Venice Family Clinic’s high-profile fundraiser on the Google campus features live painting and music, a mural unveiling, studio tours and a milestone for artist Don Bachardy

By Michael Aushenker

Google’s Venice headquarters — also known as Frank Gehry’s “Binoculars Building” — plays host to the Venice Art Walk & Auctions on Sunday

Google’s Venice headquarters — also known as Frank Gehry’s “Binoculars Building” — plays host to the Venice Art Walk & Auctions on Sunday

That giant metal ballerina clown that stands on the northwest corner of Main Street and Rose Avenue “has not kicked in more than 25 years,” according to Laney Kapgan, chief development officer for Venice Family Clinic.

At noon Sunday, Jonathan Borofsky’s mechanical creation — its mechanism finally repaired — kicks again to kick off the Venice Family Clinic’s 35th annual Venice Art Walk & Auctions.

The event features the unveiling of a new mural, tours of some 50 local art studios, an old-fashioned tintype photo-maker, live music, gourmet food trucks and a special tribute to artist Don Bachardy, who turns 80 that day.

The auction includes more than 300 works of art — including pieces by Peter Alexander, celebrated for his paintings and translucent resin sculptures, and Alejandro Gehry (architect Frank Gehry’s son) — and for the first time is being held online, at paddle8.com/auctions/venicefamilyclinic.

For the third year, Google’s Venice headquarters (a.k.a. Frank Gehry’s “Binoculars Building”) plays host to Art Walk, which annually raises about $700,000 for Venice Family Clinic’s efforts to deliver medical care to some 24,000 low-income or homeless clients.

The prior 32 years, Art Walk had been held at Westminster Avenue Elementary School.

“Moving it to Google has been a wonderful opportunity to re-invent the event and open it up to a larger audience,” Kapgan said. “I feel like we’re finding our home in the Google space and continuing to grow there.”

As part of an effort to better connect Art Walk with its beneficiary agency, local artist Cameron Gray will unveil a new permanent mural on the west wall of the clinic’s flagship location on Rose Avenue.

“To be able to do something to help out, it’s great, it’s wonderful,” Gray said.

Mixing art and activism is nothing new for Gray, an Art Walk veteran who has had a busy week since his wife, Ramaa Mosely, played a role in popularizing the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign in response to the hundreds of school girls abducted in Nigeria.

Bachardy also has a long association with the benefit. In addition donating a portrait sitting each year, Bachardy has created more than a dozen portraits of HIV/AIDS patients who utilize the Venice Family Clinic.

At 18, Bachardy famously met and fell in love with playwright Christopher Isherwood, who was 48 at the time. Bachardy still occupies the Santa Monica Canyon home the pair moved into in 1955.

“I’ve been here ever since,” Bachardy said. “He died in this very house with me looking after him.”

After 50 years, Bachardy still finds his trademark endeavor, portraiture, a challenging one.

“I’ve never ever tire of it. I live off of it like a vampire,” he said. “I meet my sitter for the very first time, we shake hands, and in a few minutes we’re locked in this very intimate experience, looking at each other with eye contact.”

Isherwood did not escape Bachardy’s artistic gaze.

“That poor man, I put him through incredible long sittings,” Bachardy recalled. “He was such a good sport, he never complained. I even did drawings of his corpse. During the last six months of his life, I worked with him every day. It allowed me to be with him intensely.”

Isherwood died in 1986 at the age of 81. As Bachardy turns 80 on Sunday, the Google courtyard will be a backdrop for rock bands, food stalls and even live painting.

Best known for her murals of gorillas that are ubiquitous throughout Venice, Isabelle Alford-Lago will be live painting (for her first time ever) during the auction and reception at the Google complex.

“I’ve created several of my public gorilla murals in the surrounding area, so the idea is that the demonstration of my process will bring a piece of the local art scene to this event,” said Alford-Lago, who has participated in Art Walk the past two years.

A Gray-designed T-shirt incorporating 500 Art Walk volunteers and a poster featuring Bachardy’s sketches of 14 artists — among them Ed Moses, Ed Ruscha and the late Robert Graham — will be on sale during the event.

Later in the evening, Hal’s Bar & Grille is hosting an Art Walk after party from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. with the restaurant’s newly renovated private dining room and art gallery hosting the exhibit “A Taste for Art – Food, Drink & Film.” A film by artists Debby and Larry Kline will make its Los Angeles premiere to kick off the exhibit, which includes works of art by Ruscha, Andy Warhol and others and continues through July 30.

The Venice Art Walk & Auctions begins at noon Sunday at Google, 340 Main St., Venice. Call (310) 664-7916 or visit theveniceartwalk.org.

michael(at)argonautnews.com

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