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Walking the Artists’ Walk:

It’s billed as “an exhibition that invites a group of Los Angeles– based artists to conceive and carry out guided tours through neighbors and areas of the city with which they have a particular relationship or affinity.” John Baldessari’s Walk Friday’s event more closely resembled an episode of “Charlie’s Angels.” John Baldessari is one of nine artists who signed on to the “A Walk to Remember” series. But with a broken ankle, the celebrated creator of phototext canvases, composite photo collages and installations was in no shape to take part in a walking tour, especially in a brutal rainstorm. So Baldessari made a map and relayed his marching orders through a surrogate “Bosley” (Ann Keen, a staff member from Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions). Walkers were handed digital cameras and instructed to photograph every intersection sign along the route between the artist’s two studios, starting at Main and Bay Streets and ending at Sixth and Vernon in Venice. The idea, we were told, was to get people to lift their eyes above street level — no easy task in the midst of a squall that was flooding crosswalks and turning umbrellas inside out, but an intriguing exercise nonetheless. One of the walker/photographers was Santa Monica resident Mark Farina, an artist who runs the audio-visual lab at Otis College of Art and Design and teaches at Brentwood Art Center. Farina enjoyed the walk, but admitted, “It would have been fun to have more direction from the artist who designed the tour.” Though Baldessari was missed, his map offered some personal commentary, pointing out local landmarks such as the brick building that “housed the first recording of Jazz on the west coast” and the shop “where skateboarding was invented.” A skull-and-crossbones marked the site of the former Pioneer Boulangerie, with the observation, “Lux Condos – will resort in my eviction because of rich people that probably won’t collect my art. But if they did I might soften…” A second Baldessari walk is scheduled for March 27. Morgan Fisher’s Walk Everyone, it is said, has a story. Morgan Fisher has many. Last week, the filmmaker and visual artist shared some of those tales on a walk through the Santa Monica neighborhood where he lived for more than 20 years. The theme, Fisher says, “is about what doesn’t exist anymore. It’s about my memories — about buildings that are gone and about people who are gone.” He talked of a Hungarian landlord, a former acrobat turned “animal actor” who made – and wore – animal costumes. Fisher lived on the second floor of the man’s house where, from the back window, he “could see the fireworks on the Fourth of July.” There was the family across the street, straight off the pages of Norman Rockwell’s sketchbook. And another landlord, “a prominent grumpy reactionary force at city council meetings who was violently opposed to rent control. His occupation was being disappointed and angry with the world.” A pair of art galleries on Santa Monica Boulevard, now gone, were what Fisher credits with being “a beginning for me” as an artist. Fisher’s neighborhood of old was a place of banana trees and birds of paradise, a place where one evening he encountered the abstract impressionist painter Sam Francis inspecting used cars on a nearby car lot. Back then, 26th and Santa Monica held a children’s book store on the southeast corner, while diagonally across the street was the William Tell Motel with its Bow and Arrow coffee shop. Today, Fisher calls the intersection “one of the ugliest corners” in the city. At times, Fisher’s reminiscences strayed out of the immediate neighborhood, once south to Pico Boulevard. Though he had a Bachelors degree in art history from Harvard, Fisher says, “I discovered Santa Monica City College. I took pattern making [a  g where students could learn skills like carpentry framing, auto repair and cosmetology. His instructor was Leo Fabiano, whom Fisher calls “an amazing man. We’d make our patterns in wood, then go into the foundry and cast them. But we could only use nonferrous materials, like aluminum, brass and bronze.” What compelled Fisher to turn his personal life into a public tour? Fisher spoke of seeing, in Vienna, a chair in which Mozart had sat, and of monuments to historic persons and events. “This walk,” he said, “is an exceedingly modest version of that. I hope to bring it to life.” Fisher will conduct the same walk again on February 27, as part of the “A Walk to Remember” series presented by Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE).  For tickets, call (323) 957-1777, extension 12. For information on other walks in the Greater Los Angeles area, visit the LACE website, http://www.artleak.org. The series ends May 8.

– – –Participants on all tours are asked to take photographs (camera provided), which they will be able to see on display at LACE (6522 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles 90028).

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