Sep 06 — Oct 11
Contemplating Hell, as I once heard it,
My brother Shelley found it to be a place
Much like the city of London. I,
Who do not live in London, but in Los Angeles, Find, contemplating Hell, that it
Must be even more like Los Angeles.
- Bertolt Brecht
Drew Heitzler’s solo exhibition takes its title from Egon Kisch’s 1929 novel. Never translated into English, Paradies Amerika is a travel book of sorts, which casts a particularly critical eye on the state of California. That being said, Heitzler’s show doesn’t have much to do with the book (truth be told he doesn’t read German). This exhibition more closely resembles an origin story (in comic book terminology, an account revealing how a superhero or supervillain gained his or her superpower). The story is set in the Pacific Palisades, a neighborhood in West Los Angeles.
Pacific Palisades is home to the crime fighting super-team, The West Coast Avengers.
It is also home to J. Paul Getty’s villa (“the meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights”), The Eames House (Eventually Everything Connects), and Villa Aurora where the Feuchtwangers held “socialist salons” attended by Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Arnold Schoenberg, Theodor Adorno, and other members of the e?migre? community that made up “Weimar on the Pacific.”
The Uplifters secret clubhouse was in the Palisades as well as the Riviera Country Club where Elizabeth Taylor learned to ride a horse and Walt Disney played golf with Howard Hughes. Inceville, the first movie studio was in the Palisades. Brian DePalma’s Carrie was shot at Pali High. So was the video for Black Flag’s Slip It In. The Methodists built a Chautauqua in the Plalisades. And Paramahansa Yogananda built the Fellowship Lake Shrine.
Kenneth Anger lived in the Pacific Palisades as a child. And it’s where Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil first met. Neil Young met a young singer-songwriter named Charles Manson while he and his friends were crashing with Dennis Wilson (who happened to be living in Will Rogers old house near the polo fields). Surfing pioneer Miki Dora grew up in the Palisades. So did Gidget. Francis Clauser, who helped handpick German rocket-scientists for Operation Paperclip, including Willy Ley, Herbertus Strughold, and Werner von Braun (who sent us to the moon and helped design Tomorowland for Disney), lived in the Palisades. The American Nazi Party built a compound at Murphy’s Ranch but it was raided the day after Pearl Harbor. Huntington Hartford bought the abandoned ranch in 1948 and hired Lloyd Wright to turn it into an artist’s colony. Ronald Reagan lived in the Pacific Palisades.
The Arpanet, was developed at UCLA in nearby Westwood. The first military drone, the Ryan Firebee was built just across San Vincente in Santa Monica. Woody Guthrie (This land is made for you and me) lived just across the canyon in Topanga.
The exhibition includes a five-channel video of material appropriated from archival television and film footage that constructs an abstract narrative from this interwoven history. A movie of Gumby playing, on the piano, a history of atonal and dissonant music composed in Los Angeles provides the soundtrack. Photographs, prints, and paintings on neoprene (originally a military grade insulation which is now primarily used to make surfer’s wetsuits), provide further context for the story, while sculptures that marry beach culture handicraft and industrial plastics provide the narrative with material form.