off. Plus, this one had MUSIC!

The picture at right is just a partial, sadly. It shows about 1/4 of the mosaic, which won top prize and is called something like "Shoes on a Purple Road." The rest of the mosaic is more beige background with a few purple bits--but it frames the shoes so beautifully that I feel bad about this picture, which I scanned from the gallery's program card. Another reason why you should go to Long Beach and see this in person!

The 2nd City Council Gallery is located at 435 Alamitos Avenue, a few doors north of 4th Street. The exhibit will be up through October 16, and many of the pieces are for sale. Gallery hours are 12 noon to 5 PM, Wednesday through Sunday.

Here's their own statement about who they are: "We are dedicated to supporting and promoting artists, their work and art education. Our mission is to expose the public to the wealth of creativity that exists. Our exhibitions are usually thematic and explore topics, from each artists’ unique perspective, that impactor interest the community as a whole."

The gallery has an outdoor garden space as well.

Hmmm...that might be why their full name is The 2nd City Council Gallery and Performance Space. They've given free mosaic lessons there last spring and summer, and hopefully they will continue that program at some point. The gallery is a nonprofit.

The last two pictures are called "Alcanza" by Northern California artist April Maiten, whose website is here. She even does license plate frames with her glass tiles. The frames cost around $40-$45, so you can support the arts without spending like Andrew Carnegie.

And, on the right, the mosaic "Fracture" by Rachel Sager--one of my favorites at the show.

Mosaics in the show, by the way, came from both local and international artists.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Neutra's Kronish House Endangered

Dion Neutra is desperately trying to save this house from the wrecking ball. And in this case, the wrecking ball is slated to swing in late September!

The Kronish House was designed by Richard Neutra and sits in Beverly Hills. Unless funds can be raised to buy it from its current owner, plans are in place to raize the house.

What to do? Donate if you can. Dion Neutra feels that this location would make a wonderful Neutra Library...I tend to agree, just based on this picture. Donate here.

Or sign the petition, here. My impression is that the petition will be presented to the Beverly Hills City Council and other bodies that might be able to save the house.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mosaics on North Torrance Library

All of these mosaics adorn the facade of the North Torrance branch of the Torrance library on Artesia near Yukon. The library is closed for renovations, but the mosaics are outside, facing the busy street and are easy to see.

I am grateful to Michael George of the Torrance Library for helping me to research these mosaics, but we weren't able to come up with an artist's name.

The Torrance Herald, a long-gone local newspaper, printed a key to the mosaics in January of 1965, just after the library opened. According to the paper, the mosaics represent first, cuneiform (wedge writing in clay from ancient Sumer or Babylon), followed by a cuneiform cylinder that was rolled across the clay to make an inscription or picture.

The second picture shows a papyrus plant from Egypt, used to make paper, and an ankh--which the Herald called a "Staff of Life," and an earthen jar--remember that the Dead Sea Scrolls were stored in jars. These represented the first libraries.

Third picture: the Chinese character for "forever," a brush, and an ink bottle and quill, the last representing Medieval manuscripts. The paper says that "scrolls of Jericho" are in there someplace too.

The final panel, which is right over the door, shows a block of type--for the printing press--and a prism, representing color reproduction. Finally, a bit of microfilm, bring the technology up to the mid 1960s. Very nice--and as you can see from these pictures, the colors are still vibrant after 40 plus years.

The library was designed by Weldon J. Fulton and Associates, and the projected cost in 1964 was $82,000.

I found Fulton's obit here, and he was well-known in Los Angeles. Besides the North Torrance Library, he designed the "Camera Obscura" Adult Recreation Center in Palisades Park, Santa Monica in 1955--the building was a nod to a 1890's attraction on the beach there.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Long Beach and Los Alamitos History--Event Cancelled!

Next Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011, the authors of Rancho Los Alamitos: Ever Changing, Always the Same, will sign copies of their books at a morning garden party hosted by the Long Beach and Rancho Los Alamitos Historical Society.

There will be refreshments, docent-led tours of the site--the Rancho Los Alamitos itself--and talks by other folks before the book signing. You can sign up and pay (it's $25 a person) at the link in the previous sentence.

I've heard agents and authors say that traditional book signings in book stores just don't generate sales the way they used to. A little oomph and creativity is needed for a successful signing--they say (I have no personal knowledge of this). So a garden party kickoff and children's story hour in a historical setting sounds like the perfect vehicle for a regional history book like this.

And by the way, anyone interested in bookstores and their future might want to attend a panel discussion the following Monday at the Veterans Center in Culver City--Culver and Overland. Presented by the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC), the talk starts at 7:30 on Sept. 26 and is titled "BOOKSTORES AND BOOKSELLERS: Today and Tomorrow — a Vanishing and Rejuvenated Breed." It costs only $15 to attend but you must make reservations in advance.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bell Library Mosaics

This four-panel mosaic in the Bell Library on Gage was created in 1960 by Tom Van Sant. It's called "The Inventive Progress of Man" (yeah, sexist title but it was 1960), and the theme is pretty clear--there's a wheel on the lower left, leading up to an atom on the lower right. Right in the center is a printing press.

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission says this is made of stone and inlaid cork, and a key to the 26 inventions is framed and set by the mosaic.

Van Sant graduated from the Otis Art Institute in 1957, and there's a beautiful wall at the west entrance of the Ceramics Building that he created as his master's thesis. It's titled "Fire, Earth, Water" and that's a pictures of it at left.

His web page says he's created more than sixty large projects and murals for public spaces in his fifty-plus years of work. After having looked over his sculpture, I have to say that the Bell Library is a pretty tame example of his work. Here's a shot (below) of a bronze sculpture in Newport Beach to give you a better idea.

Van Sant created the GeoSphere Project in the 1980s, and the Earth Situation Room in the 90s--the latter was in An Inconvenient Truth.  Both show our planet and its features and systems, and the changes that occur on a global scale.

I'm sorry I can't find a better picture of the mosaic. Given the amazing things that Van Sant when on to do, most of which are so graceful and soaring, it's interesting to see this very conservative example of his art. Does it strike you as very 1960-ish, as it does me? Looking at the 1957 wall and the bird sculpture--done about ten years ago--I can't quite make the mosaic fit.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Paseo Colorado Fountain

The Paseo Colorado in Pasadena merits more than one Mosaic Monday entry. The Paseo is on Colorado Blvd, between Marengo and Los Robles. Today, we concentrate on the 2nd level fountain, designed by Anne Marie Karlsen. It's titled "Eye of the Beholder," and it went up in 2001. This picture of it comes from Fine Arts Services, which manages public art projects.

I've gotten much more cavalier about using photos from other sites. Two reasons: one, no one seems to mind when I ask permission--in fact, they are either thrilled or simply don't respond. The second reason is that I'm busier and cutting corners. So if I offend anyone or step on toes--just email me and I'll take the photo down, I promise.

The fountain, along with most of the artwork in the Paseo (including at least two more mosaic works) is here thanks to the Pasadena Arts Commission. "Eye of the Beholder" is made of hand-painted, handcast, high relief ceramic tiles, according to the artist's website.

Here's a closeup of one small section--more closeups are available on the artist's website.  I hope she doesn't mind that I used this one. Her site also has an incredible shot of the fountain from directly above.

Artist Anne Marie Karlsen has designed and installed a lot of public art throughout the county, including the kaleidoscopic glass panels in the tower of tiny Lawndale's new library, and the painted tile murals at the North Hollywood Red Line Station. Both of those are mosaic-like,but not really mosaics, so you'll have to click on the links to see the pictures. Karlsen teaches at Santa Monica College, and she's currently working on a couple of abstract mosaic panels for the building at 129 Raymond in Pasadena.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hippo Birdies, Los Angeles

A day early...

Our fair city turns 230 years old on September 4th. A mere tween, as city ages go.

To celebrate LA's birthday, the Los Angeles Heritage Association has  a direct link to the LA Heritage Association's list of Heritage Organizations: historical societies from all the different communities that make up Los Angeles County, museums, archives, re-enactors, enthusiasts, and special interest groups, running the gamut from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, and everything in between.

Or you can go straight to ExperienceLA's list of events, searchable by type like "educational" (phooey!) and "festive celebrations" (that's the closest they get to "party"), or by location or special criteria (like "free"). Remember the days when there was nothing to do? (I think that's now called adolescence).  Now there's a veritable surfeit of activities. I need a nap just thinking about them.

The picture above is a genuine Robert Spence Aerial Photograph of the Wilshire LaBrea area in 1929, from the LA Library collection. 82 years ago, so the city was 149 then. The caption reads:

Aerial view of the Wilshire, La Brea district, looking north. Undeveloped land, middle right side of photo is the Arroyo del Jardin de los Flores, The Stream of the Garden of Flowers. The stream flowed from the location of today's Wilshire Country Club through Hancock Park, joining another creek that eventually drained to Ballona Creek near La Brea and St. Elmo Drive. The majority of this creek was piped and filled; a portion of it remains above ground at the Wilshire County Club, and a creek running through Brookside Estates also shares this name. Third square on right bottom (dark looking ravine), possibly the continuation of Arroyo del Jardin de los Flores. Photo dated: June 21, 1929.