THE black-garbed, slinky models wore matching masks that covered their lovely features but accentuated their extravagant sculpture jewelry. Perched on the walls, next to the vintage shoes always on display here, moving photographs of ballerinas, fairies and a pregnant woman with blue body paint on her belly graced the room in old wood frames. All around them, 60 or so funky monkeys hung on the walls, and some of the sober partygoers swore these simians were talking.
The eclectic art exhibition on a recent Wednesday was part of Star Shoes owner Johnny Nixon's dream of melding the city's film, fashion, music and art scenes to create a cultural club night where revelers can do more than just party. And what better setting than his sleek year-old bar, which offers antique shoes and shines along with music and booze.
"Since we opened, this is something I've wanted to provide," said Nixon, a native Angeleno, "a social environment that's both urban and upscale and combines a hybrid between the people who have always lived here and the ones who recently came here. I want this to be a platform for their dreams."
It didn't take long for artist Jason Hooper to fulfill his fantasy of introducing his monkeys, which depict different aspects of his zany personality, to the City of Angels. Hooper, 31, moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles on the day of his show.
"What an introduction to the city," the native New Yorker said while standing in front of one of his monkeys. Using pastels on gold, white or blue latex mixed with acrylic, Hooper draws monkeys because in his loneliest hours in Brooklyn, they became his closest friends. "I was pretty miserable and lonely living in this apartment in Brooklyn, and I just started drawing them," he said.
The monkeys spoke to fashion designer Jose Angel Castro when he came across them in San Francisco. So Castro, who was host of the Star Shoes event, talked Hooper into bringing them south and named the show "Pure Monkey Lovin'," which will periodically return to Star Shoes.
"Jose gets along very well with my artwork," says Hooper. Castro, who designs clothes for his private clientele, met Nixon at a fashion show at the bar in May.
The two began working on plans for an occasional artsy night at Star Shoes.
"Whether it was paintings or sculptures or videography, we wanted to make something impactful without the pretension," said Castro, who was sporting a sexy denim sarong over his gray slacks. "By mixing the urban social set with the artistic set, which both can have equal brands of pretension, we figured the pretension would be eliminated, and we'd be left with the truth."
The models who showcased jewelry from Sculpture to Wear were instructed to interact nonverbally with guests. One unrelenting man broke the rules by writing notes to a model whose phone number he wanted.
In the women's bathroom, a paparazzo wannabe snapped shots of women (and later some men) holding a sign that read "I'm a Girl Hollywood." Outside, Hooper and photographer Lisa Candela mingled.
Candela used recycled wood from a barn that was razed and 90-year-old glass from a house that was torn down to frame her eye-catching portraits. "Glowing," her sensual black-and-white shot of a naked woman, is her bestseller. "It just goes to show you that everyone in L.A. is perverted," she joked.
Jenny Castillo, 23, and Beth Vanrood, 25, fans of Candela's work, said they appreciate Nixon's efforts to present art to the community in a fun setting.
"This bar is eclectic and always offers something fresh," said Castillo, a Cal State Fullerton public relations student. "It has such a good energy. You can actually talk to people in this club. And now you can come appreciate good art, too."
Art at Star Shoes
What: "Pure Monkey Lovin' "
Where: Star Shoes, 6364 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood
Cost: No cover charge or velvet rope
When: Monthly; next is Dec. 19
Info: (323) 462-7827 or (323) 469-7827