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BEHIND THE STUDIO DOORS : The Venice Art Walk Offers a Glimpse at Where the Artists Work

May 24, 1987|SUSAN PRICE | Susan Price is a Los Angeles writer.

VENICE,CALIF. — IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S HIGHLY CHARGED CREATIVE COMMUNITIES. YET FEW outsiders are able to visit the studios in which some of today's most exciting art, architecture and films are created. The buildings along Market Street, the nucleus of much of the activity, resemble the nondescript storefronts of an Edward Hopper painting. This intentional camouflage is the essence of the Venice style; Venice lives and creates behind closed doors.

And that is what makes the annual Venice Art Walk such a special event. Next Sunday, more than 40 artists will open their studios to benefit the Venice Family Clinic. Participants will see the living and work spaces of artists such as Peter Alexander, Laddie John Dill, Fred Eversley, Jean Edelstein, Lloyd Hamrol, Martha Alf, Klaus Rinke and Stephanie De Lange. The day begins at Westminster School, 1010 W. Washington Blvd., where tickets--and this year's Art Walk T-shirt and poster, by Jonathan Borofsky--can be purchased.

Admission ranges from $35 to $200; the $35 ticket provides entree to the studios and use of a shuttle bus plus a 45-minute guided tour. For $75 per participant, leading members of the art community will direct docent tours of studios not on the $35 walking tour, such as those of Don Bachardy and Eric Orr. The $200 option includes all of the above plus admission to "A Night of Comedy," an event honoring Comic Relief--an organization that raises funds for health care for the homeless.


In an enormous studio near the ocean, Laddie John Dill creates his quintessentially Californian sculptured paintings. ("Ten years ago I would have minded being called a California artist because it had the wrong connotation," Dill says. "Now I don't object at all.") Sunlight floods the 30-foot high space, a former beer warehouse adapted for Dill's use by architect Steve Ehrlich, and sea breezes sweep in through massive doors. Four assistants, all trained boat builders, construct the wooden pinwheel-like frame for "GroundSwell," a monumental sculpture being readied for the corner of Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. "This studio is very

integral to the look of my work," Dill says, "because a few years ago I decided I wanted a way of systematically controlling a geological phenomenon like the

natural one called leaching, where water that has saturated into a surface

(of a painting) mixes with alkalies and minerals and then brings these materials to the surface when it evaporates, causing some of the material to oxidize. So I set up a topographical situation in the studio--for example, water running down a gully or wind pushing sand across a surface--which at times makes the whole studio and the work in progress seem to be one element."

Life is far from bohemian for Dill, a Malibu-bred surfer and son of a Western actor. "I don't surf anymore," he says, "because surfing, like art, is a full-time job." He wakes at dawn to paint for a few hours in solitude before going over to the West Beach Cafe for what he calls "a sort of do-it-yourself gourmet breakfast" with other artists and creative people who live nearby. Many of them--such as Dennis Hopper, Frank Gehry and Chuck Arnoldi--have a Dill in their collection. At nine, Dill's secretary and assistants show up, and he begins to take care of the business end of art. "L.A. is perfectly positioned between East and West; some museum people from Tokyo and a dealer from Germany all converged right here the other afternoon," he says.

Dill, a casual, articulate man in his 40s who drives a restored '65 Mustang, has lived in Venice on and off since 1969 and moved to his present studio in 1983. "I like the diversity of income and all the different characters here; and if that's what you like, you have to put up with the garbage and crime," he says. "The ambiance of Venice is unique because it grew out of itself in a series of non sequiturs, and that has made the area really magical."


Frederick Eversley designed instrumentation systems for NASA's Gemini and Apollo programs before "retiring" at age 25 to Venice, where he says the creative atmosphere inspired him to try his hand at making art. "Venice has always been such a stimulating place," says the Brooklyn-born artist. "When I arrived in '64, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti and the Beat Movement had just left Venice for San Francisco. Daniel Ellsberg, who was then at Rand Corp., lived in the same building I do, and rock acts such as the Doors, Canned Heat and Taj Mahal were also in the neighborhood. Francis Coppola was around, and Richard Diebenkorn and Sam Francis were working here."

Eversley inherited his present studio from the late artist John Altoon, who along with architect Frank Gehry had converted it from a laundromat. "It was once illegal to live here," Eversley says of the space that now serves as a combination studio, gallery and living quarters, "but in the '70s the city council passed a 'homecrafters' law making it OK."

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