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Letters

AN ISSUE WORTH REVISITING

Thank you for Ben Ehrenreich’s article “Afghanistan Revisited” [October 3–9]. Working as a volunteer for Afghan Women’s Mission, I know most people I come in contact with believe — since they don’t see coverage to show them otherwise — that Afghanistan is “liberated” and that there is peace in that country. Thank you for also printing the story in the issue which fell on the second anniversary of the bombing in Afghanistan. It was the most comprehensive piece done that week.

 

—Heather Schreck Hollywood

 

CHRISMAS CAROLS

Kristine McKenna’s cover story on Doug Chrismas [“The Ace Is Wild,” October 10–16] was rich, especially for its curious dismissal of his importance as a presenter of contemporary art. Her exposé sang with moral indignation over Chrismas’ financial dealings, but I wonder why any sense of humor or awe about this colorful character was so absent. Her fervor seems peculiar since Chrismas’ (and McKenna’s) industry — the contemporary-art business — is nothing if not riddled with seamless hustlers.

Yes, Doug Chrismas is apparently a compulsive debtor and, as far as his interest in gallery-empire building goes, a compulsive spender. Yes, his financial unaccountability is infuriating for his artists. Chrismas’ tendency to financial manipulation, however, seems more than outweighed by his commitment to the art and to the craft of presentation. In fact, Doug Chrismas has been a crucial enrichment of the art-viewing world for Angelenos and elsewhere. It’s also worth noting that in spite of their hair-pulling over getting paid, a roster of quality artists — including Tim Hawkinson, David Amico, Charles Fine, Mary Corse — remain with Ace. That these talented individuals choose to work with Chrismas says a lot. That McKenna chose not to quote any of them also says a lot.

McKenna takes pleasure in pointing out the grandiosity of Chrismas’ imprudent amassing and development of ever more leased gallery space. However, the recent brilliant Sam Francis show proved that he was exactly right in taking a space with higher ceilings, especially for the one non-edge painting, a glorious 26-foot-by-17-foot work. Where else would the art-loving public have seen that work? And it is precisely because of the size and spectacle of Ace Gallery that it is rendered important enough to attract excellent work by important artists such as Keith Sonnier, James Turrell, Jannis Kounellis and the brilliant large-format photographic prints of Hans Christian Schenk.

McKenna goes on to imply that Chrismas’ spaces are unavailable to female artists. Besides Corse, whose consistent, great work is certain to stand the test of time, McKenna ignored the single most critically praised artist of the last season, Tara Donovan. In a world unreasonably favoring male artists, Chrismas is certainly no worse than any other major dealer in this regard. Ace has, in fact, shown an interesting series of female artists, including China Adams, Patty Chang, Sylvie Fleurie and Teresa Margolies.

Certainly Doug Chrismas is a dreamy, irascible, sometimes brutally difficult character. But his dealings are the business of those who choose to be in business with him. For those of us who view the art (and, I should think, for those who write about it), Doug Chrismas and the Ace Gallery provide lovely, joyous experiences without costing the taxpayer a dime.

 

 

—Timothy Ford Hollywood

 

Having worked for Doug Chrismas for three years in the 1970s, I found Kristine McKenna’s article on him quite interesting. Indeed, those seminal exhibitions by Serra, Heizer et al. were sparsely attended by the general public — not for any good reason except that that Ace Venice was a bit out of the loop for the typical art follower. (By the way, contrary to McKenna’s piece, Serra’s Delineator was at 72 Market, not the Windward gallery, and, while I’m at it, the “uptown” space was at 811 N. La Cienega, not 736.) There were regular visitors, however, and they included Larry Gagosian in his Broxton print-shoppe/bad-haircut period (I always associate his becoming a Big Time Dealer with finding a new barber), the usual gaggle of art writers, and an array of homeless people, who often spent the longest time looking at the exhibitions.

I have to say that, during my tenure as Gallery Gal, I wrote out the checks and, to my knowledge, never bounced any. I’m glad to have missed the litigation fest that followed, though I always associated it not so much with Doug double-selling work to collectors as having gotten caught up in an acquisition mania that necessitated using artwork earmarked for sale as collateral for real-estate and other loans. I don’t pretend to know the inner workings of the man, though beyond the art-fascist persona he could be a bit provincial. (He persisted, in those days, in calling Eli Broad “Ellie.”) And it was not Doug who refused to pay off the Warhol drawing–nappers but me. Doug gave me the cash fully expecting it to be collected, then dispatched me to the den of thieves. I didn’t relish being a bag man, and I think I said as much. I don’t remember the subtext of our conversation, but it was probably something like, “Linda, it’s better for you to get killed than me.” It beat Windexing the counters, so I dutifully drove to Levin’s downscale Wilshire Boulevard offices.

I stopped working for Doug Chrismas 26 years ago and spent more than a few moments after that dreading I might run into him. Recently, I did. He was dressed in his usual starched uniform and having lunch in the American Rag café. I introduced him to my daughter knowing that, at 17, she would not offend him with drooling or other baby behavior. We reminisced for a minute about the party we threw for Andy Warhol at Mr. Chow’s, and then, as I left, he flashed some goofy hand signals. ‰

Somehow, the revelation in McKenna’s piece that his father was an Alberta car dealer cheers me.

 

—Linda Forman Silver Lake

BEST OF THE BEST

I loved the new L.A. Weekly “Best of L.A.” issue [October 17–23] and wanted to congratulate you on a spectacular job!

 

—Sirin Caliskan Pasadena

 

I just wanted to thank John Dentino for putting in print what I’ve been feeling for a long time now — KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic is mediocre. (On the other hand, KXLU’s programming has always been great and seems to be getting better.)

I have been an avid listener for years (still am), and have come to realize that the show encompasses less and less of anything truly new and underground but caters more to the corporate flunky who fancies himself cool or artsy. The show is quickly becoming a vehicle for major labels and their “indie” sub-labels to showcase new, corporate talent under the guise of the “underground” in the hopes of selling records.

—P.J. Bloom Los Angeles

IN THE REALM OF THE APOCRYPHAL

 

Greg Bishop’s “Best of L.A.” characterization, in his piece on Jack Parsons, of L. Ron Hubbard as a tool of Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientalis is utterly false. Mr. Hubbard was sent in by U.S. Intelligence to disband Parsons’ black-magic group. Those associated with the OTO had become a serious security threat to the nation’s atomic-research program, with suspected Nazi sympathizers among them and scientists from Caltech and Los Alamos (Manhattan Project) suspected of engaging in rituals involving sex and drugs. Clearly a security nightmare.

Mr. Hubbard succeeded in his assignment. In 1946, Parsons’ lodge of the OTO dispersed. Parsons lost his government security clearance in 1948, and other scientists involved in his group were among the 64 stripped of their security clearances after the war.

It really is time for the L.A. Weekly to reassess its perspective and policy regarding such attempts to denigrate Scientology, the religion of tens of thousands of people in your readership area.

 

 

—Lissa Uvizl Manager, L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition Hollywood

CORRECTIONS

Due to an error by the editor, The New Republic editor Chuck Lane’s surname came out “Lang” in the headline for Ella Taylor’s review of the film Shattered Glass.

Last week’s Deadline Hollywood column [“The Queens of Hollywood,” October 31–November 6] reported that Carina Chocano was a freelancer at Salon, where she was a staffer, and that she had written two books when in fact she had written one and contributed to another.


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