New York vs. Los Angeles. New York, is the pivotal city of our times, in recent years has had to struggle to keep up with the ever-present Los Angeles.Many New-Yorkers, including myself, shift between the two cities to work with the most influential people in American- and therefore global – culture. Constantly compared to London and Shanghai, New York feels the burden of having to be number one all the time, while Los Angeles always responds with some detachment, without creating too much fuss. In New York, that never denies its closeness to Europe, one always notices an attitude of innovation and a strong tension towards the future. Los Angeles, on its part, benefits from its distance and therefore its detachment from European canons and is more capable of wrapping you in a cloud of creativity. Not by coincidence, the world’s most influential contemporary artists have chosen to settle in L.A .The two cities together, as a result, still provide the US with a prominent role in art, fashion, design and architecture.For this reason I met with 22 remarkable creatives in Los Angeles and New York that best represent such influence on our cultural world. They opened up the doors of their studios for us and talked about themselves, in their own peculiar way, of course!
Travelling out from Los Angeles across the West of America makes a great travelling adventure, especially by car. So many stories have been written about this part of the world, inspired by the highways and majestic scenery. Masterpieces such as “On the Road“ by Kerouac, “The Crossing” by McCarthy and “The Road to Los Angeles“ by John Fante are just some of the classic pieces of literature that draw from traveling experiences here.
I too began my trip across the western states, leaving early one morning from Los Angeles, packing up my Rimowa bag, checking my mission list and calibrating my iPhone X to head out of California. I left early to avoid the traffic and to arrive in time to complete my first point of call on my trip in time. I was going to meet my friend Larry Bell to celebrate his 78th birthday. Contemporary artist and sculptor Larry is mostly known for his “Glass Cube” work in Taos, New Mexico.
It took me 18 hours to get to Larry’s place in Taos so I stopped at a Motel 6 somewhere in Arizona. My room cost only $34 for the night and it’s the kind of place you only stay one night as it is a highway stop off. I loved the atmosphere though, and took advantage of the beautiful light to take some photographs literally using my iPhone X. the shades and shadows of the Motel, it was simply superb.
Upon waking I hit the road and carried on westwards towards Kansas where I was going to complete the second mission of my trip. I wanted to photograph the sculptures in the museum of Whichita.
I was most excited about seeing “Personnages Oiseaux” which is made of 1 million pieces of glass and marble and is one of Miro’s largest works of art in the United States. Whichita is almost halfway between Los Angeles and New York. The road through New Mexico is a straight line surrounded on either side by endless farmland which conjures images in my head from the film Fargo. Throughout the morning I photographed the masterpiece works by Sol Lewitt, Claes Oldenburg and Richard Serra, to name just a few, but right after finishing working with Piero Golia, I left for Colorado, heading to the town of Dunton precisely. I crossed the frozen Rio Grande and I reached Dunton with springs underneath an old mining town which has been converted into a ‘resort’. With acres of forests and wilderness meaning limited phone and internet service, you are totally immersed in nature. I felt as though the place had witnessed so many stories that I was intrigued to find out about, especially because the river had been a site of gold dredging. My cabin was just above the river Dolores and had formerly been the cabins where the miners had lived. I felt fortunate that a member of the staff took a liking on me and accompanied me down to the river where we even found some silver!
Early in the morning I went on a four hour hike until I reached the middle of the “Lizard Head Wilderness” park where I could look out at Mount Wilson, the top peak of Colorado. On the way back I bumped into one of the staff of the resort carrying a rock which had traces of gold. I wasn’t really sure whether the rock was valuable, but it was really heavy!
After a couple of days of complete connection with nature, my next expedition was awaiting me; Amangiri. It took me eight hours to drive across the “Navajo Reservation” in New Mexico. I passed through Monument Valley in Arizona before reaching Amangiri, part of Aman on Canyon Point Valley in Utah. The studio was built by the architect firm “Wendell Brunett” using local materials and is an eco-friendly structure nestled in one of the canyons of the valley. The canyons are climbable via the “via ferrate” route, the endless space on the top of those canyons make for a truly wonderful experience. I went on and hiked with one of the “naturalists” of the resort to “Shallow Cave” where German artist Ulrike Arnold used rock fragments to paint. Some of her works produced in “cave” are displayed in the main living room. The view is spectacular as you can see the valley and the resort merging with the canyon.
Not only the nature around the resort but also the experience of walking around or having a yoga class by the pool definitely makes you at ease with the surrounding. The calmness of this place makes it a great location to sit and think about concluding the road trip. After all the long hikes through the canyons around the resort, you feel further connected to Native American Culture, in this case the Navajo, who are still very present in the surrounding culture.
The chef’s cooking blends the two strongest cultures of the United States: the west and the native in perfect Aman philosophy style. I wished I could have stayed longer but Andrea Zittel who has a studio on the border of the national park of Joshua Tree was awaiting my arrival. Andrea Zittel’s studio is “an artwork that serves as a testing ground for daily living—a place in which spaces, objects, and acts of living ‘all intertwine into a single ongoing investigation into what it means to exist and participate in our culture today”.
I spent the night here and woke up in one of the “Wagon Stations” that Zittel has designed based on the NASA Mars base tests in the Mojave desert.
After being on the road for more than ten days I wanted to have a photograph so I politely asked my friend and artist Ry Roklen right before leaving to capture this moment.
The drive back to the airport was very quiet, for one of the first times in my life I felt a complete connection with my potential inner self. Suddenly a Jack Kerouac quote came to my mind: “Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”.