Saturday, July 30, 2011

Although excited about our drive to Big Sur, we were sad to be leaving Los Angeles, wishing we had at least a couple more days to visit galleries, museums, bookstores and friends returning from trips of their own.

That said, we were fortunate to catch the last panel at the Red Cat’s State of Independence: A Global Forum on Alternative Practice, where we heard from directors and artists involved in art spaces in Vietnam, Taiwan and Indonesia, and the Paul Thek exhibition at the Hammer, which, though poignant for its story of an artist who started strong and became distracted by “success”, took a mawkish turn with its recreation of his final show, in 1988, before his death from AIDS.

Given the Thek narrative, we should have thought twice about our next stop (Gagosian of Beverly Hills), where, en route to Piero Golia’s exhibition, we passed the installation of a group show that included an artist so new to the game you could hear her retching from the washroom downstairs.

But all that was behind us Thursday morning as we drove west on Sunset to the Pacific Coast Highway, up Malibu, past the industrial berry farms at Oxnard, then a quick lunch at San Luis Obispo, where, unlike the missionary schools of Canada, SLO’s mission has been restored and turned into a tourist attraction, renowned for its architecture -- but not its (social) engineering. From there, a leisurely three hour drive to Big Sur’s Fernwood Hotel, checking in before a brisk walk along Pfeifer Beach and yet another fine dinner, this time at the Big Sur Restaurant and Bakery.

Yesterday’s drive from Big Sur to San Francisco included a detour through Carmel-by-the-Sea, a West Vancouver wet dream of restaurants and print shops, where I had hoped to recognize at least one location from the film Play Misty for Me (1973) (but did not). After that, a takeout lunch from Monterey’s moribund tourist wharf and a GPS mess up that had us driving through the Hispanic workers’ town of Castroville, my second favorite stop after Big Sur.

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