The more I become acquainted with Los Angeles, the more I’ve realized that street art is literally any and everywhere around this amazing city. My neighborhood – Melrose and Fairfax – is essentially a mecca for street artists; the area is riddled with skate shops, tattoo shops and a rich hodgepodge of different artistic types. The end result? Alleyway after alleyway, covered from head to toe in the most vivid and vibrant graffiti, street art, acrylic art and multimedia art I’ve ever seen.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were wandering around the downtown area in search of something more or less transformative; for the amount of street art we’ve come across (hint: a lot) – for everything I’ve loved, I’ve seen three things I couldn’t reconcile or wrap my head around. Thankfully, the Little Tokyo area of downtown essentially screams in equal parts culture and art. One thing I didn’t know until recently was that the area hosts the largest Japanese-American population in the United States and stands as one of only three Japantown’s; the other two residing in San Francisco and San Jose, respectively. Being the urban adventurers we are, naturally we were scouring parking structures, back alleys and side streets in search of the perfect piece, picture – or, hopefully – both. After an hour of prowling the streets, we stumbled across an incredibly industrial yet new age art gallery. One peak inside at the fluorescent art and we knew we had to explore; it turns out we stumbled into the Lili Lakich Gallery of Neon Art and we were not mad about it!
Lili Lakich has always craved the contrast of a dark night and bright, neon lights. Originally from Washington DC, the Lakich family migrated from Washington DC to Arizona along with her father’s military career. His idea of vacations were road trips and her family would choose their hotels based on the awesomeness of their neon signs. And from a young age, this helped shape her love of all things fluorescent. Route 66, Las Vegas – they weren’t just culturally iconic cities, they had become meccas of art and creativity; they were inspirational. After bouncing between the Pratt Institute in New York and the London School of Film Technique – she finally settled down in New York to complete her BFA in ’67 and the next year she moved to Los Angeles to pursue art as a career. Within a few short years, she began showing her awe inspiring sculptures – first in ’73 at Gallery 707 and then in ’74 for her first solo show. In 1982, she created the Museum of Neon Art and worked as it’s first director until 1999 and since then has had shows all over the world, from Tokyo to Paris and her work can be seen in many major publications on neon and contemporary art.
As I mentioned earlier, she currently runs the Lili Lakich Studio in Japantown which houses tons of her works – from her latest to her greatest, in addition to showing off the works of her students. Yes, students! One thing we discovered while talking to her was that she hosts an 8 week workshop on creating neon art! So even the average Joe can create art that glows; genius! Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t afford to take this round of classes but trust me when I say it’s now on my bucket list of things to do before I leave this lovely city. There’s something to be said for passionate people and Lili Lakich sure is one of them. If you’re based in the LA area and want to hear more, simply head on down to Japantown and meet the woman for yourself! She’s wonderful, kind and more than willing to share her love of art with anyone who walks in her doors. Or, if you can’t find the time to stroll through the shop, pick up a copy of her autobiography – For Light, For Life, For Love; now, onto the art!
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a distinct change in my temperament and personality – sure, I’m still just as bouncy as I’ve ever but I’ve cultivated a need to take things a little slower on some weekends. If life is about the journey and not the destination, why not stop and smell the roses – right? Well, this journey as an Angelino has been more than wonderful but – not now, but eventually – I’m going to leave this ‘City Kitty’ lifestyle of go-go-go attitudes, glitz and glamour for something a little tamer. After five years, I’ve essentially exhausted all of my EDM outlets in this town – the clubs, the festivals , the underground, the rooftops, the pools. Don’t get me wrong because I’m proud to say I’ve done it, but lately I’ve been itching for something more – something that inspires me to evolve. As fun as it would be to live like this forever, everything in moderation (including moderation). A place in the country-side, close enough to the city to enough its amenities – sports teams, museums, concerts – but far enough away so we go to sleep under the stars, instead of being put to bed by sirens. So, until then I’ve made a vow to myself and to my close friends that we’re going to explore every creative outlet this town has to offer us.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a handful of museums within the past year and a half – in southern California, I’ve been to the San Diego Natural History Museum, the LA Natural History Museum, the Getty Villa and the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. This past weekend was a gorgeous one, and I had the pleasure of bringing my boyfriend and his housemate on their first adventure to the J Paul Getty Museum. I hadn’t been since my parents visited in 2010 so I was eager to go back and see what had changed. On each side of our trip to the Getty, we adventured down Melrose and Fairfax to explore the graffiti and street art in my neighborhood. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, I’m sure you’ve seen my Oh, Snap series on Street Art – exploring the contemporary art of the area and contrasting it against the classical forms we saw during the day on Saturday was absolutely amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed the dichotomy between the two; hopefully y’all enjoyed these pictures as much as I enjoyed the experiences!
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