Illustrator Alex Tavoularis at District Gallery, Los Angeles i Photo Paint This Desert
During my Southern California mural safari this past week, I had time to hit the downtown Los Angeles Arts District and preview District Gallery’s solo show for illustrator Alex Tavoularis. It was set to open in a few days.
Tavoularis is a storyboard artist, a cinema illustrator if you prefer, who helped Francis Ford Coppola visualize his worlds, among other projects.
The morning I dropped in the small gallery, Tavoularis was there making final selections. Besides illustrations already hung on the wall, giclees of his production design work, including the Patrol River Boat from “Apocalypse Now” and “Star Wars” storyboards, were scattered around the gallery. That opened up a few showbiz war stories.
Then Tavoularis mentioned Francis Ford Coppola’s “One From the Heart.” He was also part of that Zoetrope Studio reative team, which included cinematographers Ronald Víctor García and Vittorio Storaro. Victor’s brother, Dean, was production designer for the film.
“He had all this great talent who gave it something extra,” Tavoularis said.
“He wanted to shoot the whole thing artificially without actually going to Vegas - even if it was cheaper to shoot it real - in a way that was artistic,” he said “We made miniature neons for the plates, and miniature signs of all those places that have been since torn down.”
Say what you want about the film about failed romance that left the studio in financial ruin, it gave us a post Rat Pack / Elvis Presley cinematic Las Vegas. “One From The Heart” is a postmodern blend of high and low that reflected contemporary art entering the 1980s, such as then emerging low brow slick of Jeff Koons or appropriation of message by Barbara Kruger. (Even Coppola’s use of 1:33 ratio and dedicated soundstage is the simulation of previous film convention).
Tavoularis also credited “Learning from Las Vegas” as a broad source of inspiration. In 1972, authors Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, challenged architects and planners to look the way Las Vegas built infrastucture as a response to populist public taste.
“[One From The Heart] was like that,” said Tavoularis. ”Interpreting commercial architecture and finding virtue, or something, in it.”
The film that replicated a town based on replication was surreal when it was released. For many Las Vegans, the 1980s visual recall is a desired nostalgia.
ABOVE: James Turrell at Crystals monorail station.