The MorYork Gallery: A Constantly Changing Exhibition Space

Stepping into the unusually cold air and onto the corner of Highland Park’s York Boulevard and Avenue 50, I have my orders: go look at the other art. It is the Northeast Los Angeles Art Walk, and my secretly-cosmopolitan Pomona companion is an intern at a gallery here. I’ve come along as her guest, but after an hour or so of alternating between eating Cheez-its and staring at the paintings on the wall, framed by backs and extended arms holding wine glasses, my friend kindly tells me that I should check out the other galleries open for the event. I head to a plain building across the street and enter a small, impromptu gallery made of humble plywood panels. Youngish girls chat around a table of Chuck Shaw and cheese, and I glimpse a couple in matching fur costumes and horns. This particular installation fails to hold my interest for very long, but the high ceilings and the flow of people in the corner tell me there’s more to see.And there certainly is. Entering the dimly lit warehouse, my heart starts to beat faster. What am I looking at? Where am I? To answer the first question simplistically, I am looking at a columned altar of wooden artists’ models, chandeliers made of buttons and a chaise longue made of pop-tops, at skeletons of creatures great and small, a totem of bird feathers, hanging strings of sea urchins and puzzle pieces, pyres of caged dolls, larger-than-life coiling worm shells formed with bottle caps. Dusty museum-like displays feature slide rulers and deity statues, giant Scrabble pieces, and a medical model of the heart, among other things.The expansive room is arranged into loose passage ways with nooks and crannies that allow viewers to focus on each individual treasure while still trying to comprehend the greater space. The experience is one of meditation on micro- and macroscopic beauty, in which the viewer is led to question, for example, where does this single marvelous ostrich egg, in a hanging basket of other ostrich eggs, fit into the whole piece? That many of the objects are of an industrial nature makes this question even more exciting, suggesting the art to be found in the everyday, indeed in the anti-art associated with a mechanized world. The use of trivial remnants of this world, i.e. bottle caps and pop-tops, to make both functional pieces of furniture as well as decorative sculpture of organic forms furthers the play of big and small, art and industrial, function and garbage, nature and man. In my fervor to understand where I am, I talk to fellow art-walkers shuffling about. Everyone not only seems to have been here before but also seems to recognize the owner, telling me that he is here somewhere, but none of them know his name. One woman points him out, a large white-haired fellow with a beard to be measured in inches, at the end of which dangles a large orange bead. When I approach him, he is polite but says little. I ask him what this place is and he answers, “This is the MorYork.” I ask him how the MorYork came into existence and he tells me that it won’t be the same next month and that “Part of the game is to see what’s changed.” I suppose asking how some place began is too complicated a question for quick chit-chat, and am left to speculate as the man walks away. The MorYork is equal parts gallery, masterpiece, natural history museum, flea market, and fairy tale, and the man I spoke with is Canadian artist Clare Graham. His website,, introduces him with the line “Artist. Collector. Shaman.” That Graham is an artist and a collector is clear, but when one thinks of a shaman as someone who communicates with other worlds and reports back, it is possible that Graham does more. He allows viewers to experience another world themselves by roaming about his gallery. In a society in which worlds are made to be distinct from one another and humans and nature are conceptually separated, the MorYork certainly does its part to blur the lines.The MorYork Gallery is open as part of the NELA Art Walk every second Saturday of the month from 7 – 10 p.m. 323 663 3426. 4959 York Blvd. Los Angeles.

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