We are so proud to announce that ALTAI is now open for business. Our store at 5810 West 3rd Street is open Monday through Saturday, 11am to 7pm and on Sundays from noon to 7pm. And altai.la is available to you twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. We look forward to meeting you at the store and create an account at altai.la for updates on what’s happening at ALTAI. Meanwhile, here’s a preview from the New York Times.
Matthew Biancaniello is a mad, mad mixologist with a bent for foraged ingredients: wood sorrel, mugwort, wild mustard, stinging nettles, black sage, and white mulberries. One of his latest obsessions is candy cap mushrooms, which he’ll use to infuse sherry or bourbon. “I love to use the bourbon to make a Manhattan,” says Biancaniello. Or he’ll mix candy cap sherry with curry-infused elderflower liqueur, tangerines and lovage. What’s so special about candy caps? It’s actually quabalactone III. That’s the recently discovered compound that gives candy cap mushrooms their distinct maple or butterscotch aroma, the quality for which they’re coveted. After nearly three decades of research, Humboldt State University chemist William Wood last year identified quabalactone III in candy caps, only present when they’re dried (the result of an amino acid reaction). They’re almost always used dried, in the same way you might use saffron or vanilla pods. The name quabalactone is derived from the scientific name for the Mexican tree rosita de cacao, Quararibea funebris, whose flowers contain the same compound and were used by the Aztecs to flavor chocolate drinks. For Biancaniello’s quabalactone-fueled sherry, place an ounce of dried candy cap mushrooms and a bottle of fino or oloroso sherry in a covered container and let infuse for at least a week (two is better), then strain. Sipped straight, it’s a mycologist’s dream after-dinner drink.
State Route 27 winds from Topanga State Beach in Malibu to the 101 freeway in the San Fernando Valley. Accessed from either direction, it doesn’t take long before mobile phone reception disappears and dirt road junctions flash by, marked with banks of ramshackle mailboxes. Around a few more bends, and hand-painted signs start appearing at the side of the road: fresh berries, homemade hot sauce, Theatricum Botanicum… The history of Topanga Canyon is filled with bygone lives of actors, artists, back-to-the-land types, musicians, and nudists. Its bohemian roots give bloom to life in the canyon today. At first a weekend hide-away for Hollywood actors, the canyon took on a new dimension in the 1950s and 1960s. The likes of Wallace Berman and George Herms found the rolling hills and wild eucalyptus the perfect backdrop for seriously unserious revolutionary experiments in art while Will Geer formed his famous theater that continues to enchant audiences with Shakespeare played out under summer evening skies. Topanga Canyon has seen its dark times, too, but there is a magical feeling up there. Collective creativity mixed with rugged independence and surrender to nature lend to the uniquely seductive air of the canyon.
Following in the footsteps of Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler, and Frank Lloyd Wright, whose warm geometries, natural forms, and subtle ways with organic materials set the stage for a new way of living earlier in the twentieth century, architects and designers like Gregory Ain, Charles and Ray Eames, A. Quincy Jones, Pierre Koenig, and John Lautner all helped define what we now call “mid-century modernism” in Los Angeles. The distinctly American style that emerged through these and other architects in the middle of the twentieth century, especially on the west coast, combined the graceful lines and human scale of Neutra, Schindler, and Wright with the minimalism and stark rhythms of the International Style and the philosophies of the Bauhaus School in its exuberant experimentation.
Instrumental to the aesthetic and engineering advances of the era was the Case Study House initiative conceived and implemented by Arts & Architecture magazine. As a response to the post-World War II need for housing, the Case Study House program challenged architects to design and build low-cost homes. The majority of the Case Study House projects that were realized were built in Los Angeles, and most of them were featured in Arts & Architecture, documented in now-iconic black and white photographs by Julius Schulman. Along with furnishings designed by Charles and Ray Eames, Harry Bertoia, and Arne Jacobsen, Case Study and other modern homes were decorated with ceramic vessels by Architectural Pottery.
Founded by Max and Rita Lawrence in 1950, Architectural Pottery was formed to produce the experimental pottery being designed by LaGardo Tackett and his students at the California College of Arts in Pasadena. Fans of the new styles in architecture and design, the Lawrences lived in a number of Gregory Ain residences. Ain, like most of the architects who rose to prominence during this period, advanced a style of living that incorporated indoor and outdoor spaces, made possible by the invention of post and beam construction that allowed for large open spaces and glass walls. The Lawrences recognized the need for a new kind of planter to unify minimal architectural forms and respond to the reduction of boundaries between inside and outside.
Tackett and other potters like David Cressey, John Follis and Rex Goode developed the signature style of Architectural Pottery, a look that, like the buildings where they were situated, was both sculptural and minimal. Eschewing ornamentation and favoring an architectural scale, the planters and pots are characterized by elegant geometrical forms that work both inside and outside. Metal or wood stands emphasized the pieces as design objects, while pieces that rest directly on the floor or ground became instantly integrated into the surrounding environment. With references to ancient vessels and totem forms, Architectural Pottery pieces update the timelessness and durability of ceramic, using a reductive aesthetic to express a modern sensibility that endures today.
Coastline Cliffside #41, 2012
Framed Ultrachrome Archival Pigment Photograph with UV Coating
51 x 60 inches
The two new series of black and white photographs by Amir Zaki that go on view starting this weekend at ACME depict the precarious balance of subtlety and drama that is characteristic of the southern California coast. Zaki’s large portraits of trees recall Chinese landscape paintings, their negative space a powerful counterpoint to the extreme detail rendered in the leaves and bark of these oddly-shaped subjects. His series of coastal cliff sides portray the scenery we normally turn away from when we set up our beach chairs along the shoreline to gaze out at the sea. An improbable jumble of monumental retaining walls, tumble-down wooden staircases, and drainpipes, the manmade elements are overtaken in places by native vines and shrubs, wildflowers and weeds. In both series, nature and culture shake hands, tentatively agreeing to adjust to each other’s needs and to the effects of entropy at will. ACME is located at 6150 Wilshire Boulevard. There will be a reception for the artist on March 23 from 6 to 8pm, and the exhibition will be on view through April 27.