There’s a great new book out by artist Carlton Davis, who in the early ’80s ran The Art Dock, a gallery in a loading dock on Center Street, northeast of Little Tokyo. “The Art Dockuments (Tales of the Art Dock: The Drive-by Gallery)” is at once an intimate reminiscence and a fascinating historical record of the downtown scene that flourished at the time the “Young Turks” was being filmed.
Davis ran the Art Dock from 1981-1986. The “drive-by” gallery displayed works specifically made for that space and meant to be viewed from the street as one passed by.
Davis was part of the art world downtown that included the “Young Turks” and many other sculptors, painters, writers, musicians and performance artists. He writes about his encounters, both personal and professional, with many of them.
Among the first installations exhibited at the Art Dock was Marc Kreisel’s “First Functional Painting,” which included a Wailing Wall-type backdrop and the white boots worn by Andy Wilf, who had only recently died at the age of 32.
Davis writes:Both were part of the “Young Turks,” a group of artists who had embraced downtown squalor and used it to instill harshness in their work. They attacked L.A.’s previous decades of soft art fixated on slick finishes and ethereal light and space. The Young Turks were among the first artists to move into the old downtown warehouses. In these unused buildings surrounding Skid Row, amidst decay and chaos, thousands of square feet of space could be leased for pennies a square foot. The grime and depression around them became their aesthetic. Jon Peterson … erected bum shelters as sculpture. Monique Safford … contrasted photographs of downtown’s desolation with lyrical descriptions of faraway places. Marc Kreisel’s witty and often caustic graffiti statements surrounding layered Polaroid images were an interpretation of the terse scrawls and tags of the downtown homeless and the gangs Andy Wilf’s scary paintings of severed pigs’ heads and tormented humans mirrored the phsychological terror of life on Skid Row.
“The Art Dockuments” delves deeper into both Wif’s work and Kreisel’s, as well as the myriad other artists who lived and worked around Davis. It is an evocative and important resource for anyone interested in L.A.’s cultural diversity and development.
The book is available here on amazon.com.