Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 4) - Little Tokyo

January 25, 2016 (continued): The next place I checked out was mainly the Japanese Village Plaza area in Little Tokyo. Making my way from the Go For Broke Monument, I passed by some interesting art along the way.

On the side of one of the buildings in the Japanese American National Museum is a mural entitled, Moon Beholders by Katie Yamasaki.

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Further down the street beside the other building of the museum is the OOMO Cube, a giant rubix-like cube with different facial features from all different backgrounds and ethnicities you can mix and match to show that we are more similar than different. I added my mean “frowning in the sunlight” mug to the equation on one of the mirrored sides of the sculpture.

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I then ventured towards the Japanese Village Plaza. Out in front is a replica of a Japanese fire lookout called the Yagura Fire Tower. It was actually designed by a Korean-American architect David Hyun in 1978.

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Inside the plaza is small but has a mix of Japanese themed shops specializing in nik naks, toys, clothes and beauty. There are also a few restaurants, sweets and bakery shops and a Japanese market.

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In the courtyard are traditional, Japanese wishing trees where people write their wishes on small pieces of paper and tie them to the bamboo tree. In normal tradition the tree is later thrown into the river or brought to a shrine and set fire to in order for the wish to come true. I just thought it was a lovely scene in being able to visually see people's hopes and dreams in colorful, physical form.

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It was starting to get late, and I was getting hungry so I went to try a nearby ramen restaurant Shin-Sen-Gumi which in Little Tokyo is located across the street from the Japanese Village Plaza. At this location there is usually a line of patrons waiting to get in, pretty much any time of day but it usually moves fairly quickly. They sell only one type of base broth and then you choose from a variety of toppings including a miso butter bomb, to tomato paste and mozzarella(!!). I got one of the suggested combinations of kimchi, garlic chips and a poached egg. It was delicious, the noodles were nicely aldente, the toppings added a nice texture and flavor variation that helped cut the richness of the broth.

It was also surreal to see non-Japanese chefs cooking the ramen who conversing in perfect Japanese. At the same time it made me ashamed in my own lack of fluency.

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I finished off the night with dessert at the Mikawaya store back in the plaza, where they have a variety of different flavored Japanese mochi ice cream. Here is the cookies and cream version. 美味しかった! (It was delicious!).

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Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 1 (Part 1) - LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits

January 24, 2016 (continued): My first day in Los Angeles, I left my AirBnB in West Hollywood and began with breakfast at Fratelli Cafe. Being in California, I decided to take advantage of all the Mexican food I could get my hands on so I ordered the huevos rancheros and a mocha. The huevos rancheros was 2 eggs over-medium served on fried corn tortillas, topped with cheddar cheese, black beans, avocado, and house-made pico de gallo, it also came with a side of potatoes. Every part of the meal was well seasoned and a perfect amalgamation of textures and flavors. The service was friendly and the coffee strong so I give this place two thumbs up!

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Walking back to my car I spotted the first of many artistically decorated electrical boxes.

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This trip could’ve been nicknamed the West Coast Museum Tour since my next destination was the largest art museum in the west, LACMA. I’d seen all the posts from other creators of some of the famous installations located outside the museum so this was on a must visit for me.

Emerging from the parking lot elevator, you’re immediately greeted by the first piece of outdoor art, Sam Durant’s “Like man, I’m tired (of waiting)” from his electric signs series.

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On the right of the elevator is one of the most iconic installations at LACMA, the Urban Light sculpture by Chris Burden. I can see why thousands flock to this site for their selfie backdrop of the day - it is really stunning in person and the fact that they are real, re-purposed working street lamps makes it all the more dynamic and fun.

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Entering the first floor of the Ahmanson Building, the Smoke sculpture by Tony Smith overwhelms the space, taking over the main foyer.

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I was captivated by these textile patterns by Joan Miró and Fernand Léger as I love quirky, interesting prints for fashion because you can show off little parts of your personality without it being too obvious at first glance.

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The colors on this George Braques painting, Boats on the Beach is so fun and playful that it really does evoke feelings of summer time by the sea.

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Head of a Woman bronze cast sculpture by Pablo Picasso.

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This Georges Braques painting, Still Life with Violin brought me back to my high school art class days when we were learning about the Cubism movement.

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See my own beginnings of learning how to create in the Cubist aesthetic, where we had to draw a violin at different angles within the same piece to show its dimensional shape within a flat surface. (Side note: Can’t believe I still have this from high school!)

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I love the colors of The Disks painting by Fernand Leger.

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Woman with Blue Veil by Pablo Picasso. I love the freeform, softer technique in this painting.

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Jeanette I bronze sculpture heads by Henri Matisse.

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Tea by Henri Matisse has a beautiful color palette along with an ideal setting of having tea in a garden with friends and a doggeh.

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Portrait of Sebastia Juñer Vidal by Pablo Picasso from his famous Blue Period. The way just the use of one color tonally can evoke an emotion is fascinating to me. Here, the blue palette adds to the story of the sombre tone in his work during this period.

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Composition in White, Red, and Yellow by Piet Mondrian. To see one of his most famous pieces up close with the cracks in the white paint after many years is something to behold. I know most people don’t understand why this type of art is a thing in the “I could do that attitude”, but after many years of art movements with ornate flourishes and detail, Mondrian was one of the first to strip it back to representing what he saw in its most minimalist form.

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Detail from a surrealist painting (can’t remember who this is by!).

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Weeping Woman with Handkerchief by Pablo Picasso has an almost contemporary modern feel to it in its style and colors.

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Animated Forms by Joan Miró.

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Suicide at Dawn by Victor Brauner. This painting was a little disturbing but it still made me stop, look and think so isn’t that what art is supposed to do?

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The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) (La trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]) by René Magritte is one of my favorite pieces of art, as it mixes my favorite things in one - art, psychology and philosophy.

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Number 15 by Jackson Pollock. Seeing a Pollock up close in real life, you can see the layers of paint and amount of movement andwork that went into it as opposed to when you see a picture of it.

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This sculpture is not creeping me out at all.

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Speaking of layers of paint, this piece created its own texture.

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Life Begins (in more ways then one!) by Lorser Feitelson.

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I found the textures and patterns created by the paint interesting on this piece.

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One of the iconic Campbell’s Soup Can prints by Andy Warhol.

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Had to capture this SPAM homage in Edward Ruscha’s Actual Size painting for my Hawaii roots.

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Giant Pool Balls by Claes Oldenburg was another favorite I saw at LACMA as I enjoy novelty size items giant or miniature. I had first heard of Claes Oldenburg, ironically while watching Clueless when Cher is giving a tour of her house to Christian and he spots a Claes Oldenburg sculpture. Who says entertainment can’t be informative?

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I would need this big of a comb to deal with my unruly hair. (Untitled) Comb by Vija Celmins.

La Gerbe by Henri Matisse.

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Another view of Smoke by Tony Smith.

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Miracle Mile by Robert Irwin consists of 66 fluorescent tubes stretching the span of 36 feet.

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Metropolis II by Chris Burden is a bustling model of a  miniature city but ironically also quite a large, significant piece at the same time. I love when pieces have so much detail that every time you look at it you see something new.

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I enjoyed the interior aesthetics of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum building at LACMA. The colored window panels allowed tinted reflections when the light shone through, while the giant glass elevator gave me Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator vibes.

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The Sympathetic Imagination exhibit by Diana Thater was one of my favorites with large scale projections of planets, moons, animals and architecture.

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On top of the BCAM building you can see a straight shot view of the Hollywood sign.

I finished off my tour of LACMA at one of the other famous art installations there, the Levitated Mass by Michael Heizer.

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Conveniently located next to LACMA was the La Brea Tar Pits - I did not go into the museum but part of the outdoor area is free to the public so that was a bonus! As you approach the many tar pits around the park, you can definitely smell the oil seeping from as well as see that iridescent sheen on the surface. There were a few pits that were still actively bubbling as well. I also learned that La Brea means “the tar” in Spanish so this place is basically called “The Tar, Tar Pits”.

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*Dug from UP voice* - “SQUIRREL!”

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Overall, I had a great time seeing iconic pieces of art in person that I’d only seen in print previously. LACMA has a vast range of collections, as I only managed to see maybe ¾ of it and that was rushing through a few exhibitions. Definitely worth the ticket price!

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Travel Diary: Seattle Day 4 - Belltown

January 18, 2016 (continued): Walking back to my hotel from my day about town, I got to go through the trendy Belltown neighborhood. I enjoyed the colorful (literally and metaphorically) stores, restaurants, architecture, and art. Below, are some of the highlights of my walk through, including a mannequin sporting a new clothing trend perhaps? ;)