Ed Ruscha took Matthew Donaldson on a Los Angeles ride through memory lane, from the artist’s Culver City studio—that started life as one of Howard Hughes’ aircraft parts factories—to Silverlake and around Echo Park where the filmmaker lived as a child.
For the second in our series Getting There, Ruscha drove his black 2000 Lexus down roads and past buildings that he has tirelessly documented during his storied career. From his paintings of gas stations and the film Miracle to the books that capture the ever-evolving landscape of Los Angeles, much of Ruscha’s work is deeply rooted in the culture of the automobile and the vernacular of Southern California, the state he adopted as his home after driving there from Oklahoma City in 1956 to attend art school.
“Almost more than the changes of the city I notice when things don’t change,” muses Ruscha. “Despite the huge development that is happening on Sunset Boulevard there is still a lot that is pretty much the way it was 50 years ago. There are concrete abutments, kerbing and certain peculiarities to the growth of a city that were there many years ago.”
Although these days Ruscha tends to use his large sedan or his electric Fiat—the artist was an early adopter of eco technology when he built a battery-powered vehicle nicknamed ‘Leadbelly’ from an 1985 Saab 15 years ago—he still retains a 1939 Ford that he has had for nearly 50 years. “It’s big and heavy and the visibility is poor compared to the autos of today,” he explains. “It’s just there to look at. It’s a soft spot in my heart.”
Once a year, Elimelech Ehrlich travels from Jerusalem to Lakewood, N.J., with a cash box and a wireless credit-card machine. During the three weeks he typically spends in town, Ehrlich — a white-bearded, black-suited, black-skullcapped, wisecracking 51-year-old — haunts the many local yeshivas, schools where Jewish men, mostly in their 20s, study the Talmud and other texts. Sometimes he loiters around the condominium complexes where students live with their young wives and growing families. Some days he hires a driver to take him to the houses of local ashirim, rich men. Throughout town, he greets old friends, asking after marriages made since his last visit and new babies. And at every stop along the way, he asks for money.
Ehrlich is a full-time beggar. His strategy is one part humor, one part not taking no for an answer. He gives you levity; he expects money in return. “I say rhymes, I say all kinds of jokes!” Ehrlich told me in June, on a break from begging. “I say: ‘If you don’t have anything, at least give something! Better than not giving at all!’ I ask them, ‘Give me 100 dollars, I’ll give you back 99 shekels!’ ” (A comically bad deal — even if his offer were genuine, a shekel is worth about 30 cents.) “They give a dollar or two, sometimes they give five,” Ehrlich said. Students who give maaser — the 10 percent tithe recommended by the Talmud — are more generous, he said. “They give 36, or 20.” Thirty-six is a multiple of 18, which represents life or good luck in Jewish numerology.
For years, Ehrlich has made a circuit of yeshivas in Israel’s religious cities, like Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, offering his Yinglish patter to pious students in exchange for a few shekels. About 12 years ago, he was working the grounds of the Mir, a large school in Jerusalem that is popular with Americans studying abroad, when somebody suggested that he travel to Lakewood, where American students at the Mir often settled on their return home. So began his annual pilgrimage. Often he raises money for friends who have to pay for a child’s wedding (and takes a cut for himself). This year, one of his 12 children was marrying in July, and Lakewood helped pay for the banquet. Soon after we met, I asked Ehrlich what he earned in New Jersey each year. He told me, but made me promise not to say exactly how much. Put it this way: After costs, he earns more than enough to buy a Honda Fit, but not quite enough for a Civic.
Travis Scott - Days Before Rodeo
Photographer Frances Tulk-Hart shares her thoughts on some of her favorite moments spent meeting people and friends she admires for her intimate website, 5 Minutes with Franny. This time she tells us why Elizabeth Olsen left such an impression in her memory.
Sir John Richardson, the great connoisseur of art and the author of a multivolume biography of Picasso, showed me to the bedroom of his country guesthouse on his estate in the rolling hills of Connecticut. The most striking thing in the room was a handsome wooden bed with two rather fierce-looking eagle heads protruding from the end.
“Do you know,” Richardson said, “I did some research about this bed. It used to belong to a very rich American lady in Paris. Apparently she was murdered in it, possibly by her husband.”
I slept very well in the eagle bed that night.
Richardson’s taste for the macabre is theatrical, like so much else about the way he lives and the objects he has collected. In the guesthouse’s sitting room, my eyes fell upon a set of fine 19th-century Turkish prints showing a variety of exotic tortures meted out to miscreants in old Constantinople. “Ah, those,” Richardson explained, “they once belonged to Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors in London. But they were thought to be a little too tame for their purposes, so I managed to buy them at an auction.” A friend of mine since we first met in the apartment of a louche American oilman in London almost 25 years ago, Richardson has lived here for 40 years. A slightly stooped, broad-chested man with intense gray eyes, he is still brimming with bullish energy. At 90, he is old enough to have known my grandfather, which indeed he did, through his former partner, the art collector Douglas Cooper, with whom Richardson lived for 10 years in a chateau in the south of France.
“It is a moment when I can become myself,” says fashion’s enduring radicalist Yohji Yamomoto of his daily ritual: driving his 1980s Nissan Cedric to Tokyo’s Aoyama Cemetery, where he enjoys a private stroll with his dog Rin. It’s early spring and although the sakura cherry blossoms are at least a month away, the ornamental plum trees are already in full pink bloom.
Mr Yamamoto got both Rin, a popular Japanese hunting breed, and the Cedric a year ago, and the close bond between the three is crystallized in Matthew Donaldson’s short film that showcases an original score and vocal performance from the designer. “I started driving cars when I was 18, maybe half a century ago,” he says, having owned classics including a Rolls-Royce and Jaguar after first acquiring an antique Austin. “I like glamour, but I also want to have a low profile. I find modern car design so ugly, so I found this car on the internet.”