Frazzled and late, I rolled into the Black Cat Gallery on Saturday night for its much-touted “Black Cat Festival.” Budding starlet Jowharah Jones (guest appearances on Veronica Mars, CSI: NY and Without a Trace!) greeted me out front with a gigantic smile and a new beau on her arm. My boyfriend showed up, and before heading in, we stopped to consider the strapping, young, paint-splattered buck poised in front of a large canvas (“Live Painting”) on the sidewalk out front.
Since I’m terminally broke, I fast-talked my way past the $10 admission fee and we went inside. The space was jumping. The five open rooms were sprinkled with paintings, sculpture and collage. The invite’s suggested look was “Eccentric-Stylish-Costume Hair & Dress,” and the art fags and fans milling about did their best with tarty-vintage finds and synthetic neon wigs, though plenty opted for the rote scenester gear of skinny pants ?and stripes.
I made my way to the back patio, where a gaggle of friends greeted me with warm smiles, hearty hugs and party favors to help me unwind from my frantic attempts to locate the joint. (Is anything in Culver City easy to find?) Short films played on a large screen next to the bar, and an orchestra serenaded the attendees enjoying the warm evening with eerie, klezmerish chamber music. The bar offered free cocktails, including an incongruous absinthe-and-Red Bull concoction. Already, the $10 I never paid seemed well worth it. I opted for a bottle of water and pushed my way back inside to see some art. While the sampling was strong — Raymond Pettibon was showing, for God’s sake — I was struck by only a few artists’ efforts, among them Gabriel Rodriguez, Matt Hedley and, of course, James Mathers, the man behind the best piece in the show.
I happened upon Mathers’ Bisquit© — a Basquiat send-up of a black cat scrawled on a cat-blood-stained crucifix, adorned with Mathers’ succinct, piercing, brilliant ramblings — just seconds after a three-legged black cat crossed my path. Not only was Bisquit© funny and raw and beautiful, it was also profoundly relevant in myriad synchronistic ways. There was the obvious: the gimpy feline who lives at Black Cat Gallery and who is the painting’s subject; Mathers was inspired a few weeks earlier when he witnessed the cat getting its leg chewed off by a pit bull. And the not so obvious: Mathers’ own cat, a rat-catching Topanga bruiser named Needy Gonzales, went crazy, ate his own tail and drowned in Topanga Creek. My boyfriend and I spent a long time under Bisquit©, deconstructing Mathers’ backhanded, underachieving, last-minute stroke of half-assed, fully formed genius and wondering if Needy had yet been reborn and, if so, in what form.
Still in the throes of Bisquit© adoration, I wandered googly-eyed and floaty to the main room, where Soccermom, one of my favorite local punk bands, was gearing up to play. Just as I stepped front and center, the drummer started the set, and for the next 40 minutes, Soccermom rocked the gallery and about 50 adoring fans. I took advantage of the diversion and scoped the art — contraband collage, glitter-covered canvases and two large photo collages overlaid with the inane, insane, narcissistic scrawlings of seminal punk producer Geza X (the Germs, Dead Kennedys, the Weirdos, Black Flag, etc.).
The band finished its set, and the party began to thin. As things died down, I made my way back to Bisquit© and got into a meaty dialogue with Mathers, who looked dashing in a tan suit accessorized with orange scarf and sport sandals. He told me about the movement he’s heading up (working title: The Crapture) and the manifesto he’s working on to unify a collective intention among local artists, thinkers, dreamers and weirdoes that would draw upon the brilliance of the Dadaists, who abandoned reason, the Cubists, who bent space, and Mathers’ own prescription for these mad times: “All we can do is remain present, because the future is too horrifying and the past is too embarrassing,” he said before pecking me on the cheek and dashing off to hustle a sale.