I approach the opening with a sense of bohemian foreboding. An acoustic black T-Shirt clad guitar-wielding trio unwittingly serenades me as I slowly advance towards the front door of the gallery through a ripple of people on the corner of Selma and Cahuenga. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I spy my old neighbor John, who has just released an artistic work of his own, in manuscript form. I approach.
John-Oh, just wanted to come out and support the opening and I know Henry so… (Henry Rollins that is: punk star, L.A. Weekly columnist, and this evening’s honorary host).
Me-Rather bohemian out here.
John-Hmm, fake bohemian.
Me-The sitcom version: Fauxhemian.
John laughs, agrees, then admits, in somewhat apologetic fashion, that he is cynical. (And why not(?), as I later come to learn that the book he has just published is an autobiographical work highlighting his brief 20-something stint in the L.A. County Jail.)
He then goes on to articulate his mixed feelings about “these types of events”, albeit mostly negative. “You see people? They just talk and talk and talk…about this project they’re doing, where they are in their life, all their accomplishments, but nobody’s really listening…” He describes his exasperation further, citing a few examples. He then rounds out his monologue with a sucker punch in my direction, “Know what I mean…?” to which I can only answer by taking a silent dramatic beat and simply saying, “What?” John laughs again, even more uproariously this time and I think I might’ve broken through some of that disillusioned cynicism—or aggravated it further… (But probably neither.) Who can tell which? Hmmm…
All the same, it is the unspoken Los Angelenic war between the so-called establishment and fringe and I am consistently intrigued by it.
As I examine this silent and unwitting battle outside the gallery, there is a completely different one occurring inside as the juxtaposition of rock showmanship vs. pugilistic presentation is explored.
I enter the contrapuntally cozy little establishment gracefully overflowing with photographic enthusiasts…some no doubt are simple fauxtographic enthusiasts (see what I did there John?). The audience includes fellow photographers along with Edward Colver, fauxhemians and even some “that guys”. Y’know…”I could swear I recognize ‘that guy’ but what was he in?” It is a tight but elegant squeeze worthy of Rob Reiner’s famous line in Postcards from the Edge (indicating Meryl Streep’s modest trailer), “Get any more people in here and we’re gonna need a lubricant.”
The event, co-produced by the Morrison Hotel Gallery in conjunction with Project Gallery and sponsored by Peligroso Tequila, fuses together vintage boxing and wrestling photography with classic rock n’ roll images. Featured photographers include, Theo Ehret, Edward Colver, Henry Diltz, Janette Beckman and a myriad of others. The exhibit’s focal point is Downtown L.A.’s Grand Olympic Auditorium, built in 1924 as a venue for renowned, international sporting events, later used strictly for wrestling and boxing matches but most recently recognized, for being the centerpiece of L.A.’s Punk-Quake in the 1980s.
Stunning, eerie, arresting—like the lingering glow from a black magician’s wand, the photographs pop and sizzle! Like phosphoric, ghostly echoes of an era gone by or like a blow to the face by some noted but invisible prize fighter, the images leap and explode dramatically in front of the eyes as though the artist’s soul jumps off the page for a slight instance and into the observer’s subconscious.
Completely black and white in nature, the pictures feature an abundance of skinny white guys (with some beefcakes scattered in the mix. I mean c’mon now, we ARE talking wrestling here) against incidental black photographically-induced backdrops of dark, cavernous surroundings whether performing on large panoramic stages or nestled within the bosoms of their entourages.
Narcissistically driven, damaged and aesthetic all in one, blood spattered, sweat stained complexly birthed phantom-like images of the artists spring from their unwitting dark backgrounds echoing Michelangelo’s credo of a sculpture residing in every rock as their captured personas suggest a battered, weathered, chiseled likeness of birth from an otherwise heretofore pure stone….
From the marvelous, to the menacing, to the macabre, Mick Jagger’s outstretched arms encourage the audience like a rebellious Christ figure, Sid Vicious somnambulistically strums an electric guitar wearing nothing on his upper body aside from apparent dried blood and lacerations, and Marilyn Manson personifies the trauma he suffered as a child witnessing the basement rituals of his cross-dressing, fetishist, sado-masochistic, monster of a grandfather by projecting this morbidity and casting it outward, in similar fashion, towards the photographic witness…
It is only when one has emerged, from such harrowing nostalgia, minimally affected by these images(?) that one can regroup and go on with their lives after a small matter of time. And why not, it is after all only Rock n’ Roll… Or is it…?
Rock/Fight can be experienced at 1553 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood beginning Thursday, September 12th 7-9 pm.; daily 11 am-7 pm through October 6th. (323) 825-5221, projectla.net