For those artists and thinkers who defined the Beat movement of the ’50s, like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, the Venice West CafÈ was one of the hot spots.
So the fact that Sponto Gallery resides where the CafÈ once stood gave the gallery a sense of pride, as well as a sense of importance.
Now, as the gallery will likely close its doors after 24 years, that pride remains intact.
“Sponto nurtured an arts community that will live on. It just won’t be in the same space,” says gallery curuator Gerry Fialka.
“We uphold the beat sensibility by supporting independent thinking, poetry, art, music and concern for freedom in social and political realms.”
Part of this upholding has occurred the first and third Wednesday of every month during the gallery’s experimental film series, Seven Dudley Cinema, named for the address of the gallery, 7 Dudley Ave. For Wednesday, January 7th’s installment, the film series will continue at Beyond Baroque at 681 Venice Blvd.
“What we often do at Seven Dudley Cinema is not just show portraits of artists, but also show the social and political concerns,” Fialka says. “Our main emphasis is not for people to sit down and stare at a movie, but to combine the movie experience with live dialogue about the issues that are raised in the film. It’s participating. It’s a meta-cognitive approach. We show movies about movies, we write about writing, we think about thinking.”
At their new venue, Seven Dudley Cinema will show four different films with the theme of Venice History running throughout.
The screenings kick off at 7 p.m. with Laura Whitney and Andrew Millstein’s 20-minute short, Addressless. The film, made in 1986, is about people who live in vehicles in a Rose Avenue public parking lot in Venice, which challenges conventional definitions of what is home and what is community.
The evening continues at 7:20 p.m. with a screening of Dan McLaughlin’s 1968 five-minute film Brucemas. The live-action short goes back to the Summer of Love (1967) in an attempt to capture the spirit of Venice’s Free Press Summer Celebration of Lenny Bruce.
“Back then, there weren’t too many people documenting the last hippie hold out of Venice,” says Venice historian Paul Tanck. “It’s good to see that this part of Venetian history is documented.”
At 7:30, the series presents Mary Kerr’s Venice West & The LA Scene, Swinging in the Shadows Part One. The 58-minute film connects art and poetry of the Beat movement. In places like the Venice West CafÈ, the artists inspired the poets, the poets inspired the artists, and the amalgamation led to the very professional but still lively art scene of today’s Los Angeles.
The main event of the evening starts at 8 p.m. with the screening of Jeff Kaufman’s film Brush With Life — The Art of Being Edward Biberman. The 83-minute film is a portrait of the artist who painted the mural in the Venice Post Office.
“Biberman was the first to see the unique urban beauty of Los Angeles, well before David Hockney and Ed Ruscha,” Kaufman says. “Along with bringing alive a remarkable artist, the film connects to wider themes that illuminate Hollywood history and speak directly to our politically and culturally timid time.
“Biberman’s pursuit of an independent artistic vision, and his passionate commitment to social justice are especially inspiring and relevant today, as are his hauntingly beautiful paintings.”
As no Seven Dudley Cinema screening would be complete without a post-screening conversation, producer/director Kaufman will be in attendance for a discussion of the evening’s films.
At Seven Dudley Cinema, “We reinvent the beat sensibility and the hippies and the activists and the artists and the filmmakers — the Venice community enables the nurturing of creative otherness,” Fialka says.
That nurturing will continue as the Seven Dudley Cinema plays on, regardless of location.
Information, (310) 306-7330, www.myspace.com/sevendudl eycinema/.