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Downtown galleries pit Heaven vs. Hell in an art and music show on Spring Street

October 5, 2010 |  3:50 pm

IMG_2715re Crowded by costumed Halloween freaks, sharp-dressed urbanites, face-painted gypsies and indie art kids, the Hive in downtown L.A. on Saturday night hosted half of the evening's “Heaven and Hell” joint exhibit at 729 S. Spring Street.

A couple doors down, Temple of Visions Gallery played its foil, hosting an exhibit titled “Heavenly Bodies.” As the street corner teemed with curbside cabs, tight skirts, fishnet hosiery, devilish harlequins and tobacco fumes, the choice between heaven and hell seemed like a no-brainer. Going to “Hell” felt like more fun. Especially when it’s not the real thing.

The Hive‘s side of the party was a kick-off of their monthlong exhibit of “Hell vs. the Monster Mash.” Transforming sterile white walls into a paint-slathered chamber of blood, skeletons and whimsy, the exhibit featured work by dozens of artists.

Inside, the room rattled with the soundtrack of dark distortion, jazzified funk fusion and wall-bouncing, eight-bit Game Boy beats courtesy of L.A. acts Waberi, Seeing Thingz, Twin Falcons, Massaro and Wet Mango. Many of the shaggy-haired guests scuttling quickly past the stage gawked at the bands as they passed. It was like they were animatronic robots at some psychedelic version of Disney’s Haunted Mansion.

The music of Seeing Thingz, the accordion-laced mash-up of Parisian jazz and '90s art rock, dictated a routine of limber swaying from tutu-wearing frontwoman Gwendoline Pere-Lahaille. The weird circus vibes dissipated with the arrival of the next band, Twin Falcons. The young three-piece fired off a synth-wielding breed of electro-indie funk. Psychedelic video projections of heat maps blazed on the wall behind them.

Solo acts Wet Mango and Massaro seemed content to move even less. Squeezed into tight black shirt and jeans and backed by a lone bass player, Massaro used a guitar spray-painted with neon skulls, and fuzz-ridden death-rock chords emanated from it. Forty-five minutes later, audiences were getting a juicy taste of artist Wet Mango, who fiddled with obsolete Game Boys to create Super Mario proto-rave sounds. Despite the interested crowds who stopped to watch, both acts seemed content to drift off into their own worlds of bombastic eardrum destruction.

Venturing further into the Hive was like taking a peek inside an ax murderer’s living room. Guests peered into a neon green partition space to gawk at a crib occupied by a rubber baby muzzled with a gas mask. Skull and bone assemblages were stacked into winged, metacarpal creatures on eye-level shelves. Though most of the art was severe enough to grab a patron‘s attention, the people inside the gallery occasionally stole the spotlight.

A 6-foot-4 woman precariously nestled into corseted pink and blue lingerie, devil horns and knee-high Pleather combat boots stared at a wall of dour skeleton portraits. The she-devil occasionally bumped shoulders with an equally tall man in a Jesus Christ costume. Unlike most long-haired, bearded wannabes, he wore a full-headed caricature mask of the bearded Savior and a lavish white and red toga. The beer in his hand probably wasn’t part of the outfit.

-- Nathan Jackson

Photo: Massaro. Credit: Sean Godoy.

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