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Not long after leaving Taalman Koch in 2004, Beal began the MFA program at USC. To help make ends meet, he got a job moving art over at The Project in Culver City with his buddy, curator/filmmaker Drew Heitzler. It was there, while banging crates around on La Cienega, that the two, along with Heitzler’s wife, the dancer and artist Flora Wiegmann, got the idea of taking over the space that had once been home to the semi-ominously named The Manhandler, and opening The Mandrake. Since then, the bar’s become a sort of clubhouse for Los Angeles’ art cognoscenti.
“Drew and me were just like, ‘Hey, we can do this, and it’s gotta be better than what we’re doing,” recalls Beal, while leaning up against the dark-blue fiberglass bar top on a recent night. The Mandrake, a narrow sort of East Coast–seeming affair with marred-concrete floors, a cedar ceiling, and tables made of swamp-cedar slices, sits smack-dab in the middle of gallery row. In the back is a screening room, where tonight a blazing fire is on loop, offering comfort to the scant few who enter.
Beal admits the bar business has its ups and downs, but says that, between being able to make a bit of a living and also beginning to pay back investors, he’s managing to put in a respectable amount of studio time. As Beal’s solo show draws near, it’s time that will become increasingly precious — ACME isn’t exactly a small space to fill.
Though Beal is still working it out, he says the show will “feature sculptural as well as flat pieces, including photographs, some text-based works and a wall drawing.” Thematically, he says it will deal “with an idea that’s been present in my work for a while — the encounter between the human body and architecture and the overlaps in histories of design, art and consumer culture.” Central to articulating that theme will be the aforementioned vesica piscis wall drawing.
“The two interlocking circles appear in the mausoleum that the architect Carlo Scarpa designed for an Italian television manufacturer, Giuseppe Brion, as well as graphic designer Massimo Vignelli’s design for the Bloomingdale’s logo, as well as also being on a Kool cigarettes billboard that happens to be in a photograph of a Christopher Wool billboard in New York, amongst other places,” explains Beal, adding that “the vesica is also a sort of Venn diagram which could serve as a key of how the show fits together.”
It’s clear, talking with Beal, that what interests him is work that has an open-ended nature, and that he hopes his many-formed explorations will be catalysts for viewers to ask questions and draw conclusions from the connections he highlights.