East Village West at Los Angeles's Royal/T Café
Earlier this month, dozens of museums, galleries and artspaces across Los Angeles hosted parties to commemorate the launch of PacificStandard Time, a massive celebration of the L.A. art scene circa 1940 to 1980.While some of the larger institutions are tackling capital-I Issues—“NowDig This! Art and Black Los Angeles” at UCLA’s Hammer Museum, forexample—other spaces are approaching the topic more obliquely.
Royal/T Café is normally a Japanese-style exhibitionspace, retail store and “cosplay” maid café in Culver City. (That’s short for “costumeplay.”) Through January 2012, the 10,000-square-foot storefront has more incommon with Greenwich Village than Ginza, thanks to “East Village West,” anexamination of Los Angeles’ influence on New York City’s early punk scene. Theshow is co-curated by artists Ann Magnuson and Kenny Scharf.
These days, Magnuson is primarily known as an actress, butEast Village veterans of a certain age will remember her as fixture in thedowntown Manhattan art scene. In the early 80s, she ran the highly influentialClub 57, a neo-Dada performance space that helped turn St. Mark’s Place into acounterculture Mecca. Scharf, of course, is a renowned pop artist—and KeithHaring contemporary—whose work has been celebrated for decades.
Overall, “East Village West” is a success, even if you’retoo young to remember the uproar when Quiznos opened on St. Mark’s Place. It’snot often one can see Basquiat hanging next to Haring hanging next to TsengKwong Chi—outside of a museum, that is. But as one ventures deeper into theinstallation (and, physically, into the space), it becomes the “Club 57show.” Which is understandable—posters, photos and videos from Magnuson’svenue are an effective documentary of NYC’s downtown art scene. And forvisitors of that certain age—let’s call them Baby Boomer Punks—the memories ofspiked hair, skinny jeans and cocaine-fueled nights will come flooding back.
At least there’s no arguing the greatness of Royal/T, aconverted office building located close to Culver City’s galleries andrestaurants. Opened by philanthropist and avid art collector Susan Hancock, thespace has already hosted several impressive shows. (I’m sorry I missed 2009’s“I Can’t Feel My Face,” curated by KAWS.) So even if you don’t takefashion cues from the cover of David Bowie’s album Aladdin Sane,it’s worth the trip to the west side.
Jeff Koyen is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.Follow him on Twitter, @jeffkoyen.