Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

9/17/2011

Seen: LA in Maps at Libros Schmibros Westwood

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

A few days ago, I mentioned that Libros Schmibros was opening a Westside branch just for a month. They have such a wonderful line-up of events that I couldn't resist attending the first one that caught my eye about Los Angeles cartography.

On hand were Glen Creason (author of Maps of Los Angeles) and artist J. Michael Walker (All the Saints in the City of Angels) talk about Los Angeles maps. I caught the 750 and the 761 buses down to Westwood and got there just a few minutes late, but very much inspired after listening to a two or three podcasts of Debbie Millman's Design Matters.


As promised, Libros Schmibros Westwood captured the fun, playful atmosphere of its Boyle Heights counterpart. It was packed when I got in and it took me a few minutes to find a suitable chair, but that serves me right for not leaving earlier.

The ceiling above me was festooned with banderitas and Chinese lanterns. (Lending library owner David Kipen tells me that was one of the conditions the Hammer set when they set up the Westwood branch. Great call, people at the Hammer!) As Laura from the Getty commented, the decor perfectly captured Los Angeles, a great mix of influences that range from Spanish to Asian.


The conversation was similarly invigorating. Creason and Walker talked about their versions of Los Angeles while referencing great literature. The most lyrical quote came from Raymond Chandler's Red Wind: "There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge." But my favorite (and in my reckoning, the most accurate) was from Ray Bradbury, who once wrote, "Los Angeles is everything you want to be." Not everything you want IT to be, everything you want to be.


All these quotes were on display in Walker's masterpiece, a color pencil rendering of Los Angeles. Walker and the staff at Libros Schmibros painstakingly researched the writers, singers and artists that lived in Los Angeles, placed them in their proper neighborhood and added their own quotations on Los Angeles. The result was a literary landscape of Los Angeles. After reading all the quotes, one could see just how Los Angeles changes for every person, depending on their personal disposition and, of course, neighborhood.


Walker noted that the quotes from people who lived in the Westside seemed to more about the environment, while on the Eastside the theme surrounded broken dreams and rising from challenges. I could see how that can happen.

The piece took about 2 to 3 weeks to research and 1.5 weeks to finish. What's amazing to me was that all that time, Walker worked in a studio a third of the size of the finished mural. "I didn't see the final piece until we unrolled it at the Hammer," says Walker. Wow.

Glen Creason and J. Michael Walker post-discussion.

Toward the end, the crowd got into a conversation which I personally noticed. We talked about how GPS systems have, in some cases, detached us from the world right in front of us. (American Public Media's Marketplace apparently noticed the same thing.) Based on experience, I know that's true, which is why I cherish the opportunity to walk or ride around anywhere. Somehow, taking the time to read an actual map and internalizing an orientation makes me feel more connected to world around me.

Reading over Walker's book on the saints of Los Angeles.
The night ended with more chitchatting where everyone seemed to be open to conversation. I could have probably stayed longer, but I had to get back home for dinner. I'll surely be back though, and you should too! Here are more photos.

This Saturday, stop by the Westwood branch and say hello to the writers of Slake L.A., who'll be taking turns manning the booth from 11am to 7pm. Meet Lauren Ochoa in the afternoon when she (wo)mans the booth.

Libros Schmibros in Westwood at the Hammer
10899 Wilshire Boulevard, at Westwood Boulevard
Phone: 310-443-7000
Hours: Tues-Wed, Fri-Sat, 11am – 7pm; Thurs, 11am – 9 pm; Sun, 11am – 5 pm;
Admission: All Libros Schmibros events are free. Museum admission though is $10 for adults; Museum is free for everyone on Thursdays.

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