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History 101

Photo by Stephen Seemayer

Artist Marc Kreisel, left, with fellow Turk Jon Peterson at the Jan. 24 opening of Kreisel’s exhibit at the District Gallery.

Marc Kreisel, one of the “Young Turks” and the mastermind behind the legendary and lamented Al’s Bar, is exhibiting his work through Feb. 24, 2013, at the District Gallery, 740 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles, 90012.

The show, “History 101: Works by Marc Kreisel,” showcases “The Ten Commandments,” a work Kreisel made in the late ’70s which is featured in his segment of the film “Young Turks.” The commandments include “Risk everything all the time,” “Teach the women to shoot” and “Consider art a guest in Los Angeles.” In the film, the artist explains that art in L.A. has had a hard time competing with other enterprises like tourism and Hollywood.

Another piece in Kreisel’s show was made from broken shards of graffiti-coated plaster from the now-defunct punk club Al’s Bar, which graced the ground floor of the American Hotel at 305 S. Hewitt St. in the Arts District from 1980 to 2001.

Marc Kreisel at Al's in the early 1980s. Photo by Gary Leonard

Marc Kreisel at Al’s in the early 1980s. Photo by Anne Knudsen / Herald-Examiner

In 1980, Al’s Bar was where truck drivers from the Coca-Cola bottling plant around the corner would come to unwind, share a cold one and play pool. The juke box featured Big Band hits, Keely Smith and Louis Prima, and Motown greats, such as Mary Wells. When “King Kreisel,” who also ran the American Hotel above Al’s, started renting single rooms to struggling artists and musicians, Al’s evolved into the center of the downtown art scene, and punk legends such as X, Party Boys and Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs played there. It was the Rick’s Café Americain of Downtown. Everybody came to Al’s.

Included in Kreisel’s show is a photographic triptych of the bar’s graffiti-covered walls around the time that Al’s closed in 2001.

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