Open - Table: Graphite Chills at a Chilis

Evan Moffitt


On Sunday, November 10th, Graphite gathered with friends and family in the old Westwood Chili’s for our first annual symposium, Open – Table.

The Tex-Mex n’ ribs restaurant, closed since 2009, was in a sad state of disrepair before the Hammer Student Association gave it new life. Old booths stripped of seat cushions sat nestled in dark green and peach-painted coves, circling a central atrium and red canopied bar. Corrugated aluminum roofs jutted out from walls, once covered with straw thatch and jalapeño-shaped Christmas lights. HSA volunteers installed new tables and benches, rugs, hanging lights and potted herbs. Whole Foods set up a café in the bar, and a large alcove became a Graphite reading room.

For two hours, Open – Table participants produced a network within the space through social experiments, discussions, and performances. Seven presenters stationed at tables shared their visions of the journal’s theme, “Networks.”

At a gingham-covered and carnation-topped dinner table, artists Bridget Beck and Carl Pomposelli led a colorful collaborative drawing activity with charcoal, pastel and ink. Nearby, mask-wearing artist Eugene Kotlyarenko interviewed visitors using Google Hangout while sitting at the opposite end of a table. In the Graphite reading room, yoga guru and SyntropyLA founder Maurice Kaehler led participants in a hot-seat-style improv game. Near the Whole Foods Bar, Aurora Tang of the Center for Land Use Interpretation and High Desert Test Sites shared Rolodex cards once belonging to 1960s defense contractors.

Upstairs, Favorite Goods Gallery director Audrey Moyer discussed networks of artists and exhibition spaces. As part of a piece by artist Sam Bivins, visitors uploaded photos to a website, each image projected onto the wall until being replaced by the next one. The artist-run restaurant Thank You For Coming provided nachos and chili to hungry visitors who spoke topping requests into an aluminum can, tied with string to another hanging from the atrium parapet. Curious attendees followed a gory trail of barbeque sauce to Peter Linden’s installation Down Light Tides, made specially for Open – Table, involving a baby back rib-laden altarpiece tucked away in the Chilis’ gloomy air duct space.

While the Open – Table network of artists, curators, and participating public endured only for one sunny Sunday, the event produced a fractal of new ideas and relationships. As the year progresses towards the journal’s Spring 2014 launch, we hope those connections continue to grow and prosper.

If you enjoyed Open – Table and want more, or were unable to attend and want to engage with other creative Angelenos, follow this blog and our Facebook page to find our more about future Graphite programs.