Vanessa Burgundy & the Art of Female
The gallery space next to the Burgundy Room was originally bought as a “fuck you” to all the nightclubs and celebrity hot spots opening on Cahuenga at the height of the Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan paparazzi era. Burgundy Room is an old punky dive bar, and as Vanessa Moselle (aka Vanessa Burgundy) explains, “We didn’t want any new 'club of the month' fame-chasing posers ruining our rock & roll, so we grabbed the spot before anyone else could.”
The space changed hands several times to various curators over the years, and Burgundy herself, who was bartending at the time (that's how she got her stage name), even ran it from 2012 to 2013. She produced shows such as a Cramps tribute and a solo show by billboard queen Angelyne, then left after going on tour with Electric Daisy Carnival to do costumes and makeup design. This past summer Burgundy (who is a friend and has contributed to L.A. Weekly) taught a makeup workshop in the gallery and found herself re-inspired by the space.
“I knew I wanted to produce more shows this year, but shows with a cause,” she says. “I wanted to find a way to throw a party essentially but combine the exhibits with an accompanying nonprofit, be it burlesque, art, experimental, etc. … as well as continue to provide workshops in the various arts.”
And like that, the Burgundy Room Gallery was reborn.
The debut show, called “Art of Female,” features woman-themed art by all female artists. Burgundy chose She Should Run (which educates and empowers women to run for office) as her charity, a perfect complement to the fierce and femme images she's presenting. “Any decent person that is witness to the state of our country I hope understands the importance and impact of women in office,” says Burgundy, who is also a burlesque dancer, makeup artist, designer and DJ.
The show features 20 respected female artists (Kat Von D, Tara McPherson, Natalia Fabia and Brandi Milne, to name a few), and opening night will include burlesque performances by two of L.A.'s most popular performers, Jessabelle Thunder and Audrey DeLuxe, plus a pop-up shop with wares from three local designers: clothing and accessories from Jessica Louise, sustainable lingerie from Clare Bare and Burgundy's own line of vintage-inspired glamour girl trinkets, House of Envy.
“I have always surrounded myself in art and with artists, and I cultivated many of my friendships through the years at Burgundy Room,” she says. “I’ve known Natalia Fabia and Kat Von D for over 20 years, Tara McPherson reminisced some tales of Burgundy Room madness days, and Gary Baseman gave me my first drawing of his character, Chou Chou, on a $20 bill when I was tending bar.”
The next Burgundy show, “Happy Kitty Happy Bunny,” opens March 21 and will feature artists such as Moby, Sonya Palencia, Baseman, Troy Jensen and more. It will benefit for Mercy for Animals, which prevents cruelty to farm animals and promotes compassionate food choices and policies. There will be a performance from vegan pole dancer Monica Kay and a pop-up from vegan Jewish deli Mort and Betty’s.
As for the girl power inherent in the gallery's latest guise, Burgundy says, “We need more female-helmed everything. There is a certain magic women possess that is constantly trying to be oppressed, and in supporting women-run businesses we help generate this amazing power and point of view. Luckily, growing up, I always felt I could do everything. Nothing was off-limits because I was a girl. I can do a full face of glam makeup as easily as I can write a business proposal. I am my own promoter, PR person, idea generator, designer, booker and more. I am constantly inspired by others in my life, and if my work encourages and inspires others then cool. We need to be visible in order to do this, though. Support women.”
New Energy in Chinatown From Lisa Derrick Fine Arts
Arts maven, curator and writer Lisa Derrick has had a prolific career in myriad forums. Like Burgundy, she has contributed to L.A. Weekly, even co-writing my cover story on L.A.'s influential gothic subculture.
She took over the Black Dragon Wu Shu Kung Fu Society space in Chinatown earlier this year after being inspired by a show of Ginger Lai's paintings, which also influenced her fashion-driven art show at Mash Gallery last month. “Couture Mash” was such a success, it ended up on the cover of California Apparel News' print edition and created buzz for her new gallery as well.
“In my world view, which is 24/7 magical realism, Ginger's art brought me luck,” Derrick says. “I also really appreciated her immediate style of abstraction, her willingness to experiment with materials, and how her spirit is so present in her work. It seemed natural, kismet, to show her as my first show at my gallery, and to pair her with the old and new work of one of my love-to-show favorites, Gary Wong — part of the California Locos — in his first solo outing. I vibed with his Locos phase, which is a mixture of collage and scratched text, rich with Los Angeles energy.”
Born in South-Central L.A., Wong hung out in Chinatown, graduated from Chouinard and was a founder of the EastWind Lion Dance Troupe, and his earlier work reflects this. His new work, which Derrick also is showing, has moved from “figurative mixed-media abstraction to a more pure form,” says the new gallery owner.
“For my debut show, I also wanted to honor Chinatown, a place that played pivotal parts in my life at various stages of my growing up, and to celebrate immigrants drawn here, who believe in and work for what is called the American Dream, a better life for themselves and their families,” Derrick continues. “Part of my long-term curatorial goal is to show artists with ties to the Southland, to show the many forces and people who have shaped the areas from Santa Barbara south beyond the Mexico/U.S. border, to show artists who are a surprise, to mix well-known with the soon-to-be-discovered. And I also like throwing parties, with the caveat: Openings are successful if the art, which is the foundation of any gallery programming, is strong, enticing, compelling, provoking.”
Derrick is currently showing never-before-seen pieces by Ron Athey, Anthony Ausgang and Golgo, along with Wong in “the grotto” part of her gallery. Ausgang will be curating a show, opening March 30, featuring the art of the Mascara Snake and Victor Hayden, who died in December. Hayden was a member of Captain Beefheart and Don Van Vliet's cousin. Along with playing in the band, Hayden created the artwork for Trout Mask Replica and later on for the Melvins, as well as showing nationally and internationally in various phases of his life.
“I met Victor through Pamela Des Barres, and on his death, she and another close friend were left his art, pieces from the 1960s through the end of his life,” Derrick says. “Ausgang is a Beefheart fan, so this seemed really natural. There are some surprises in and around that show. “Athey will be debuting new visual art at LDFA later this year in his first solo gallery show in over 20 years. He is designing a performance piece as part of the programming later in the month as well.
Like Burgundy, Derrick has lot of friends in this town, and her talents and past gigs run the gamut, from music and video industry jobs to journalism to the occult. She also worked for famous groupie and author Des Barres, who she says exposed her to so much in terms of writing and “exuberantly loving life.”
She says Athey and his art “gave fuel to my fires,” as did filmmaker John Roecker (who put together the definitive punk exhibition at Track 16 and was on the subject of a cover story by me many years ago).
“I learned what I liked and I learned what resonated with me by going to more and more galleries. Then on a lark, I took Curator's College from Coagula's Mat Gleason and found out I was good at it, or just lucky,” Derrick recalls. “Roecker and John Fleck both wanted art shows and I pitched Mat, and he said yes. Thus was born “Two Johns and a Whore,” which became part of the John Fleck documentary John Fleck Is Who You Want Him to Be. One of the artists in the show was Rafael Reyes, whose band Prayers played the closings of two of my shows on Chung King Road, and has showed with me since.”
Though Derrick focused on other aspects of her career the past few years, after “Couture Mash” and getting a call last year from Gleason about the Chinatown space opening up, she did the math and realized she could actually make her dream come true. And she's doing it all on her own, too. “I don't have partners. I have a cat, a black cat,” she says drolly. “And very good friends, supportive people around me who encourage me, as I them.”
While Derrick says other gallerists — male and female — have universally been encouraging, non–art world people and some male artists have made assumptions about her new endeavor that she doesn't appreciate. “'Who is your boyfriend, who is your backer?'” they ask, to which I'm like 'Oh, because I have double X chromosome, I can't start a business by myself?' That's some sexist BS, or maybe they just think I'm a dumb dilettante. Joke's on them.
“There have always been women art dealers, gallery owners, though outnumbered by men,” Derrick concludes. “Ruth Bachofner, Merry Karnowsky, Paige Wery at Good Luck here on Chung King Road, and my schoolmate, Diane Rosenstein, come to mind immediately. We need more galleries, period. Sadly, it's hard to find locations. We need more galleries run by people with different perspectives: women, people of color, queer gallerists. We need fresh curatorial visions, we need people to show art that they love.”
Art of Female at the Burgundy Room Gallery, 1621 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, opens tonight, Feb. 7, 8 p.m. More info here.
More info on Lisa Derrick Fine Arts, 961 Chung King Road, Chinatown, including the current show and future exhibits, here.