Downtown Los Angeles is known for its hidden nighttime gems. With its after-hour speakeasies and never-ending supply of street meat (specifically the “illegal” bacon-wrapped hot dog) — this city is a treasure trove of late night indulgences. Last Saturday, however, I stumbled across one of its finest oddities, the Bronx Zoo, in broad daylight.

Each Saturday afternoon through the third week in October, Silver Lake art gallery Ghettogloss invades La Cita bar (off 3rd and Hill) to host the Bronx Zoo — a weekly art class that re-invents figure drawing, King Kong style. From 3-8 p.m. on La Cita's outdoor patio, every hour on the hour there is an “ape escape” when leggy bikini-clad models, with faces obscured by gorilla masks, are released from a backstage holding cell of sorts. Gorilla mask and black bikini firmly in place, the models take center stage where they strike and hold a pose for patrons (or artists) to sketch.

The models typically hold still for 12-15 minutes until a Ghettogloss rep blows the “monkey alarm,” signaling a change in pose. Bloody Mary in hand, I watched as the artists furiously smeared charcoal and pastel across canvas, determined to have their pieces selected for the upcoming November 14th Ghettogloss group show curated by Flavorpill's Shana Nys Dambrot, featuring the best of the Bronx Zoo drawings.

Los Feliz local Tom Voorhies, one of the first artists to arrive at La Cita, has been studying figure drawing since college and this marked his fifth time at the Bronx Zoo. He laughed, “The gorilla mask is so funny I think it helps the artist open up.” I asked another artist, Robert Vargas, a second timer who lives Downtown, why he keeps coming back. He simply smiled and said, “I love painting in a concrete jungle.”

Though Ghettogloss maintains a strict “no cameras or photography allowed” rule, the gallery gave L.A. Weekly inside access to shoot the afternoon of drinks, live drawing and nearly naked gorilla girls. Check out the entire slideshow here.

The Bronx Zoo

Presented by Ghettogloss

Each Saturday from 3-8 p.m. at La Cita

336 S Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013

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