The MorYork Gallery in Highland Park is a true wonderland of curiosities hidden in plain view. Its home is on a busy corner diagonal from locally famous Café de Leche on York Boulevard in Highland Park. A plain green wall lets the space sit unnoticed while walkers and drivers pass by. Behind the green wall is a portal into an otherworldly collection of art and artists collaborating and creating amid a large skating-rink-turned-art-space that is nothing short of epic in size.
Owner of MorYork Gallery, Clare Graham, talks with his resident artists underneath a hanging installment of dangling spines, fibers, and other oddities. An almost occult playfulness and innovativeness is apparent via copious sculptures, furniture, paintings, scientific concoctions, skeletal systems, and beyond.
This has been Graham’s space since 1986, long before the hype of Northeast Los Angeles seduced the minds of Los Angelinos to come and rally in NELA for hip cultural gatherings. The wood floor still shows traces of basketball court painted lines and the wood vaulted ceiling is reminiscent of what one might imagine Noah’s ark would have perhaps looked like.
Graham’s work incorporates recycled materials, often cast aside unwanted. New life is breathed into each piece, as its corresponding elements work together to create larger than life works of art with radiating character. As one nears one of Graham’s pieces, it seems it comes more to life with the emergence of every details. When up close, it can be seen that these large-scale pieces are frequently constructed out of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of tiny everyday mundane pieces. His work genuinely winks at the concept of power in numbers.
The theme at hand during this visit is water, leading to the forthcoming collaborative art performance integrating movement, sound design, textiles, and prose to portray WATER STORIES.
A series of workshops will allow the public to submerse themselves into the art by extending the opportunity to practice art in a variety of media, ultimately contributing to the final product as a whole. The logic behind the sequence of workshops in concert with the final product results in a community minded experience where abstract concepts and philosophy can be pulled from applicable experience. It soaks the viewer in engagement, bringing them closer to a more acute understanding of the art piece rather than taking on the mere role of a spectator.
However, this does not exclude the less active audience member. Stephanie Zalatel, creator of the szalt dance company, works with her team to choreograph a deeply moving five-part performance for WATER STORIES. Movement appears to narrate a story set to the sounds collected by musician and composer, Louis Lopez. Audio clips collected from field samplings are set to bold tones with an ethereal ambience and subliminal humming reminiscent to the experience one might have submerged in water.
Perhaps one of the most unique elements of the piece, aside from its already left-of-mainstream surroundings of the gallery, is the use of textiles and costuming. Fiber artist, Amabelle Aguiluz, incorporates her knitted clothing into the performance by creating abstract masks and dress-like coverings for the dancers as well as the landscape around them. The various patterns in the knit work resemble the natural patterns that might be found in nature within a bed of sea coral. While Aguiluz generally works with basic dark and light colors, this piece will incorporate a wider spectrum of color, amplifying the colorful and unpredictable make-up of water and all the connotations it possesses.
To round out the process, there will also be poetry about the performance constructed by poet, Julia Nowak. The poems will be featured in the programs at each performance, giving each audience member a memento to take home with them if they were unable to participate in one of the preceding workshops.
There will be several opportunities to get involved. The actual performance will have multiple weekends including April 22-23 (for VIP ticket holders) / 29-30, and May 6-7 /13-14.
Starting March 20, the workshops will be every Sunday from noon until 3pm. It costs $30 to register online, and $40 at the door. If you are interested in all four classes, you can get a bundle rate of $100. The first will be a textiles workshop, followed by sound recordings workshops, then a movement research class, concluded by a culmination workshop where all the acquired skills can be put to use in a cohesive piece. For more information please visit stephaniezalatel.com/class.html or e-mail Stephanie at [email protected]. If you know you want to purchase tickets, you can do so by going to waterstories.brownpapertickets.com.