RODARTE and the Secret Underground World of Warholaland + WHO’S YOUR DADA?: The Secret Return of Noever

Scene Around Town, by Bennett Stein (aka The Good4NothingConnoisseur):

I recently accompanied DnA on an outing to Hollywoodland and the epicenter of production companies and sound stages, to what I was promised would be a holiday party. There we found ourselves at the HQ of, the online boutique for the self-described “world’s finest in design, fashion, and art” at a top-secret launch party for Pasadena’s finest, most illustrious fashion duo, Rodarte, and their new book of the same name. Realized in collaboration with art photographers Catherine Opie and Alec Soth, Rodarte offers up a visual meditation on their clothing and its inspiration from California sites, delivered with the offbeat sense of beauty characteristic of Opie, Soth and Rodarte’s Mulleavy sisters (see images, left).

We get there to find five burly Armani-suited security dudes, all with Secret Service earpieces and sleeve mics. You’d have thought el presidente was in the hood. A door sentry checks our names on a clip board ipad connected to an AC plug. He locates our names on his “watch list” and ushers us into a foyer with lights at all angles a-twinkling every which way and another four security goombas, with beefy steroidal grimaces, who point us down a hall. I half expect to run into Winston Churchill, or Errol Flynn and Hedy Lamar activating a nuclear warhead guidance system for assembly inside a V2 rocket. The whole building had that 1940s secret war bunker ambiance. Then we’re ushered down a hallway where people are milling about, and in and out, of two wicked bright and stylin’ rooms where lots of Andy Warhola types are trying on biomorphic-seeming ladies dress pumps amid unusual mannequins decked to the nines in space-age, love kitty, Rodarte conceived threads.

Then down another hallway, that made you feel like you were on an old US Navy destroyer patrolling for U-boats, on into a long rectangular room with pipes and exposed ceiling guts, in which there are black tie (sans jacket) waiter mermen swanning about with and distributing overfilled flutes of bubbly. I thought, a-ha! this is where the hors d’oeuvre must be, the sushi cocktail bites, the duck confit with fois gras in ceramic spoons: yumville at last. But no, it’s just where the cult members apparently meet to be sedated before beaming up to the mothership. Not a single whiff of a snack within nasal range, anywhere to be found, not even one bowl of stale pretzels.

Then, shock of shockers, there is a cluster of mannequins all with black plastic overstuffed garbage bags for heads, which were standing as if frozen in mid flight from an alien invasion saucer crash, and then I realized yes, these must be the pods being grown for each of us invitees to eclipse our heretofor normal lives with fabulously newly styled selves. And I felt partially saved, and even if this inevitability was not the real deal, and I was just hallucinating some takeover of my soul scenario—I was at least forewarned to review and rethink the contents of my entire winter wardrobe. Then we bump into Doug Xmas and Jennifer Kellen of Ace (see below), devilishly taking in the ambiance like characters in a five-act Jean Paul Sartre or Samuel Becket play. Oh, and over against the wall is Joe Pitka, the hugenormous commercial director, preening and being tended to by 7 foot tall bionic super model humanoid giraffe females. And I realized this was an art happening because the Rodarte ladies Laura and Kate Mulleavy (Laura in photo, left) were right there at a long special table signing coffee table book size copies of their new darkly intriguing, artfully photographed, tome of their latest head-turning, wearable artwork creations.

At that point I knew I needed to just calm down and observe, and await further instructions for how to live and dress more skillfully in this town. I ceased making small talk and just marveled at the security men and knew they were all part of the set dressing to lend an air of drama and gravity to the secret underground world of Andy Warholaland.


Who’s Your Dada?

After leaving the Rodarte event we drove down La Brea and passed by the ginormous 25-foot tall, stainless steel bust of Lenin. Turns out this is a work of art called “Miss Mao (trying to poise herself at the top of Lenin’s head)” by the Gao Brothers of Beijing, and it stands at the entrance to the new “museum” of ACE art-wheeler-dealer Doug Chrismas. The bust first made its entrance at a jumping exhibit and shindig we attended on a recent Saturday night thrown with SCI-Arc for Peter Noever, the former longtime director general of the Vienna-based MAK Center and its Los Angeles satellite at the Schindler House on King’s Road in West Hollywood. Here are my recollections:

I have to report it was one evil, swank-scene party that brought out some of LA’s heppest art-chitects. Frank Gehry led the pack of fugitive design notables and rogues. Famed minimalist film director John Cassavetes’ thespian muse Seymour Cassel (in photo, right) was there in all his proletariat charm, kissing babies, winking at lovely ladies whilst humming Pete Seeger work songs.

It all went down in the ACE Museum’s awe-inspiring space, under a fab, swooping, reverse bow truss ceiling, all moodily lit with eye-throwing Kubrickian perspectives to infinity. Xmas and his Sci-Arch droogies were hosting what clearly was a throwback to a World Summit of the People’s Commissars Of The Soviet Union as if art directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

Noever is a very wicked cat, with his Siberian droogie grin par excellence, and love of troublemaking who takes his Stoli with a teardrop of dry vermouth.  He is immensely charming, in spite of his dictatorial, whipcrack swagger, and has managed to officiate over many an arty happening in a whole range of communist world capitals, like Havana, Moscow, Pyongyang and LOS ANGELES, to name just a few.

Noever the moever…  Man, I could have sworn I overheard Tristan Tzara, the WWI-era co- founder of Dadaism, there at the party saying, ‘Dada is neither madness, nor wisdom nor irony, look at me, dear bourgeois.’ I say this because legendary word trickster, Eric Owen Moss, director of SCI-Arc, was also on hand playing co-host and he was muttering something about Peter Noever being a champion of art that coughs up the moon, art that regurgitates non-sequiturs, art that urinates on mediocrity. Hey, I’ll have some of that, thank you very much. Who doesn’t love a little misbehaving art now and again? It’s a punk thing, an anarchist’s head trip thing, in case your mind is beginning to hurt.

I ain’t naming names, but wow, this was a kind of aesthetic gangsters’ ball. I mean there’s Bill Stern talking about the subversive uses of ceramics. There’s Seymour telling me there’s only one political party in the USA. There’s Chrismas’ partner, Jennifer Kellen, in red tights and pink shoes. It was raining red in here.

The rest is strictly classified. Refer to FBI case files filed under “THE (SECRET) RETURN OF (NOEVER)” because I’m sure Homeland Security had the place wired, agents on the ground, eyes in the sky. Think I’m exaggerating? Fine, here’s your proof: As guests swarmed the massive almost Oscar Niemeyer-designed space just out front by the facade a HUGE crane or two were lifting HUGE shiny chrome cross sections of a HUGE head off a HUGE flatbed truck. HUGE showers of arc welding sparks splattered the pavement as dozens of workers hoisted, guided and welded the HUGE chrome modules together to make a HUGE head of… Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the HUGE Bolshevik Commie God.

One thing is for certain, don’t let it ever be said the architect crowd ain’t got style, pizzazz and a taste for the forbidden. Viva La Revolucion, El Cadillac Communistas!

The [Secret] Return of Noever: A SCI-Arc Curated Exhibition is up through December 30.