Most people know Ashkahn Shahparnia by his first name. This isn’t an obvious statement of his having a first name, no, but instead alludes to his going by mononym: he is only known as Ashkahn. His solo name is intentional and is influenced equally by popular culture and Los Angeles.
“I was obsessed with Bijan and his billboards growing up,” he explains. “Seeing him with Michael Jordan and him with Bo Derek was the epitome of the California dream. He owned a big yellow Rolls Royce and had a store on Rodeo! He was so shameless and marketed himself as a person instead of a brand, saying that you are buying him instead of the name of a product.”
“That’s one of the reasons why I use my very Iranian name,” he laughs.
After three months, Morgan Alexander has declared 2014 to be a good year. “I’m laughing, ‘cuz in a lot of ways I’m a different person than I was when you first got in touch right before new year’s,” he says. “It was a big one for resolutions, which I never usually do, and somehow I’ve kept up with all of them! All sorts of stuff… I gave up meat, which I’ve wanted to do forever. I also cancelled cable, which instantly made me wonder why I hadn’t done it ages ago. I’ve been running and riding my bike consistently. I’ve even been flossing every night. And oh, hey, I just gave my notice at possibly the best day gig anyone could ever have.”
Atop of all of this (and arguably what’s spurred it), Morgan and his wife welcomed a daughter in September of last year. “I now possess an incredible amount of knowledge about giving birth in Los Angeles. This whole interview could be about that—but I’ll spare you! The reality is I’m turning into a walking talking thirty-something cliché.”
“You know how it is, the techno life.” He quips, realizing that our small talk has led us quite far afield from the initial premise of our chat.
Pearl C. Hsiung has been working on her latest body of work for almost four years. “I shot it in Yellowstone National Park in 2010!” she says with a laugh. “We shot ten hours of footage a day over four nights, five days, captured before daylight through sunset. It took a couple of years to digest it.”
The piece is called Yellowstoner and is a video piece that she debuted very recently at Human Resources. Looking around her Glassell Park studio a few days before the show, you could see bits and pieces from the project in the room. “The video—which is the main piece of the show—is pretty much ready to go: I am waiting for one final piece of audio and then I will be exporting it for looping,” she explains. She motions to works on her wall: “These are paper works that will go around the space. I had been painting these words and texts on watercolor paper: it was a good occasion to push that through and expand on other parts of my practice that don’t have anything to do with making a picture.”
In a warehouse out in Commerce, there is a place called Advance Screen Graphic. The facility is a gigantic screen printing operation that specializes in executing large-scale projects for local designers. They print textiles and wallpapers and other large form mediums that small creative businesses may not be able to do themselves.
Bridgid Coulter is one of Advance Screen Graphic’s clients. She is a Santa Monica based interior and textile designer who occasionally makes the trip to Commerce to oversee the production of her goods. She stands over a long table where two men are printing discrete watery lines in two different shades of brown onto linen.
Bettina Korek’s office is across the street from LACMA. If you stand at the front of her office—the headquarters for ForYourArt—and look out the window, you can see Chris Burden’s glowing Urban Light.
“A woman who worked at LACMA asked me what has changed from when I worked at the museum and now,” she says, drawing a few circles on a copied text. “The difference is that people know where LACMA is and they know where MOCA is. A lot has changed in the past ten years in Los Angeles.”
“I know this from growing up in LA: if you called someone up back then and said, ‘Come to LACMA!’ you’d get an answer like ‘Is that the one Downtown?’ There’s as a different general consciousness about so much. For me and us and ForYourArt, we’ve been very lucky to be here, right now.”