Graciela Iturbide, photographer

Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas © Graciela Iturbide 1979

It was not until this morning, while reading a review in the LA Times, Her view of Mexican life, that I found out about an exhibit of photographs by Graciela Iturbide, at the Rose Gallery (D-4), Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica, 2525 Michigan Ave.

Muerte Novia, Chalma-Mexico © Graciela Iturbide 1990

I was intrigued by the work of this photographer, when I heard her speak at the Skylight Studios, in conjunction with the REFUGEE exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. Please read my 2016 article in Cultural Weekly.

Heroes de la Patria, Puebla-Mexico © Graciela Iturbide 1993

So I made plans to take the Expo Line from Culver City to the 26th Street/Bergamot Station stop.  There is also ample parking, if you wish to drive. 

It was a treat to see so many BW prints by this amazing woman in a show titled Hay Tiempo (There is Time).  This is what her lifelong mentor, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, used to say to remind her to pause and observe. 

The exhibit closes this Saturday May 18, so don’t delay, if you wish to see it.

Mexico DF © Graciela Iturbide 1972

Text by Elisa Leonelli

Photoville LA

Pit bull Flower Power © Sophie Gamand

A free pop up photography festival featuring over 55 installation, Photoville LA, presented by Annenberg Space for Photography, is set up in the grass area behind 2020 Avenue of the Stars in Century City (from Saturday to Monday April 26 to 28, from Thursday May 2 to Sunday to May 5).
I went to check it out today, because I wanted to see more work by Lysney Addario, whom I had featured in my article about an exhibit about Women Photographers.

Blossom © Sophie Gamand

I also looked at many other exhibits and I was enchanted by the sweet faces of the pitt bulls with flowers garlands on their head.

To counter the bad reputation of pit bulls as ferocious dogs, In 2014 Sophie Gamand started to photograph adoptable pit bulls adorning their head with handmade flower crowns. Posted on social media and published in a book, Pit Bull Flower Power, these photographs helped hundreds of dogs find homes. One of the featured pit bulls is named Blossom, another Frida.

Frida © Sophie Gamand

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

New Restaurants Culver City

Margot bar © Elisa Leonelli

We were disappointed when we discovered that EnjoyEat, our favorite Italian restaurant in Culver City, had closed until further notice on January 1, 2019, after months of only having been open for dinner, not for lunch. When we contacted the owners, who still run their original restaurant, Eatalian in Gardena, they replied with the comforting news that they are working on a new concept and will hopefully reopen soon.

Palihotel © Elisa Leonelli

We always thought EnjoyEat was cursed with a bad location, in an alley next to the Arclight Cinemas, that is off the beaten path.  But then in mid January the newly remodeled Palihotel opened in an historical 1923 building, across the street, on that same Van Buren Place (as we posted on Nextdoor on January 10), so now more people will likely discover this location.

Simonette-Palihotel ©Elisa Leonelli

A French restaurant, Simonette, opened at the lobby level of the Palihotel, with outdoor seating in an inner courtyard, the tables surrounding a mature tree. Their brunch menu includes Moules Frites, a Belgian specialty of mussels and fries.

Roberta’s © Elisa Leonelli

Late last year Roberta’s Pizza had opened at Platform, the fancy shopping mall at 8850 Washington Blvd, across the street from the Expo Line Culver City station. We had eaten there and posted on Nextdoor (December 1, 2018). We had written a blog post on their 2017 Pop Up experiment, and a review of Platform in 2016.

Margot © Elisa Leonelli

Today we tried a new restaurant, Margot, that opened at Platform on December 19. It is described as a mix of Spanish and Italian cuisine, so we ordered a focaccia sandwich filled with the typically Italian cold-cut, mortadella, and a frisee salad that came mixed with spicy olives. Both dishes were tasty but too salty. We didn’t care for the loud music, but the large and bright restaurant was comfortable.

If you want to eat authentic Italian food, try Pasta Sisters, that opened their cosy restaurant at Helms Bakery last March. Read our blog post here.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

Actors Gang performs Dario Fo

Actors Gang theater © Elisa Leonelli 2019

The 1970 play Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Italian playwright Dario Fo is being performed until March 9 by the Actors Gang, founded in 1981 by a group of actors, with Tim Robbins as artistic director. Since 2005 their theater is located in Culver City’s historical Ivy Substation, built in 1907 in the Mission Revival style to house electrical equipment for the Los Angeles Pacific Railway. It was left vacant in 1953 and restored in 1993.

Tim Robbins, who had directed and acted in the political satire Bob Roberts (1992), now says, “I made that film as a warning about politics becoming superficial entertainment, based on factors that have nothing to do with the truth, image over substance, and the power of the media to create an image for someone, even though their past is very clearly clouded with potential misdeeds. And I believe that is what happened with Mr. Trump, he was elevated into a candidate by this crazy fascination we have with reality TV and celebrity.”
“There is a direct line between Bob Roberts and Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which stands in defiance of fascism. At a time when authoritarian governments are being supported by our president, and the judiciary is being corrupted by politics, this play resonates as if it was written yesterday. What inspired me, when I first read Dario Fo, was his ability to produce incredibly funny situations and dialogue about important social subject matter. Dario’s wicked humor and courageous satire gave me great inspiration to create theater that was relevant, entertaining and dangerous in its uncompromising telling of truth to power.”

Dario Fo

We went to see this American version of the play and were impressed by its manic intensity. You may read a review in Cultural Weekly. However, if you understand Italian, we encourage you to watch this 1987 video of Morte accidentale di un anarchico, with the incredible Dario Fo in the title role.
It is preceded by an introduction about the real life events that inspired the play, when police immediately arrested a railway worker, Giuseppe Pinelli, accusing him of the bombing of a bank, which had been more likely carried out by a right wing group with ties to law-enforcement. While the innocent man was being interrogated at police headquarters in Milano, he jumped or was thrown out of a fourth story window to his death. Fo recalls that the authorities were quite upset about the staging of his play, that made a farce out of their criminal blunder, and they brought his theater troupe to court 40 times. So in order to avoid sentencing, the name Pinelli was never mentioned, it was replaced with Andrea Salsedo, an Italian anarchist who in 1920, two days before Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested, fell to his death from the a 20th story window of the Bureau of Investigations offices in New York City.
Dario Fo, who died in 2016 at the age of 90, was a comedian, a playwright and a political activist. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997.

Text by Elisa Leonelli

Wisdome LA

After reading an article in the LA Times, we visited Wisdome in Downtown LA. 1147 Palmetto St.
We walked inside 5 darkened domes, white on the outside, we sat back on couches to watch SAMSKARA, a psychedelic 22-minute 360 degree video by digital artist Andrew “Android” Jones.


Fantasmagoric paintings and holograms by the same artist are displayed in the art gallery of two other domes. See some of the artwork on Jones website.
Another dome houses Virtual Reality experiences like Burning Man by Jones, Micro Desert and Blue Nebula, where you can paint your own swirls and butterflies onto fantastic backdrops.
You may watch an interview with Jones where he explains how he was influenced by the Art of Burning Man.

Wisdome LA is open Thursday to Sunday 11am to 11pm. $29 admission.
Be sure to click on red hot weblinks for video promos.

Text and photos by Elisa Leonelli

P.S. Read a lenghty article, published in LAIST on February 14, 2019
Massive Domes Filled With Trippy 3D Visuals Take Over 35,000-Square-Feet In DTLA

Meditation Gardens

I had read about the Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens, located at 3500 West Adams, in the online magazine LAist over a year ago, but did not visit it until yesterday.
I planned to meditate about the end the year in this “spiritual oasis,” and I did, but what I wasn’t expecting was to connect with my Italian heritage. I discovered that the elegant Guasti Villa, that now houses the PAL&G, was built by a wealthy Italian immigrant in 1910.

Guasti Villa, 1910

Secondo Guasti, born in 1859 in Monbaruzzo, province of Asti, in the Northern Piedmont region, emigrated via Mexico to Los Angeles in 1883, arriving with one dollar in his pocket. He found work as a cook at the Italian hotel and restaurant Italia Unita, located in the Avila Adobe on Olvera Street. In 1887 the enterprising young man, then 28, asked the proprietors for the hand of their 15-year-old daughter Louisa Amillo, and their happy marriage lasted 40 years until his death. Secondo bought cheap land in the Cucamonga Valley near Ontario, an arid desert where the soil was good but the water scarce, and in 1900 founded with several partners the Italian Vineyard Company, the largest in the world at 5700 acres, producing 5 million gallons of wine a year by 1917. In 1912 he built a small town called Guasti for his 1,200 Italian and Mexican workers, with a school, a market, a bakery, a library, a firehouse, a doctor’s office, and in 1926 a Catholic church, San Secondo d’Asti, modeled after the one in his hometown, named after its patron saint.
Read Guasti’s story in this 2000 LA Times Times article “From Penniless Immigrant to Wine King”

Guasti Villa, pond

I had found out about the history of Italian immigrants in Los Angeles 3 years ago, while visiting the newly opened Italian-American Museum, IAMLA. You may read my article in Cultural Weekly at this link. Guasti is mentioned in the 2009 book Los Angeles’s Little Italy by Mariann Gatto, with vintage photos.

Guasti Villa, ballroom

As docent Ryan lead us through the Guasti Villa, we learnt that it was built in 4 years between 1910 and 1913, at the cost of $500,0000, in the Beaux-Arts style inspired by the Italian-Renaissance, with symmetrical architectural elements like arches and Greek columns. We admired the Carrara marble tile floor of the veranda, the grand ballroom lined with inlaid oak wood, the large oval ceiling fresco depicting the lady of the house Louisa among the clouds, with her surviving son Secondo Jr. (four more children who died appear as angels). An inscription reads in Latin “spez mea in deo=my trust is in God.” A curved staircase leads to the upper level, that we didn’t get to visit, arches open to the two parlors, one for men to smoke their cigars and drink their liqueurs after dinner, with a rose marble fireplace, and one for women, that was separated by a wall, and used to have ornate wallpaper, now preserved in a frame. On the opposite side we entered the dining room, also with an ornate mantelpiece, and tapestry lining the upper walls; one figure pictured is Bacchus the Roman God of wine.

Guasti Villa-women parlor

It’s in this room that some of us took advantage of the offer of a sound meditation to connect with our soul, which is held monthly on Tuesday evenings at this spiritual center now headquarters of the MSIA church (Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness) founded in 1968, and of the PTS (Peace Theological Seminary) founded in 1977 by John-Roger Hinkins, who had been raised Mormon in Utah. In 1988 he passed the “keys” to what he called “Mystical Traveler Consciousness” to current leader John Morton. In 1976 Hinkins also founded USM (University of Santa Monica), that offers a Masters Degree in Spiritual Psychology. He died in 2014.

Peace Labyrinth

We then were shown how to walk the labyrinth, a circular path on the ground, made of travertine marble, modeled after the one at the Chartres Cathedral in France, added in 2002. You have to set your intention for this walking meditation, ask for the LIGHT (Living in God Holy Thought). See more info at this link.

Peace Garden

Finally I descended among fountains to the 3 lower levels of gardens, filled with plants like ferns, huge birds of paradise, tall bamboo, citrus trees, I stopped to look at the red fish in the koi pond, I sat under a gazebo on a wooden bench to meditate.

The Guasti Villa is available for rent for movie and TV shoots; recently it served as a set for the television comedy Veep. Click here for 2017 article with many photos.

The mansion was used for lavish parties during the lifetime of their original owners; they ever published their family recipes in a cookbook. Click here for 1994 LA Times article.

Guasti Villa, staircase

After Secondo’s death in 1927, his widow continued to live there with her son, who died in 1933 at age 42, her daughter-in-law Gertrude remarried in 1935 and moved to New York. At Louisa’s death in 1937, the house was bought by Hollywood choreographer and director of movie musical Busby Berkley, who sold it in 1946. It was purchased by the Los Angeles Physicians Aid Association, who transformed it into a retirement home, adding two residential wings in the back. MSIA acquired the property in 1974 and spent more than 20 years to restore it to its original splendour. It was declared a Historical-Cultural Monument in 1990.

The Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens are open to the public Tuesdays-Fridays, some Saturdays and Sundays, from 12 noon to 4pm, attending a tour is required. Reservations must be made through Evite. Free, $10 donation suggested. Click on this link to register.

Text by Elisa Leonelli
Photos courtesy of PAL&G

Palisades Village

Palisades Village © Elisa Leonelli

The newly remodeled shopping mall Palisades Village had opened in September, and finally today I had a chance to visit it, when a friend invited me to lunch. We picked Edo Little Bites, because we were familiar with the Italian cooking of Edoardo, son of Giorgio Baldi. As luck would have it, one of the specials was lasagne, prepared in the traditional style of my hometown, with green spinach pasta, béchamel, pork ragout and parmesan, layered then baked in the oven. For more info about the cuisine from Modena, please click here to read my article in Cultural Weekly.

Palisades Village Xmas © Elisa Leonelli

We walked around the small cluster of shops and restaurants all decorated for Xmas, we enjoyed the Amazon Books store and the Vintage Grocers.

Bay Theater © Elisa Leonelli

Looking forward to trying the Bay Theater, built in in 1948 and closed in 1978, which reopened in November as the luxury Cinépolis, where you lounge in recliner seats and order food to eat before (hopefully not during) the movie, like at the iPic in Westwood.