DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - Niche.LA Video Art is a little off the beaten path in Gallery Row. Its screening room and gallery space are tucked away on the fourth floor of 453 S. Spring St. But it's definitely a spot to seek out during the Downtown Art Walk on Thursday, Sept. 11 - if for no other reason than to meet owner Nic Cha Kim, one of the founding fathers of Gallery Row.
A big Gallery Row sign stands propped against the wall under the video screen in Kim's space, a reminder of the energy he put into that project. In 2003, when there were only three galleries in the area, Kim and Kjell Hagen wrote the proposal for the Historic Core area bounded by Spring, Main, Second and Ninth streets. The City Council approved it unanimously one month later, and the signs went up shortly after. Now about 40 galleries participate in the monthly Art Walk, which launched in 2004. The event regularly attracts crowds that throng the streets of the Historic Core.
Kim, who is also a playwright and has a day job at Disney in Burbank, opened Niche.LA three years ago.
"Gallery Row has always been my heart and soul," he said one afternoon as he prepared for the upcoming Niche exhibit, Negative, a show of black-and-white digital photography by Cole Thompson.
In addition to the framed photographs on display, Kim will use the screening room for a slide show of the Colorado photographer's work.
He invited Thompson to do a solo show after including his work in a group exhibit about two years ago. "His work shows that digital is just as valid, moving and powerful as film is," Kim said.
Indeed, Thompson said that people are always surprised to find that his photographs are digital and not film. "Black-and-white has not been thought of as a serious digital medium," he said from Colorado. But "it's much superior to film. I know that will be a controversial statement. I spent many years in the darkroom and love film too, but digital and black-and-white were really meant to go together."
That's clear from Thompson's work. "Old Car Interior," an image of an abandoned car, is one of his most popular pieces. Thompson shot through the missing back window with a wide-angle lens capturing an intricate dashboard of gauges with two glove boxes and a broken front windshield. The floor is rusted out to reveal grass growing beneath. "It has tons of detail," Thompson said. "There's a hornets' nest in the left glove box that I didn't even see until later."
That was the first piece Kim asked him to send. "What I like about it is that it's a picture of something busted, because that has character."
Thompson said it's not easy to say why he chose to work exclusively in black and white, but he's tried to figure it out. "I grew up in a black-and-white world, where the evening news was in black and white, the country was segregated in black and white," he said.
Though Thompson has photographed a range of subjects in his travels, Kim tried to select images with an urban feel for the Niche show.
"Clouds and Building," a nebulous cloudscape with the peak of a San Francisco skyscraper angled in one corner, is one of Kim's favorites.
"It reminds me of a place you could probably find Downtown," he said.
Negative runs through Oct. 25. Niche is open for the Art Walk on Sept. 11 and Oct. 9, noon-9 p.m., Saturdays noon-5 p.m., and by appointment. 453 S. Spring St., (213) 247-0002 or niche.la.
Contact Julie Riggott at email@example.com.
page 20, 9/8/2008
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