Alissa Walker's Guide to Pacific Standard Time Downtown & Exhibition Park Focus Weekend

Check Out Alissa Walker’s Guide to Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980 Downtown and Exhibition Park Focus Weekend

It’s the last focus weekend of the year! Why not mix and mingle your holiday festivities with a little dose of art and architecture? This weekend the Pacific Standard Time activities will be centered around Downtown and Exposition Park. Your quite helpful cultural elf Alissa Walker has compiled a list (and checked it twice) of what to see and what to do. Here’s what’s happening December 17 and 18.

Hitch a Ride on Metro: No excuses this time, folks. Most of this week’s institutions are within easy reach of Metro lines. You can ride from the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Barnsdall Park to REDCAT on the Red Line, and it’s a short walk from both the Red Line and the Gold Lines to both MOCAs and the Japanese American National Museum. From downtown, you can take the Blue Line to the Watts Towers Arts Center. Okay, so the Expo Line (which isn’t open yet) would have been a fantastic way to get from downtown to Exposition Park. But the 740 bus will do the trick for now. Plan your trip at

Get Half Off Admission: Think of it as your secret password for the weekend. You’ll get 50% off at all participating institutions—Autry National Center, California African American Museum’s, REDCAT’s, Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, MOCAs, Natural History Museum, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, and Watts Towers Arts Center—when you say “Pacific Standard Time.” Should be pretty easy to remember, no? Download the PDF for a complete listing of special events.

Explore Exposition Park: Before it was known best for its legendary dinosaur bones, the Natural History Museum was the only public institution that exhibited fine art in the city. The show Artistic Evolution is inspired by this unique moment in Los Angeles history. Then wind your way through the Rose Garden and head to the other end of the park where the California African American Museum’s Places of Validation, Art and Progression features the institutions, festivals, and galleries that helped to promote African American art in L.A. from 1940 to 1980.

Eat Peruvian Art: Just a few blocks from Exposition Park is a man whose food could pass for sculpture. Ricardo Zarate is consistently listed as one of the city’s top chefs for his exuberant flavorful cooking. His flagship restaurant, Mo-Chica, is a landmark for inventive Peruvian cuisine that’s tucked into the local cultural center Mercado La Paloma. Traditional Japanese and French flavors and techniques weave throughout the dishes, making something as simple as a Peruvian potato salad (a must-order) into a transcendent experience. A bustling market around you only adds to the authenticity.

Build a Human Infographic: Want a side of civic engagement with your culture this weekend? Join the first GOOD Attacks!, a kind of performance art-meets-Improv Everywhere-meets-live data visualization happening in downtown on Saturday. Using only people—and I assume some kind of megaphone—GOOD hopes to illustrate facts and figures about the current state of Los Angeles traffic. Instructions say to meet at noon Saturday at the corner of 4th Street and Figueroa, where all will be revealed. RSVP here.

Draw the Line: Join artists Bob Nakamura, Nancy Uemura, Linda Nishio and Nobuko Miyamoto on 2:00 pm on Saturday for a discussion about their work in the Japanese American National Museum’s show Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles. The beautiful exhibition chronicles the unique plight of local Japanese American artists as they drove a new visual aesthetic for a city still populated with anti-Japanese sentiment after World War II.

Look Directly into the Sun: Right next door to the JANM is MOCA’s massive show Under the Big Black Sun at the Geffen Contemporary. Exploring the years between 1974 and 1981—a period that’s denoted by the resignation of Nixon and the inauguration of Reagan—the exhibition showcases the sometimes quite violent death of modernism as local artists like John Baldessari and Raymond Pettibon began to explore new ways of making art—and making a scene. Not for the faint of heart.

Party Down in Watts: On Saturday, head down to the Watts Towers Arts Center from 1:00 to 4:30 pm for live music and a screening of “I Build the Tower,” a film by Edward Lander and Brad Byer about the making of Simon Rodia’s masterpiece. Then head across 107th Street at 6:00 pm for the Watts House Project’s Posada dinner, an annual potluck hosted by the residents of 107th Street. Bring a dish to share!

Hit Ice Cube’s L.A. Landmarks: So I don’t have to tell you to watch that PST video of Ice Cube raving about the Eames House because you’ve likely already watched it a dozen times. But if you found yourself wondering about the other places Ice mentioned, like the Brolly Hut and the Cockatoo Inn, then check out this map made by Los Angeles, I’m Yours that features all the locations in the video, plus other Eames-appropriate destinations around the city. The map would make a fun driving tour for an afternoon. Just don’t take any bougie freeways to get there.

Pop Up at Brunch: If you plan to be downtown this weekend, you’d be wise to book a reservation at Felix Barron’s roving brunch called KTCHN 105, which will be popping up at The Gorbals on Sunday morning. This weekend’s menu will feature delectable dishes like creamy brie grits and mac and cheese topped with a fried egg. And of course, plenty of morning cocktails that will make all the art you see that much better. RSVP to secure your spot.

Have an Experimental-Retro Holiday: Swing through REDCAT’s exhibition The Experimental Impulse to learn about how the process of artmaking was transformed in Los Angeles after 1965. Then stick around to see the other side of L.A. during the same time period with Charles Phoenix’s Retro Holiday Slide Show, where he’ll show hilarious holiday-themed found slides featuring local landmarks at 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm on Sunday.

Hear Action and Irony: At 2:00 pm Sunday at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, the exhibition Civic Virtue: The Impact of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the Watts Towers Art Center will host a panel featuring Pilar Tompkins Rivas, Dr. Sarah Schrank of Cal State Long Beach, UCLA’s Susan D. Anderson, and essayist D.J. Waldie, questioning how the local government has worked to improve L.A’s cultural image. Speaking of municipal improvements, don’t forget to admire the new Barnsdall Park sign on your way up to the gallery.

by Alissa Walker

Alissa Walker is a writer, a gelato-eater, and a walker in L.A. You can read more at her blog, Gelatobaby, and follow her every step at @gelatobaby