Red velvet ropes.  My mind wanders to trivia-land and considers completely irrelevant questions I will probably forget in a couple of hours, such as:  Why red? For the same reason the carpet at the Oscars is red? But, I know I have seen blue and purple velvet ropes before…Actually, why bother using velvet on the rope when the fabric no longer convinces anyone that a place is high-end?

RAW Artists + Playhouse

RAW Artists at Playhouse

This is what happens to my brain as I wait to enter an art show at a nightclub. There are two lines in front of Playhouse, but it seems that the 2 door-girls and 3 security guards have different opinions on who should be in which line.

RAW Artists + paints

Some artwork at RAW Artists Hollywood

About an hour later, I see my friend Walter Mazzarella who invited me to RAW artists Hollywood.  Walter, an Italian artist trained at the Accademia di belle arti di Bologna, has last-minute adjustments to make to his display inside, but after he pops out of the club to buy a drink, he is sent to the end of the longest line by an expressionless security guard who doesn’t seem to appreciate that artists don’t normally buy a ticket to see their own work on display.

RAW Artists + valentina

Valentina at RAW

RAW, which has chapters across the U.S., selects young up-and-coming artists, performers and creatives to gather and socialize at a single show in a prime venue.  This event, “Illuminaire” is being held at the nightclub Playhouse, and features a fashion show, music performances, a visual arts showcase and a cash bar.  With its dim lighting and seriously bored-looking cocktail waitresses, Playhouse is not the best place to actually see the art.  Judging from the setup the lighting is probably designed for crowded parties where more than one person wants to hide a dancing-related cocktail stain. However, the setup works for one of the prime goals of RAW – networking.  A half-hour after the doors open, the skylit lounge area is packed as people mill around the artwork.

RAW Artists + corner

A corner of the RAW Artists Hollywood

RAW Artists + people

Networking at RAW Artists Hollywood

RAW Artists + girl

Me demonstrating the challenges of lighting Walter's art in a dark club.

Hung on a staircase landing, Walter’s pieces are some of the standouts in the show.  Titled Fragments, his series is distinct because it creates an intimate narrative through non-figurative means. Taking pieces created, but not necessarily finished, over a decade of artistic activity, Walter sliced his way to a mosaic-like visual autobiography.  Cut apart, then recomposed, these shards of past works create striations of moving light that appear as harmonious waves of color from afar, but also evoke the chaotic temporality of personal experience.

RAW Artists + walter

Walter in front of his work.

RAW Artists + walter paintings

Walter Mazzarella

RAW Artists + walter paintings 2

Walter Mazzarella

RAW Artists + walter paintings 3

Walter Mazzarella

Among the artists whose work we admired the most, Becky Sapp definitely deserves the Ganzo label.  Perhaps  her whimsical images appeal to us because as strangers (Italians) in a very strange land (L.A.), we enjoy how humor is used to capture the detachment that comes from living in a beautiful-perfect, but sprawling, city.  Becky used to be a wedding photographer on the East Coast, but now chooses her models from a mannequin warehouse.  What is most impressive is how the bodies, or sometimes just limbs, of these inanimate subjects communicate intention and personality through her carefully composed images.  After talking with Becky we were happy to discover that she is not only talented, but also half-Sicilian.

RAW Artists + Becky Sapp

By Becky Sapp

RAW Artists + Becky Sapp legs

Becky Sapp

RAW Artists + Becky Sapp griffith park

Becky Sapp

RAW Artists + Becky Sapp hand

Becky Sapp

Overall RAW was a “raw” event in the sense that it was unfinished. Compared to the super-polished gallery shows, these rough edges made it an interesting place to recognize and interact with fresh talent.  I just hope that next time I get to see Walter and Becky’s work it will be without the reflected glare of a disco ball.

Check out the video interviews with Walter and Becky: