New takes on Old Masters in a landmark of Old Hollywood

Benjamin Sutton, The Art Newspaper, February 19, 2022

Visitors to Half Gallery’s seasonal space in Los Angeles may have a hard time concentrating on the art—currently, a show of exacting and surreal takes on Old Master paintings by the Irish artist Ted Pim. The windows of the gallery’s temporary home frame a sweeping view of the Los Angeles skyline, but the house itself is the real star.

The Greek Revival home on Mountain Oak Drive overlooking Los Feliz and Little Armenia was the longtime home of film-maker Dorothy Arzner, the first woman to join the Directors Guild of America (in 1936) and one of the most powerful openly gay people in Hollywood in the early studio era.


Arzner lived in the home from 1930-51 with her partner, the choreographer Marion Morgan, though rumours swirled about her involvement with A-list stars who appeared in her films. “I’m a firm believer that architecture retains the memory of things that happened there,” says Bill Powers, the founder of Half Gallery. “So when you read these stories about Arzner and people like Katharine Hepburn, you start to wonder what these walls have seen.”


More recently, the walls have seen a parade of current Hollywood figures and Los Angeles artists checking out Pim’s show, Moondance (until 19 February). Local artists including the painters Louise Bonnet and Hiejin Yoo turned up for the opening. The exhibition quickly sold out, with paintings going to John Janick, the Interscope Records chief executive, and a producer of HBO’s post-pandemic science-fiction series Station Eleven, among others.


“Sometimes when you do projects like this,” Powers says, “you end up selling to people from New York and London, and you’re like, ‘Why did I even do this?’” He sees the support of Hollywood power players as proof of the value of this type of seasonal outpost—just don’t call it a pop-up. “I’m allergic to the term ‘pop-up’,” he says.


Next up for Half Gallery’s residency at the Arzner-Morgan house are a show of works on paper by the emerging Canadian artist Maud Madsen opening in tandem with Frieze and Felix, and a show of young Asian and Asian American painters curated by Yoo (opening on 24 February).


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