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This is one of a somewhat random series of posts that suggest a paired outing to a unique free or reasonably priced cultural experience in los angeles and a neighboring restaurant.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (La Jolla and Downtown locations) / Buon Appetito

There are currently good shows at both locations of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD).  About a 90 minute largely coastal drive from Los Angeles brings you to La Jolla, a wealthy suburb just north of San Diego and home to the Torrey Pines golf course, University of California San Diego and the Salk Institute.  The museum here is across the street from the beach and tidal pools of the Pacific Ocean and the view is a bit unreal in its postcard perfection.

The show, "Automatic Cities: The Architectural Imaginary in Contemporary Art", a somewhat forced curatorial cover, nonetheless presents some great work from artists around the world.  My favorites included a work incorporating multiple media by Matthew Ritchie- a meditation on communication and metaphor in architectural forms and images;  a video by Saskia Olde Wolbers of oil paint covered plants and a theater set filmed in water tanks; another video that animates miniature human and animal cut out drawings walking methodically through empty rooms by Hiraki Sawa; a scale model swimming pool constructed in the form of a luxury house plan by the Cuban art collective "Los Carpinteros" and the highly skilled psychological paintings of Michael Borremans depicting people out of scale and out of place, their enigmatic actions playing out on a background of both the natural and built world.

The description from the website:

Automatic Cities: The Architectural Imaginary in Contemporary Art explores the myriad influences of architecture on contemporary art production. The architectural imaginary comprising images of sites and cities built and unbuilt, rising from collective experience and imagination.

The dynamic is mapped in an international context through the work of 13 individual artists (and one artists’ collective) hailing from around the globe: Michaël Borremans (Belgium), Matthew Buckingham (U.S.), Los Carpinteros (Cuba), Catharina van Eetvelde (France, born Belgium), Jakob Kolding (Germany, born Denmark), Ann Lislegaard (Denmark, born Norway), Julie Mehretu (U.S., born Ethiopia), Paul Noble (U.K.), Sarah Oppenheimer (U.S.), Matthew Ritchie (U.S., born U.K.), Hiraki Sawa (U.K., born Japan), Katrin Sigurdardottir (U.S. and Iceland, born Iceland), Rachel Whiteread (U.K.), and Saskia Olde Wolbers (U.K., born Netherlands).

Utilizing painting, sculpture, video, wall drawings, posters, and architectural interventions, the artists have been given the opportunity to stretch the boundaries of their practice by making site-responsive work for the exhibition. The exhibition is curated by MCASD Curator Robin Clark.


The downtown location of the MCASD in a revamped rail station has a mid-career survey of sculptor Tara Donovan who uses ordinary materials to explore the formal possibilities of objects in sometimes vast multiples .  These pieces rely on your shifting position and stereoscopic vision to present simulations of the natural world.  From a thigh high ocean of tar paper to a landscape constructed from single and stacked translucent plastic cups to a low floor piece of tape loops that shift from almost transparent at your feet to a blurry slush in the center of the room- her work is in tension between a seemingly readable form and the banality of its components.  Since photographs literally cannot capture the depths and visual effects as you move through and around Tara's work I highly recommend seeing this show.

If you time your L.A. to San Diego trip well and leave the museum at the 5 o'clock closing time, you will beat the crowds for an early dinner a few blocks north in Little Italy.  Buon Appetito (1609 India St.) is small, elegant but comfortable, and serves a variety of Italian dishes using fresh ingredients prepared in perfect combinations.  A roasted quail appetizer on a bed of lentils and a scallop, shrimp and asparagus pasta with a brandy cream sauce were both a balance of distinct flavors.  A few blocks up is Mimmo's Italian Village (1743 India St.) if you're looking for a more casual and reasonably priced restaurant.

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