When you cross the threshold of 1024 N. Western Avenue, Alice Lodge wants you to feel transported. Here, steps from the dollar stores and strip malls of East Hollywood, resides The Lodge, one of Los Angeles’ most idiosyncratic galleries, a place where, according to its founder, “guests can enter and get a little repose from their day-to-day lives and be delighted, inspired and informed.”
Since opening in early 2015, The Lodge has added a refreshing note to the city’s rapidly growing cultural landscape with an inclusive roster that reflects its owner’s personal interests. More jewel than big box, the gallery is comprised of two rectangular rooms joined by a small courtyard. It stages around a dozen shows each year featuring work from both established and lesser-known talents. You could say that curiosity, rather than money and celebrity, is the coin of the realm.
“The architecture alone makes The Lodge a hospitable space,” explains Lodge, who transformed the original building with subtle enhancements, such as wainscoted paneling and honed concrete floors. “I think the fact that the gallery was once my living room rubs off on the general ambience, which is often described as being like a speakeasy. People feel comfortable here and tend to linger.”
Much like her gallery, Australian-born Lodge is an Angeleno creation. Upon returning to Hollywood following her studies at Barnard College, CalArts and London’s Central Saint Martins, Lodge worked as a prop stylist, set designer and decorator, cross-pollinating with creative powerhouses such as Steven Meisel, Inez and Vinoodh and the Ace Hotel Group. “Over the years I learned how to realize people’s visions, which I can now apply when we go about doing the installation for parties and exhibitions,” Lodge says, crediting her late mother, filmmaker and artist Jan Sharp, for her prowess as a saloniste.
For the modern art cognoscenti, the East Hollywood address possesses a particularly storied allure. Originally constructed as a shopping mall in 1923, the complex, which still includes several artists’ studios and residences, gained notoriety in the 1960s when the artist Joe Goode, a member of the seminal “Cool School,” rented one of the unoccupied spaces. “Soon after, Joe’s friend Ed Ruscha moved in, and he continued living and working in the building for more than 20 years,” says Lodge.
Today, Ruscha’s erstwhile home maintains its renegade spirit, attracting a dizzying spectrum of artists working across manifold mediums (including Ruscha himself, whose work has been featured in several of the gallery’s group shows). “At times, I feel like I just stumbled into being the director of my own gallery,” says Lodge, whose polymathic program of artists includes Shane Guffogg, Austyn Weiner, Robbie Simon, Maysha Mohamedi, Chad Attie and Mary Woronov.
Lodge’s unerring eye and endless curiosity call to mind writer Eve Babitz’s maxim that “it takes a certain kind of innocence to like LA.” The city itself—with its creative outliers, nihilists and dreamers—is the monofilament that connects each show and infuses the gallery with its aura of lost bohemia. It’s a mix that seems it could only happen in LA, a place of existential improbability. “Here, fantasy is made real,” Lodge declares. “When LA was built in the early 1800s, nobody thought it could sustain itself. It was a dust bowl with no water, but the sheer force of the human imagination created what it is today.”