LA-based artist Aaron Rose offers us a chance to experience his version of an art bar with La Rosa Social Club, a conceptual installation that will run in conjunction with this year’s LA Art Book Fair. The collaborative project with Alldayeveryday will take place in the Allday LA Project Space and will run from its opening preview on February 11th to Feburary 14th. Like Allday’s The Newsstand, the concept will combine the traditional idea of a consumer space (in Rose’s case, a restaurant or a bar) and inject it with an immersive, artistic experience.
“It’s nice every so often to take the art-viewing experience out of the context of the gallery, and out of the context of commerce, and out of the context of the market, and the sales and all the things that kind of buzz around the art scene and bring it back to a more democratic place,” says Rose speaking of his inspiration behind the concept.
Artist Claes Oldenburg contributed his variation of an art bar with 1961’s The Store. Oldenburg had one rule as an artist: the art must have no function. A voracious consumer of images, Oldenburg twisted his sense of consumerism around with The Store, which existed at 107 East 2nd Street with a lifespan of just one month. The idea was to mix cheap merchandise and serious art works with asking prices ranging from $20-$500. The 80 ft. space was filled with objects created specifically for the project and representative of the most mundane aspects of everyday life: clothing, house wares, food, etc. These commonplace items were painted, sculpted or merely placed within the confines of the store as part of Oldenburg’s effort to recreate—as art—the spirit of the New York City storefront window. The fact that each object was for sale and could be purchased made the project even more accessible, taking it further from the realm of “museum art” and placing the experience directly into the consumer’s own hands.
Speaking of his project, Oldenburg stated, “I’d like to get away from the notion of a work of art as something outside of experience, something that is located in museums, something that is terribly precious.” That idea resonates strongly with Rose: “I mean, I agree completely. That was the entire motivation for doing the bar as well.”
It’s true; the process of viewing art is often characterized by the way in which the art is presented to us. At a museum, the experience can feel a bit sterile. We are outside the art, looking in. When we experience the artwork in a home or a more intimate setting, the work can become colored by the life surrounding it. In the case of “the art bar,” the artist is able to redefine our relationship to the work by tailoring our experience as a viewer. The process of viewing becomes participatory and opens the door to a much more immersive experience.
Like Oldenburg’s The Store, Rose’s La Rosa Social Club will blur the line between reality and enhanced reality, offering actual items for sale in addition to the conceptual consumer experience itself. “I’m having a few artists design bottles of wine that will be done in very small editions,” says Rose. “So you can’t buy a glass of wine, you have to buy one of these bottles… It’s funny ‘cause I’m looking at it very different than, you know, most people when they begin to design a bar. They think architecturally but I’m really thinking of the space as a 3-dimensional painting, if that makes sense.”
“I LIKE THE IDEA OF MAKING SOMETHING THAT’S PURELY IMMERSIVE, WHERE YOU’RE ALWAYS IN THE ART... YOU CAN’T JUST WALK AWAY FROM IT; BECAUSE YOU’RE A PART OF IT.”—AARON
In this context, the art bar is something like set design. With Wes Anderson’s recent venture, Bar Luce—a café in Milan designed by the film director—the art of set design has come to life. While Anderson’s motive may only have been to put his interior aesthetic sense to good use, he (whether intentional or not) has created an opportunity for those familiar with his work to come as close as they can to the experience of entering one of his “sets” and thereby feel as though they may be right in the middle of one of his films. Though Bar Luce is a full-fledged, operational café, stopping by for a cup of coffee—for those of us familiar with Anderson’s work—would undoubtedly offer an enhanced—yet functional—experience.
But, as in Oldenburg’s case, functionality is not usually the purpose. 1965’s The Beanery by Edward Kienholz was another non-functioning, immersive version of the art bar experience. Representing the interior of Los Angeles bar, Barney’s Beanery, Kienholz’s creation was modeled at just two third’s the size of the original space and featured the sounds and smells of the bar with models of actual customers. Only the model of Barney, the original owner, appears in the piece with an actual face. Rather than faces, each customer bears a clock stopped at “10:10”. Seeking to stop time with his creation, Kienholz stated, “The entire work symbolizes the switch from real time to the surrealist time inside the bar where people waste time, kill time, forget time and ignore time.” In that sense, The Beanery offers a time capsule in which time has permanently stopped and the chosen time and place have been made eternal.
While The Beanery sought permanence, the ephemeral nature of an art bar is generally an integral part of the concept. With Rose’s La Rosa Social Club, the lifespan will mirror the duration of the LA Art Book Fair. “I believe the impermanence adds a certain sort of specialness to the experience if you were there and it only lasted for a very short period of time,” says Rose. “It brings a sense of urgency but then also a sense of being part of something historical, even if that’s manufactured history… I think we tend not to appreciate things until they go away sometimes.”
Perhaps it is for this reason that immersive installations and art experiences tend to get resurrected after time creates legend. For the first edition of Frieze New York in 2012, FOOD, the artists’ restaurant opened by Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden in 1971, was resurrected. The original restaurant, located in Soho, NY, was run and managed by artists. The intention was to celebrate the experience of cooking. Complete with an open kitchen and exotic ingredients, the restaurant itself felt like an event. The spot became a meeting ground for artists and dancers such as the Philip Glass Ensemble and the Mabou Mines. A 1972 short film by Matta-Clark captured the conceptual restaurant.
In 2014, Frieze gave new life to another conceptual piece, Al’s Grand Hotel by Allen Ruppersberg. The original Al’s Grand Hotel existed for six weeks in 1971, located in Los Angeles. The fully functioning and entirely temporary hotel served as a meeting place for parties, a site for performances and a legitimate hotel, offering accommodations to any guest looking to stay the night. The purpose was to create a utopia that was tangible yet temporary, as are most utopian experiences.
Napkins from top to bottom, left to right: Brian Roettinger, Wes Lang, Geoff McFetridge, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Alexis Ross, Chris Johanson, Barry McGee, Benjamin Baretto, Chris Lux, Lola Rose Thompson.
However temporary the originals are meant to be, they are often revisited and recreated. The Beanery, owned by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, reopened, fully restored, in 2012. Yet another resurrection occurred when MoMA revisited Oldenburg’s The Store in 2013.
Temporary, immersive experiences have become a more commonly used tactic in today’s consumer (whether artistic or otherwise) society. An all-M & M’s store opens in Soho and, down the street, Sprite Corner opens as an only-soda bodega offering cooking classes alongside musical performances. In today’s world, we’re used to quite a lot of stimulation. Multi-tasking is the norm and constant contact via social media further promotes the need for that constant—or at least enhanced—stimulation. With society’s ever-growing need for this continual stimulation, it only makes sense that artists may be all the more inclined to develop more immersive, interactive pieces which mirror the kind of tactics we see going on in today’s consumer society. Confronting the dual nature of consumerism in art, an art bar has the opportunity to embrace the consumer and turn the game into the product itself. However, while you may be looking to buy art—despite the consumer-friendly presentation and the possibility of a few items for sale—the intention of an art bar is really the experience itself.
“ART SHOULD BE AN EASIER EXPERIENCE THAN WHAT IT IS. I CAN’T IMAGINE GOING INTO THE LOUVRE AND STANDING IN FRONT OF A PAINTING AND HAVING A VICARIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH THIS PAINTING. IT’S TOO PRISTINE; IT'S TOO PROPERLY HUNG; IT’S TOO PERFECT.”—KEINHOLZ
While art bars offer something interactive on an artistic level, they can also offer a social experience of the art itself. In our own lives, when we obtain a piece of art and it sits in our home or surrounds us on a personal level, we consume that product on a much more intimate scale. The art bar allows you to digest the art as a temporary but more personal experience than one would have in a gallery or a museum. Socializing and enjoying the work within a community only gives the art another color, another flavor and potentially creates a more personal imprint than the sterile white cube might offer.
Speaking of La Rosa Social Club, Rose states, “Los Angeles is a very fragmented city. People are just all over and it’s sometimes hard to see people. You really have to make a plan to socialize. In New York, you walk down the street and you’ll run into two or three people. It doesn’t happen here like that. So, from a purely community side, I really look forward to creating a space that can become that interactive place where people can socialize in a happy way. It’s just kind of creating a shell, pouring a drink and letting things kind of go.” Art has the ability to act as an aggregator to inject social life into an otherwise fragmented city. The LAABF surely offers a communal experience to LA. This year, with La Rosa Social Club, that experience will be all the more immersive.