Deep within the concrete heart of downtown Los Angeles, I recently met Jimmy Bleyer, a wizard in the form of an art curator who is behind the Temple Of Visions, a new multi-arts space that opened January 9th. It will be the first gallery dedicated totally to the emerging contemporary Visionary Art culture here in the City of Angels.
Above four stories of a maze of artist studios that buzz in the ceilings of the highly successful Hive Gallery, we sat above the gestating Temple of Visions, amidst the rooftop gardens, Celtic labyrinths, herbs and arabesque carpets which have been dubbed "Rooftopia" by its artists-in-residence. Here we discussed the Temple and the larger Visionary Art culture, a movement that entwines art, spirit, and consciousness to merge the supernatural with the cosmic, shamanic insight with quantum philosophy, and a renaissance mastery of the ancient medium.
Tim Parish: What is the vision behind the Temple of Visions?
Jimmy Bleyer: The Temple of Visions is really a bridge between the Visionary Art culture worldwide and the Los Angeles art scene — and where I see that it belongs. Having worked in the gallery scene here for quite a while, once I started getting to know these artists, I realized I was capable of putting it in here, bringing it on.
How would you describe the contemporary visionary art culture around the world?
Diverse. There are a lot of things that are called Visionary Art — some I think inappropriately, and some appropriately — but it's a community that, at the core, is about a lot of love. Everyone I've met, their motivating force is love, uniting the world and seeing this vision, which is vast. It's what's beyond the veil.
I'm intrigued by what connects the work of Geiger to Martina Hoffman; Amanda Sage to Mars 1 to Robert Venosa, who are all artists in your show, but employ such diverse styles and forms. What is it that unites them?
It's really hard, and it's been the source of many conversations in this room, and there are a lot of different theories about it. For me, I can feel the connection. To me it's obvious, and it's really funny, because I'd hang a bunch of work from many different artists — all vastly unique in my eyes, having seen a lot of visionary art — and people would come in and see me minding this art and say, "Wow, did you do all of this?" They thought it was all by one artist. So there's something cohesive about it that I may be losing sight of, because I see all of the diversity.
Visionary Art has a long tradition beyond its contemporary context, but how does the work of these new artists differ to that tradition? How are they similar?
They're pushing boundaries right now. These young artists are raging forward and consistently blowing my mind. There are not many art scenes or artists that do that — whereas this group is consistently on a forward path. So thats one thing that unifies them, they're beyond what has been in the past, which has been largely religion-based, such as renaissance artists of the past who were predominantly quite Christian, and now it seems to be more personal to the artist — to their experience — and not to their dogma.
So is it about a new way of understanding spirit?
To me it is. To me these artists have a divine gift. They're able to create something, because they are experienced in these spiritual realms, however they get there. They are technically skilled enough to be able to come back and translate it. A lot of people can have those experiences and not even be able to express them in words. That an artist can do that with images confirms those spiritual experiences in people that can't translate them — and that's a big part of what I want to share within the Temple of Visions.
Do you think Visionary Art speaks to people more clearly than most contemporary art?
There are certainly instances where it could use some dissection, but generally it's quite a visceral experience when you see one of these pieces. It's living the vision of the artist, seeing through their eyes, or their closed eyes. I'm especially excited about people who stumble into the gallery, those who happen to be foot traffic. I'm very excited by their reactions, especially people who had no idea what they were getting into. I think it will change them — this art is a catalyst for transformation, for life-affirmation.
How does the contemporary art world relate to this Visionary Art movement?
In LA, its been pretty much void until very recently. 99 High Art Collective on the west side and Temple of Visions on the east side, but it's not the Artforum scene by any standard — of course I would say that the Artforum scene is whatever is advertising in Artforum. But it seems right to me. I feel there's a real stagnation in the art scene here where there are a lot of jaded art lovers who have seen enough headless teddy bears, and they are ready for something thats going to rock their core, so we'll do a bit of that.
Can you describe a few of the newer emerging artists featured in the Temple's first exhibition that you would like people to know about?
OK. We'll start with Amanda Sage who lives here in Rooftopia above the Temple and came to visit the first show here and essentially stayed. She's a really special artist to me. I was exposed to her through Ernst Fuchs and the group of artists that he's helped train, such as Martina Hoffman and Robert Venosa. I think her work has consistent natural flow and is always luminescent, emitting light. Her narrative is constantly growing, and amazes me. I'm truly blessed to watch her work side-by-side. She does a lot of variations on themes, such as the egg, life, birth, creation; she sees so many different ways to express those things, through different energetic forms.
Adam Scott Miller is someone I discovered as I was setting up a show last year and I thought "this guy has to be in the show." His technical skill is mind-boggling, and his vision is astounding. Having spent a lot of time with him since then, I believe he sees the grid — how this universe is put together, and he can express that because he's so technically skilled.
The world doesn't know Orion yet. A local artist, Orion did a show for the Temple of Visions last year. Basically, his work is so rich and detailed, and really supernatural. He deserves a lot of attention. His piece in this show contains, from what I understand, 300,000 or more spirits and entities in a massive universal explosion of spirit, and I'm really excited for the artists who are traveling here to discover this one.
Downstairs, inside the high-ceiling rooms where the Temple of Visions is being constructed, Bleyer explained to me the large-scale installations, The Earth and Galactic Temples, both commissioned, respectively, to the Portland-based art collective Dreaming Co:Nexus and Bay Area creator Xavi, founder of the Pod Collective. Not content to merely follow the typical white box format of the art world, Bleyer has sought to transform the space itself into an experience.
What do you have planned to happen inside the Temple over the year?
So far I've been working with a person called Sensei, who has worked at The Hive for many years, He is helping with book lectures and workshops on everything from quantum physics to spirituality and consciousness-raising in general, even something about urban gardening — which is what we're really into here at Rooftopia. We're also working with a curator called Siddhartha Shaw from the Bay Area who'll be putting on a show of Nepalese Nuah art — contemporary Hindu and Buddhist art, which is quite controversial, breaking from tradition. He's going to do a show and lecture on the movement.
We're also working on a boutique concert series which will be relatively high-level acts. Fairly intimate, just a series of beautiful acts for a small group of people.
How long has the contemporary Visionary Art movement been brewing?
Well, it's still brewing, but it's starting to catalyze, as people are getting to know each other. It's been so spread out for so long, but it seems like these artists love to travel to festivals, like Art Basel for the Moksha Families show — which Amanda Sage is preparing for on the other side of this wall as we speak.
I think it's just forming now. It's a very large group and some people are emerging now that are catalyzing the movement, with the help of the Moksha Family and IAMU and The Temple of Visions. There's a lot of groups that are starting to support these artists.
Do you think we live in a time that needs visions?
There's definitely a need for new visions in our world today. The world is speeding up in a lot of directions, both negative and positive. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow, and there's a balance that the universe and the world has been trying to achieve for a long time, that is starting to swing rapidly either way. It's going to take this unifying force to keep it on the right track — on the light track — and art is historically pretty good at that.
What do you think it is that Visionary Artists are communicating that will enrich the world here?
When people see Visionary Art that is so interior, and can relate to it, they will reconnect with a part of themselves that may be buried beneath the ego trip, and the culture trip. Because what I really believe is that they're based on real experience, and a lot of the "cultural trip" is not based on real experience. They say "this is how you should be living," as opposed to "this is how I want to live and think."
In The Art Spirit, Vassily Kandinsky talks about the spiritual pyramid, and that we're all on different levels, and there are artists on every level, and each of those artists are able to see into the levels above and then translate it for people around them so they can transcend to the next level.
For me, these artists are healers. They are definitely shamans of a sort, maybe a different type though, not in a traditional sense. There's an absence of personal visions and an imposition of other's visions for our lives. There are plenty that seek control and art points out freedom.
The Temple of Visions Gallery's first show, Womb of Creation, opened January 9th, 2010. More information is available at Temple's website.
Image: The Shaman, by Amananda Sage, courtesy of the artist's website.