Santa Monica’s ‘Ultimate Beach’ gleans its pieces from artists Daniel Rolnik befriended during a monthlong cross-country road trip

By Michael Aushenker

Back in March, fine arts writer Daniel Rolnik had a conversation with bG Gallery co-owner Airom Bleicher in which Bleicher reckoned what the next exhibit should be at his Ocean Avenue space.

A well-framed seaside scene by Jack Reilly

A well-framed seaside scene by Jack Reilly

“What about a beach show?” Rolnik suggested, given bG’s Pacific view, to which Bleicher responded, “What about the ultimate beach show?”

Cut to “Ultimate Beach,” Rolnik’s rollicking ride of a two-week group show that continues through Saturday and features 40 artists from all over the country.

The aquatic-themed art show features locals such as Venice muralist Isabelle Alford-Lago, “Monster and Robot” creator Dave Pressler and bG Gallery co-owner Warren Long, but it also includes the Bay Area’s Casey Gray and Alison Tharp, Pennsylvania’s Amze Eemons and Mike Egan, New York’s George Siff, Austin’s Tim Kerr, Dallas artists Jennifer Korsen and Kyle Hobratschk, and North Carolina’s Hieronymus.

Alex Schaefer’s impressionistic impression of “The Ultimate Beach”

Alex Schaefer’s impressionistic impression of “The Ultimate Beach”

While there’s nothing unorthodox about a group show culling imagery from artists nationwide, what’s unusual is the way Rolnik stumbled onto these creators: he met them through social media as he embarked on a monthlong road trip across the United States, visiting their studios and staying with them. In Austin, for instance, he crashed at Michelle Devereux’s place — a trailer in an art commune.

Rolnik met about 200 artists during his May expedition, and a sister show including works from an additional 120 artists opens Saturday at Flower Pepper Gallery in Pasadena.

A Beverly Hills-based writer who himself has a painting in “Ultimate Beach,” Rolnik studied at New Rhodes in Santa Monica and attended Expression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville, the same Bay Area institution that Venice-born artist Max Neutra had attended a decade earlier.


Artist/curator Airom Bleicher’s playful surfing elephant

Artist/curator Airom Bleicher’s playful surfing elephant

Rolnik regularly parlays the currency of goodwill he has amassed writing about art in publications such as The Jewish Journal, LA Weekly and the website Argot & Ochre into massive group shows. The scenester has curated myriad exhibitions, including “Interviews” at Curio Gallery downtown and “Caves” at Silverlake Art Company; delivered talks at LACMA, Giant Robot’s G2 Gallery in West L.A. and Westchester’s OTIS College of Art & Design; and co-owns the publishing company Intellectual Property Prints, which is how he knows Alford-Lago.

“He’s sort of a connector,” said Alford-Lago. “He has a following of artists, and he’ll put us together. It comes from a very close relationship he has with the artists, which is nice. He’s interviewed all of us.”

“He’s a very inspiring, high-energy curator. A lot of Daniel’s shows are balanced,” said Bleicher, meaning that they encompass established, emerging and street artists.

That’s including Bleicher, an accomplished artist with the colorful, cartoony “Elephant Beach” oil in the show.

“I’m a double-identity sort of guy,” he said. “I usually try to balance the two. I paint at the gallery when it’s closed.”

Bleicher opened his gallery near the Georgian Hotel five years ago. Three months ago, he opened a second bG at Bergamot Station (not participating in “Ultimate Beach”).

“On Ocean Avenue, we get a wide range of people [beachgoers, tourists] who walk in, whereas Bergamot, they’re coming to look for art,” Bleicher said.

Rolnik sees differences among L.A.’s regional art scenes: “The Westside has more positive, uplifting, happy art — a lot less macabre than the Eastside.”

One of Venice muralist Isabelle Alford-Lago’s iconic Abbot Kinney gorillas kicks back on the beach

One of Venice muralist Isabelle Alford-Lago’s iconic Abbot Kinney gorillas kicks back on the beach

Westside artists such as Alford-Lago, Jules Muck, John Park and Hans Haveron “tend to relate more to where they are,” he said. “They enhance the character of where they are, whereas the ones on the Eastside don’t. It’s almost cold.”

Then Rolnik observes another interesting distinction: The Westside art scene “is much more tight-knit. I don’t know why that is.”

In Venice, established art world elder statesmen Larry Bell and Ed Moses have a “Yoda/Skywalker mutual respect” relationship with rising artists, he said.

“There’s that cool sense of community on the Westside where the most famous artists hang out with the [up-and-comers].”

At day’s end, art from everywhere inspires Rolnik.

Venice artist Jason Hill marries the simple and surreal

Venice artist Jason Hill marries the simple and surreal

“I feel really passionate about art in the same way that sports fans feel passionate for their team,” he said.

“Ultimate Beach” runs through Saturday at bG Gallery, 1431 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. Free. Call (310) 878-2784 or visit