Downtown showcase feeds artistic appetites

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Brunch is not the only time to eat breakfast, drink champagne and quibble over the status quo. Over the past five years, art lovers have biannually flocked downtown to absorb the creative stylings of Los Angeles’s premier artists while chowing down on strawberry pancakes and sipping Stella Aortis.

This assortment of appetites and artistry is Pancakes & Booze (P&B;), an L.A.-based underground art show that includes a free pancake stand, cash bar, art sales and a taste of L.A.’s artistic underbelly.

For two nights last weekend, the works of both budding and established local artists lined the walls of Lot 613—an event space made of two warehouses with a courtyard tucked in between. L.A musicians also took to each warehouse’s stage to supplement the aroma of fresh pancakes and the vigor of starving artists eager to expose their work to the greater community.

“Our key is to get a lot of artists and, in turn, draw a lot of people to the event,” event organizer and P&B; founder Tom Kirlin said.

Kirlin, a Tuscon, Ariz. native who studied film at Pima Community College, developed the idea in May 2009 as a way to make use of his warehouse. Having worked as a videographer and documentary cameraman, Kirlin collaborated with a friend in order to connect with the larger L.A. art community.

“I first started it for fun, just to make use of my space,” Kirlin said. “It was an awesome excuse to throw a party. Now it’s a place where artists come to get a feel for putting their work on display.”

The pancakes and booze component of the show harkens back to Kirlin’s years in Tuscon. According to Kirlin, IHOP had the latest hours in town, so he and his friends wound up there for most late-night hangouts.

“I always promised myself I’d open up my own pancake restaurant, and figured this was the perfect opportunity to incorporate that,” Kirlin said.

His first show, held for only one night, featured pancakes, booze and just 10 artists displaying their work. Since then, Kirlin expanded P&B; into a packed, two-night show that attracts dozens of artist across the country and has spread across the border to cities like Vancouver and Toronto. Now, Kirlin uses social media platforms, fliers and grassroots promotion to sift through hundreds of submissions from artists hungry to showcase their work.

“You make your work in a bit of a vacuum,” first-time P&B; artist Barbie Brady said. “At shows like this, it’s nice to get exposure and get that work out there for people.”

Brady’s collection, entitled “Drunk Bunnies,” featured an assortment of paintings pasted onto old manuscripts and leaflets. Her painting, “For Those Who Came Before,” portrays a bunny drinking out of a martini glass, painted on old Polish funeral cards passed through her family. The use of bunnies also has a personal connection to Brady.

“All married couples have a language,” Brady said. “For me and my husband, bunnies are that language. It’s a natural extension of my life.”

Other artists on display spanned the range of artistic mediums. Underwater photographer Mike Wicks displayed up-close pictures of Big Bear’s bald eagles and Papa New Guinea’s fire urchins. Pancho Moler hung “Kenny Powers,” a 3-D mold of a middle finger with gold dripping from its tip, made from chicken wire, water putty and paper mache.

Four-year P&B; veteran Mike Matola has a particularly unique style: “modified pointillism,” as he calls it. The style involves meticulously writing full scripts from films and novels onto a blank white paper in the shape of a symbolic image from that story. For example, he created a piece that transformed the full “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” script into nine separate pointillist images of its main characters.

Along with other artists, Matola sits and makes his art on the spot at P&B;, which has allowed him to watch the show grow since his first appearance.

“I’ve seen the show get bigger and more popular,” Matola said. “I’ve seen artists go through changes and phases, watching them grow into awesome artists. That’s the best thing about these underground art shows.”

Artist Goshe Reyes, whose thematic collection of both flightless and flapping animals is entitled “Wings,” illustrated white butterflies onto the blue-painted body of a woman for two hours during the show.

Reyes sees the event as an opportunity for art community members to support each other.

“I do a bunch of shows, but this one has the networking,” Reyes said. “You learn what good shows to do, what the talk of the town is. This is one of the good ones.”

Reyes wants events like P&B; to continue to push budding artists to follow their passion and work creatively.

“I’m hoping people come out and inspire more artists,” he said. “We want to pass the torch from generation to generation.”

The next Pancakes & Booze event in Los Angeles will be held next spring, with the date to be determined. Visit www.pancakesandbooze.com for information on upcoming shows in each of P&B;’s 20 host cities.