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Blame It on an Almost Full Moon

Art* Oddball crew of performers take their acts to the streets for annual gallery event.

September 21, 2002|DIANE HAITHMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It is a few minutes after 7 p.m., which would be curtain time for "All Stars of Performance Art--Episode 8"--if there was a curtain. No place to hang one when your stage is a yellow flatbed truck, borrowed from the City of Los Angeles General Services Motor Pool. The truck is parked across the street from Trinity Episcopal Church on a modest residential street off Melrose, east of Normandie.

The lack of a curtain would seem to take the pressure off to adhere to a scheduled curtain time--but still, the host of the show is getting worried. The performance artist known as the Dark Bob--a friendly vampire type in a flowing cape, suit coat, tie, purple velvet booties, tights and a glittering gold-on-black skirt--is pacing Berendo Street. Nobody is here yet but the artists.

His apprehension may explain the exceptionally warm greeting the Dark Bob offers to the first arriving guest.

"It's nice to have one person in the audience," he says, with an overeager handshake.

The Dark Bob begins to point out some of the evening's performers: percussionist Prof. Danny Frankel and instrumentalist Pablo Calogera; the garage rock art band Kittenfreaky; the Mudpeople, getting into costume by busily smearing multicolored mud all over each other on a sidewalk corner. They never took the stage; this was the performance.

"This evening, the Mudpeople will be circulating among the crowd," the Dark Bob offers.

"That would be me," observes the sole audience member, yours truly.

"Yes," the Dark Bob replies ruefully. "That would be you."

But by about 7:30, there is a crowd--or at least enough bodies to fill most of the 16 metal folding chairs also borrowed from the city, plus others standing on the sidewalk or perched on windowsills. The Dark Bob--so named because he was the darker-haired member of the former two-man performing team of Bob and Bob--took the stage. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, relief evident in his voice. "An event is about to occur."

The Thursday night show was the first of two "All Stars" performances presented in conjunction with the 5th Annual Art Crawl, in which 22 art galleries of Echo Park, Silver Lake and Los Feliz open their doors for "two nights and a day" of art viewing. The crawl ends today, with galleries open from 12 to 7 p.m. (www.ceart.com/artcrawl).

The performance art event took place in front of the newly opened Ortobello Gallery, where the show's dreadlocked, tattooed audience, sporting their thrift-shop fantasies, mixed with a handful of pearl-wearing art collectors. Curious neighbors, children and a cinnamon-colored dog observed the action from afar. Over near the Mudpeople, a transaction of some type took place between a visitor wielding a video camera and a group of locals bearing handfuls of fruit.

Under Thursday's almost full moon, Frankel and Calogera sent their eccentric rhythms toward the clear sky; bespectacled monologuist Simone Gad bared her quirky soul; two members of Kittenfreaky sang and, for one number, invited the audience to join them in loud, improvised monkey sounds. Several did, ooo-ooo-OOO. The male-female singing duo Tyrants in Therapy upset the Dark Bob by belting songs laced with profanity--flouting the taste guidelines laid down for the outdoor, city-sponsored event.

Lida Abdullah entered into a deeply personal ritual that involved using plastic wrap to package herself together with a dollhouse, over which she had poured ketchup and mayonnaise. During the performance, she blew soap bubbles while moaning out a chant that seemed to deal with unity: "one house, one moon, one sexuality, one, one, one...."

Marcus Kuiland-Nazarios' performance involved installing himself in the cab of the truck/stage, offering 10-minute private anger counseling to audience members. This evening's "clients" included well-known performance artist John Fleck; Keith Antar Mason, artistic director of the Venice-based African American performance ensemble Hittite Empire, and Mount Washington artist Josie Koth, who said she felt much better after the experience.

Kuiland-Nazarios felt better, too--that is, until he stepped out of the truck to witness Abdullah's moans and bubbles. "Now that makes me angry," he said.

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