an exhibition by Chris Lipomi and Natilee Harren
November 7, 2011-February 4, 2012
On view at two locations in Los Angeles:
—5900 Wilshire Blvd, open 24 hours
—HMS Bounty, 3357 Wilshire Blvd, open Mon-Thurs 11am-1am; Fri-Sat 11am-2am; Sun 12pm-12am
Friday, November 11, 7-9pm at 5900 Wilshire; 9pm-late at HMS Bounty
The HMS Bounty is known infamously as the British ship that was the site of the mythical 1789 “mutiny on the Bounty.” If “bounty” can refer to a gift or a reward paid for a killing, it was a fitting name for the ship given that the crew’s mission was in fact to transport breadfruit trees from Tahiti to the West Indies in hope that the plant would provide an inexpensive diet for slaves. In Los Angeles, the HMS Bounty acquires yet another layer of meaning: it is a nautical-themed pub on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown. Approximately 3.5 miles west of the Bounty is 5900 Wilshire (the “Variety” building), a 30-story high-rise that stands opposite the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). For the exhibition BOUNTY, artist Chris Lipomi and curator Natilee Harren appropriate both sites as the stage for an experimental exhibition that reconsiders our habitus regarding the display and reception of art and the ways in which history and culture are preserved in the built environment.
The Bounty occupies the ground floor of The Gaylord Apartments, opened in 1924 and named after Henry Gaylord Wilshire, the land developer and outspoken socialist after whom the boulevard is named. The building faces the former site of the Ambassador Hotel where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated and sits near other non-extant locales frequented by golden-era Hollywood stars, including the Brown Derby and Haig Jazz Club. Having survived many incarnations—as the Gay Room, Gaylord Dining Room, Dale’s Secret Harbor, and Golden Anchor—the pub was relaunched as the HMS Bounty in 1962 by founders Gordon Fields and Dick O’Neill and continues business under current owner Ramon Castaneda, who first worked there as a busboy at age 17. Set against the restaurant’s red booths, wood paneling, cork ceilings, faux portholes, maritime tchotchkes and prints, and jukebox soundtrack of west coast jazz, the stories passed between the Bounty’s regular cast of patrons recall a vanishing era of LA history. The Bounty’s continued existence as a living time capsule becomes only more extraordinary and complex given its location at the center of the largest Korean community in the US where the residential population is 70% Latino. Having recently found new life as a gathering place for artists, the Bounty is a place where Angelenos of diverse generations and backgrounds have forged an unlikely community.
BOUNTY the exhibition adopts the Bounty pub as a readymade environment assisted by a series of subtle, meticulous displacements. Lipomi and Harren have re-arranged the pub’s decor to draw attention to the innumerable material details that conjure its unique atmosphere. A singular artwork by Lipomi—a custom-antiqued mirror—has replaced the first thing one typically sees upon entering the space: a large wooden crest salvaged from the Bounty’s sister establishment formerly on the same block and LA’s first sports bar, the Bull & Bush pub. Today, the crest remains the only physical evidence of the Bull & Bush visible in the neighborhood, hidden in plain sight among the Bounty’s nautical decor. This object—now the Bounty’s bounty—has been installed on a plate glass window in the lobby of 5900 Wilshire. Viewed from inside the building, the crest appears to be hung on the edifice of LACMA, asserting its identity as a significant cultural artifact. Two breadfruit trees flanking the crest register its journey away from home. To hang one of the Bounty’s folk objects on LACMA indexes the ostensibly lowbrow space of the pub to the high-culture space of the arts institution and provokes contemplation of the ways in which our experiences of art are shaped by naturalized assumptions about the appropriate context for cultural consumption.
At the Bounty, the addition of Lipomi’s piece underscores the role of the surrounding prints, paintings, and objects as “café art,” calling attention to art’s function as the setting for unfolding sociality. While some visitors will come to the Bounty for the first time to view Lipomi’s piece, regular patrons will notice the wholesale redecoration; in many ways, the latter are the exhibition’s ideal audience. Or, with eating and drinking continuing as always, the show may go unnoticed. BOUNTY continues Lipomi’s practice of staging exhibitions in unconventional sites and uniting incongruous objects, concepts, and sites toward the production of alternative art histories. While the current intervention intends to be a critical engagement with the creation of meaning of a place, it is also a careful labor imbued with a sense of romance and nostalgia for a site that represents a moment of LA history that may be quietly disappearing.
Chris Lipomi was born in 1975 in Miami, Florida and lives in Los Angeles. He was educated at UCLA, Valand Kunstskolen, Göteborg, Sweden, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Lipomi’s work has been the subject of one-person exhibitions at Michael Lett, Auckland, New Zealand; Karma International, Zurich, Switzerland; and Daniel Hug, Los Angeles. His work has been included in group exhibitions at European Kunsthalle, Köln, Germany; Domaine de Chamarande, France; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; and The Seattle Art Museum.
Natilee Harren is an art historian and critic based in Los Angeles. Her previous curatorial projects include All Time Greatest, Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2010); Solo Solo: Vincent Ramos, Crisp London Los Angeles (2008); DRIP EVENT (for George Brecht), PawnShop, Los Angeles, (2007); and The Trans-Siberian Radio Project (2005).
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