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Pottery, with personality thrown in

October 16, 2003|David A. Keeps; Scott Sandell;

Right between a property management company and an immigration services firm in Little Tokyo is probably not where you'd expect to find the work of an artist whose pottery has been shown at the Smithsonian Institution. But that's just part of the surprise.

The story begins 66 years ago in Boyle Heights, where potter Michael Frimkess grew up. He went on to become one of the most visionary ceramic artists to emerge from the tutelage of Otis College of Art and Design's clay master Peter Voulkos.

In 1956, Frimkess experimented with peyote and had a vision that led him to embrace pottery as an artistic medium. He learned to throw pots from clay without additional water, a process that allowed him to create large classical forms with extremely thin, yet sturdy, walls. He also discovered new ways to fire his striking vessels.

At a workshop, he met Chilean painter and sculptor Magdalena Suarez, who became his wife and, when Frimkess was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1971, his collaborator. Together, they have created a unique body of work that integrates Old World pottery with contemporary imagery in pieces such as a $1,500 Asian vase embellished with the cartoon characters Popeye and Archie.

This work, along with hand-formed "pinch" pots and small plates built and whimsically decorated by Suarez, serves as a downtown homecoming for Frimkess and Suarez, who have reactivated their output after a 2000 show in West Hollywood. The pieces are on display at the Little Tokyo Clayworks (106 Judge John Aiso St., [213] 617-7193), an unassuming treasure box of 20th century ceramics where functional vases and teapots line the walls and decorative clay sculptures sit, Isamu Noguchi-style, on wooden risers in tiny pebble gardens.

David A. Keeps


Hitting the streets

In downtown L.A., actors aren't just waiting tables; some are filming Hollywood projects. Much to the delight, or quite often the dismay, of residents, the streets are perpetually busy with lights, cameras and action.

Over the next two weeks alone, the WB network's "Angel" television series is shooting on Hill Street; the Tom Cruise film "Collateral" comes to 5th Street and Grand Avenue; and a Pontiac commercial takes over various streets around 5th, 7th, Bixel and Broadway.

Other current productions include "National Treasure," starring Nicolas Cage, 4th and Spring streets; "Constantine," starring Keanu Reeves, 3rd and Broadway; "Taxi," starring Queen Latifah, 6th and Spring, plus stretches of 7th and Harlem Place; an adaptation of "Helter Skelter" on CBS, starring Jeremy Davies as Charles Manson, on Broadway; and "Untitled Dodgeball Project," starring Ben Stiller, at Temple and Center streets.

-- Scott Sandell


A new glossy

"Gimme shelter" is a popular refrain at newsstands these days, what with the proliferation of shelter magazines catering to virtually every facet of home life. Add a new voice to the chorus: Inspired House.

Premiering this week, the magazine ($5.99, Taunton Press) presents "the homes of people like you" rather than celebrity manses, and focuses on the underlying principles of design.

The first edition includes articles on selecting kitchen countertops; buying a sofa bed; kilims; six lessons from an interior designer that apply to any home; the bungalow's enduring appeal; and remodeling a small area to add a half-bath (or, not so euphemistically, a toilet and sink).

Each piece includes practical information such as projected costs, pros and cons, as well as resources for buying or further reading.

-- S.S.

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