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“Red Car Requiem,” glass mosaic by Mark Steven Greenfield, in the new Historic Broadway Station

Dear DNA friends,

Hello! The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and July 4th is around the corner, so hopefully you’re feeling the holiday spirit, whether you are about to board a plane or have a staycation right here in the City of Angels.

I am doing the latter and, according to this curious essay in the New Yorker, I should be feeling good about it! The author makes a philosophical case for not leaving home, writing that travel “turns us into the worst version of ourselves while convincing us that we’re at our best.”

Not sure that I agree. However, when home is a county bigger than 4,000 square miles where at least 224 languages are spoken, just leaving the house can take you into other worlds. So I’m using this downtime to do a bit of “traveling” around LA, catching up on some overdue Design Things to Do.

Bunker Hill station, IMG_2211Poster in the new Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill station (photo: Frances Anderton)
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Design Things To Do

Testing the Connector/Seeing the Art

Earlier this month, Metro opened with great fanfare its Regional Connector, three new underground stations that knit together the E (formerly known as Expo), L (previously Gold), and A (once the Blue) lines via three new stations: Little Tokyo/Arts District, Historic Broadway, and Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill. Plus, each of these stations comes with some site-specific public art, explored by Deborah Vankin in the LA Times.

So I was curious to check out both the connector and the art. I boarded the Expo line (sorry, Metro, I prefer the more evocative names to letters for the trains) in downtown Santa Monica and an hour or so later I arrived in Little Tokyo (no stop at 7th Street/Metro Center!).

There, I disembarked to check out Audrey Chan’s 14-panel porcelain “Will Power Allegory,” a pictorial homage — in colorful vignettes on enamel and steel panels — to residents past and present in Little Tokyo, the Arts District, Skid Row, and the former Bronzeville area. It runs both sides of the tracks, but is slightly hard to read due to being blocked by a beam. Then I ascended the escalator to look at "Harmony," by Clare Rojas — decorative panels marking the entrance and, in Vankin’s words, “abstract and figurative symbols on transparent film sandwiched between panes of clear glass, speak to nature commingling with urban life.”

Entryway to Little Tokyo station, IMG_2191
"Harmony," by Clare Rojas, at the Little Tokyo station (photo: Frances Anderton)

Then it was back on the train and off to Historic Broadway Station. On the platform there, you can view “Migrations,” the sequence of black-and-white photographs on panels of porcelain enamel steel, by Clarence Williams, honoring Black Americans and the many others who have journeyed to Los Angeles. Head up the escalator and you can take in the vivid, dynamic glass mosaic “Red Car Requiem” by Mark Steven Greenfield (see image at top of page). This most directly celebrates transportation, being an ode to the Pacific Electric Railway Co.’s electric streetcar system which ran from 1901 to 1961 and, as Vankin points out, “played an integral role in the development of neighborhoods along its routes.”

From there I went back to Grand Avenue Arts/Bunker Hill. This proves to be so deep down you take an elevator to the surface, from where you can conveniently take a bridge over to Otium, the Broad, and Grand Avenue. But en route, there are various artworks to see including the cathedral scale “High Prismatic” by Pearl C. Hsiung, a soaring mosaic of an erupting geyser under a full moon, which “speaks to geologic, anthropologic, and cultural change in the Bunker Hill area.”

In Conclusion

The trip, costing $1.75, was well worth it but not entirely a breeze. The very real threats and discomforts on the trains mean the Metro board just voted to create its own police force. But their friendly new Ambassadors are out in force and were especially welcome at the Bunker Hill stop, which is so deep in the ground and was eerily almost empty when I arrived. 

As for the art, I found myself drawn to the colorful, abstract works like "Harmony" and "Red Car Requiem," which enhance the architecture and add cheer to the subway. But art is nothing without life, and as mentioned in this previous newsletter, it would be lovely to see more commerce at the stations — like coffee and flower stands and buskers, as found in subways in other parts of the world. Perhaps those will come. Bottom line though, the new Regional Connector makes it much easier to traverse downtown from points north, south, east, and west, and to get to DTLA locations like Grand Avenue and the Arts District via mass transit. That alone is a gift to travelers within, and visiting from outside, Los Angeles.

   Little Tokyo station, IMG_2200 copy
Friendly Metro Ambassadors at the Little Tokyo Station (photo: Frances Anderton)

Art at LACMA

After art in the subway, I headed (via the Purple Line from Metro/7th to Wilshire and Western and then Bus 20) for art in the museum, specifically at LACMA where I caught up on several current shows — all worth seeing.

Women Defining Women in Contemporary Art of the Middle East and Beyond and Afro-Atlantic Histories, both in the Resnick Pavilion, are full of small revelations. Take for example, in Afro-Atlantic histories, the 18th-century painting by George Morland of solicitous Africans caring for white people washed ashore from a shipwrecked slave ship. Or the intimate views of femininity piercing the mystique of the Middle East, or the decorative lettering, architecture, and textiles cleverly intertwined with the human form in the photograph by Lalla Essaydi, below.

The works are so powerfully human that they stand in stark contrast to Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952–1982, on show in BCAM. These early creative experiments by musicians and artists intrigued by what could be visualized with code make for interesting experiments — mostly in pattern making — but lack the emotion that can emanate from the heart and the hand, notwithstanding today's advancements in video game design, animation, and AI artistry.

Lalla Essaydi, Harem #2, 2009, Courtesy of the artist, Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York, © Lalla Essaydi, photo courtesy the artist and Jenkins Johnson GalleryLalla Essaydi, Harem #2, 2009 (photo courtesy the artist and Jenkins Johnson Gallery)

Emptiness Overflowing

Angeleno architecture, art, and design have been profoundly shaped by Japanese aesthetics, as was the artist Sam Francis. He forged a deep and abiding relationship with Japan, manifested in the LACMA show Sam Francis and Japan: Emptiness Overflowing, a display of paintings by Francis (alongside works by Japanese artists) demonstrating what the curators describe as his “bold use of white space and fluid and gestural application of paint” that evokes Asian art and calligraphy, as well as Abstract Expressionism.

It is notable that Francis first went to Japan, in 1957, on invitation from Teshigahara Sofü, the master of the Sogetsu school of ikebana, or flower arranging, to create a mural for the school's new headquarters. The Sogetsu school, as I have learned from the LA-based architect and Sogetsu ikebana master Ravi Gunewardena, was an instigator and nexus for the avant-garde in twentieth century art, design, dance, and architecture. So it is lovely to see the newly created Taisaku Ikebana arrangement at the entry to the exhibition.

Note: Sam Francis closes July 16 and Coded finishes July 2 (the other shows run through summer), so hurry on over. Click here for details about all the LACMA shows.

Ikebana, Taisaku Ikebana Commissioned for Sam Francis and Japan- Emptiness Overflowing Miyako Gyokusen Arao, Riji, Sogetsu School of Ikebana, Los Angeles Branch, IMG_2275Miyako Gyokusen Arao, Riji, Sogetsu School of Ikebana, LA Branch (photo: Frances Anderton)

Ice Cream Dreams in Leimert Park

This holiday weekend I plan on heading to Leimert Park, to check out ALL CHILL, an ice cream shop in Leimert Park that serves up “culture, community, and cream.”  

ALL CHILL, whose name references both its product and the artifacts of hip-hop culture that grace the interior, was created by Genelle Brooks-Petty and her husband Julian Petty, to bring artisanal ice cream to a neighborhood whose residents had long had to travel quite a distance to find it.

It was initially a popular pop-up, but now ALL CHILL has a permanent home, in a newly opened store designed by architect-to-watch Susan Nwankpa Gillespie. The shop offers a "combination of classics and creative concoctions," including Whiskey Praline (dairy), and vegan options derived from pea protein and cream from coconut, sunflower, and fava. Radically, the menu rarely includes vanilla. “I want to encourage flavor exploration,” says Brooks-Petty.

Note: when Brooks-Petty is not busy creating ice cream with a mission, she is heading BPC Interior Design and representing SocalNOMA, which is co-host of the must-see exhibition Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture.

Further note: for more design with a community mission in Leimert Park, check out the sneaker and design store Sole Folks.

ALL CHILL is open Thursday through Sunday, 12–7:00 PM.

Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture is open through September 17.

ALL CHILL, IMG_2619 copyALL CHILL, designed by Nwankpa Design (image courtesy Genelle Brooks-Petty)

Flower Power at the Beach

If you go to the beach this weekend and need a little break from the sand and sea, head over to L.A. Louver gallery on North Venice Boulevard. There you will find a show that, interestingly, unites artworks by artists including Alison Saar, David Hockney, Henri Matisse, and the architect Thom Mayne. This is The Flower Show, a new exhibition celebrating the flower in art, with works in different media by over 50 artists dating from the early 19th century to now.

The show features works ranging from this surreal “invasive plant,” below, by "eco-painter" Penelope Gottlieb through sweet bouquets by Hockney to Mayne’s iridescent clouds of leaf forms made through layering UV ink on aluminum, and an interactive digital piece by teamlab where flowers bloom and die, with the viewer an agent in the cycle of renewal.

The show's co-curator Elizabeth Best explains: “Ever since the ancient Egyptians symbolized the sun and creation with a lotus, flowers have held a place in art. However, within the canon of Western art, until the later decades of the nineteenth century the depiction of the flower was… often assigned to the decorative and deemed “suitable” for female pursuit. Since the birth of modern art this has changed: the motif has given artists the freedom to explore a multiplicity of issues, including the body, spirituality and the environment, in addition to… love, joy, abundance and hope, to resilience, nostalgia and loss.”

The Flower Show is on view at L.A. Louver through September 1. 

Colocasia EsculentaColocasia esculenta, 2023, acrylic and ink over a digital reproduction of an Audubon print. © Penelope Gottlieb.
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What I'm Digging

Viewing: Loren & Rose 

Russell Brown is founder of Friends of Residential Treasures: Los Angeles (FORT: LA), the accessible resource for self-driving tours of “residential treasures” in Los Angeles that is a constant source of delight for design and architecture enthusiasts. But he has another life as an independent filmmaker, and his most recent outing is earning plaudits and extended screenings online and in independent movie theaters. Loren & Rose is the story of the relationship between an aging actress Rose Martin, played by a stunning Jacqueline Bisset, and the young filmmaker, Loren Bressher (Kelly Blatz), who enabled her triumphant comeback. The story unfolds over a three-part dinner in a canyon restaurant (that brings to mind the Inn of the Seventh Ray) and its subtlety and depth prompted critic Rex Reed to call it an “exemplary film that depends on the value of feelings expressed through words.” You can screen the movie here. Or you can catch up with Russell in his other life at the many events hosted by FORT: LA.

Listening: Dolly Lowe

Music and architecture are pleasures. Put them together and each perhaps makes the other richer. That was the case at a party I was lucky enough to attend recently at the impressive Tadao Ando-inspired home of architect Matthew Royce in Venice that happened also to be a showcase for a stunning young singer name Dolly Lowe. With utter passion, she pounded out covers of classics from Edith Piaf through country to Mississippi Delta Blues Hollers, as well as her own songs, while posing glamorously in unusual architectural spaces, like a room with a hinged glass window, a shallow pool deep in the basement, and in the shower. You couldn't help feeling you were witnessing a star being born. Now she is developing her music career, modeling, acting, and performing at PIPS on La Cienega on select Tuesday evenings. Witness the performance here, and catch her songs on Spotify.

That’s it for this week’s newsletter. I hope you have a restful long weekend.

Yours, with very best wishes,


Dolly LoweDolly Lowe, performing at the home of Matthew Royce; image from Vimeo      

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