Yogart Encounters COMICS/PAGE D-1 Friday, July 24, ’98’1 THE SAN DIEGO UNION D-5:
The San Diego Union/Jerry Clord Larry Urrutia at illuminated table in his new yogurt shop
A Place In Space Where Art Is Alive (View photos from of the actual shop)
Fifteen years ago, Larry Urrutia dismissed Los Angeles painter Robert Irwin as a charlatan. “I saw nothing,” he remembers, somewhat sheepishly, after viewing Irwin’s monochromatic canvases during the ’60S.
Today, two Irwin paintings are all that remain of his once sizable, contemporary art collection. That irony fuels a wide grin. “I kept them because they, quite frankly changed my life,” Urrutia says. In the late ’60s, over Urrutia’s objections, a mutual friend insisted that he take a look Irwin’s newest works at his Venice studio. It was absolutely the most physical eiperience ever had viewing a work of art,” says Urrutia. The hair on my arms stood up, I started to shake and almost started to cry. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.” For the next 10 years, that image — a gray-metal disc seemingly absorbed into its environment — haunted Ur-rutia, drastically altering his perspective on art collect ing and his career as a museum and gallery curator. Two years ago, he quit his curatorial job, stripped his life to bare necessities and parted with his collection.
Tomorrow, he and business associate Leslie Green open a yogurt shop in Glasshouse Square in San Diego, hosting the who’s who of the area’s art community for a cham pagne-filled unveiling. Regular hours begin on Sunday. The new business venture isn’t Urrutia’s final step out of the art world — ‘`That would be like giving up breath ing,” he explained..On the contrary, he believes the store will offer “a unique blend of physical and aesthetic nour-ishment.” He’s aptly named it Yogart Encounter & “I evolved into yogurt by way of art; so I couldn’t just open any yogurt shop,” said Urrutia, pausing in the last-minute rush to open ‘on schedule. “So I decided, why not create an environment you wJn’t believe, but can’t for-get? Even if .I don’t enjoy a financial success; I am satis-fied that I have achieved an aesthetic success. And it takes a lot to satisfy me.” Six months in the making with help from many friends,
including La Jolla architect Eugene Ray, the shop is fu-turistic wonderland of plexiglass, aluminum, mirrors and stainless steel that create a soft gray glow. Completing the otherworldly atmosphere is one of Urrutia’s remain-Mg Irwin paintings. The untitled, 1968, white, acrylic, plexiglass disc with a gray spectrum across the center shimmers in the light of four spotlights beamed at a curved white wall. The space-age setting suits Urrutia, a lean 46-year-old with close-cropped graying hair, high cheekbones and the olive skin of his Mexican parent& When dressed in the shop’s uniform, a steel-blue tunic and pants (and match-ing sneakers), he suggests “Star Trek’s” Dr. Spock, plus emotion. Pinned to his chest is the shop’s symbol, a light-ning bolt in a circle, that was crafted in silver by his father, a jeweler. (Continued on D-5, Col. 1)
Urrutia, who covered a canyon view to have the in-triguing disc installed in his home. “For an Irwin to be successful, the edges of the disc had to disappear into the wall, the color of the wall has to be right, the lights have to cast shadows of a certain intensity. “He wanted to eliminate art objects as the focal point of an art experience. Art was the total experi-ence, not just the painting.” Urrutia’s realization coincided with a new job as curator of the La Jolla Mu-seum of Contemporary Art and he determined to find ways to expand the aware-‘ ness of museum visitors to what could be called art. One result was the contro-versial exhibit “Earth: Ani-mal, Vegetable and Miner-al” that included Newton Harrison’s environmental piece with live ducks and snails in a ganden. “In conversations with artists, I realized that ideas are paramount in a work of art,” he explained. “Then one day it dawned on me that art went beyond the ob-ject. The object is only a ve-hicle — like conversations or writing — which could transport me to a moment of art, an experience that takes place in my head if my antennae are out. Art is all around us.” Urrutia’s views are tied to what he believes is the next, monumental step for humankind, an adaptation to the environment of, outer space. He likens it to the primordial time when fish evolved into amphibians. “We are living at a most
exciting period in history, being on the verge of living in another atmosphere,” he said. “Eventually, it will alter our physical being so that we can live outside of spacesuits. That change will eliminate art as we know it from our existence. When we go to another planet, we won’t take objects — we can’t. We’ll take ideas. “Art is evolving and I be-lieve technology will be the art of the future. By that, I mean that the actual aesthetics involved in creating a functional thing will be more important than the creation. Take a minicalcu-lator — people respond to it because of the technology. We marvel at the artistry.” These realizations made it increasingly difficult for Urrutia to do his job — “hanging art objects for an exhibition in a museum called contemporary.” He left the La Jolla Museum in 1972. Seven years later, after jobs with local art establishments including the San Diego State University Gallery, he resigned to write and lecture. “In those jobs, I was having to explain algebra to someone who understood math while I was interested in calculus,” he said of his past “We are wasting time continuing to create more
objects when there is such a wealth of experimental avenues available for art-ists to investigate. “It’s difficult to talk to friends who still make art objects. My thinking hasn’t cost me friends, but it makes me more reluctant to be in positions where we would disagree, at openings and studios. I can’t believe in what they’re doing and in what I’m doing.” “Past art,” Urrutia’s de-scription of art objects, is the necessary stepping stones for people thinking about art, he believes. But he objects to the fact the contemporary art museums deal only with “safe objects, blue-chip commodities in the art market” instead of breaking barriers. Urrutia is clearly on the outermost fringes of today’s art -world. He feels he has surpassed his mentor, Irwin, whose current works are momentary, undocumented images, and avant-garde artist Bruce Nauman, who believes „ objects are necessary for viewer’s emo-tional response. He finds sup-port in the Bible, science-fiction films, especially George Pal’s “War of the Worlds” and “When Worlds Collide,” and the writings of futurists like Buckminster Fuller who has predicted
“invisible architecture.” “Irwin, I’m told,, refers to me as a dreainer and I like that,” Urrutia said. “What I’m saying may or may not come true, but it seems per-fectly plausible to me and has enriched my life to no end.” _ Urrutia’s business, ven-ture grew out of the basic need to make a living. He Originally, considered an ice cream shop franchise, but later settled on yogurt be-cause “I love Rand it’s good for you.” At Yogart Encounters, Concoctions like Earthling Ecstacy and Martian Magic will be dispensed from a semicircular, Formica, par-ticleboard and plexiglass counter that seems to float above a Pirelli blue rubber floor:- Customers can gather at one of seven plexiglass tables that glow around the edges with illuminated color and reflect a patch Of Cranberry carpet underfoot. They cluster in front of large, circular mirrors framed in corrugated aluminum and are cordoned off from the rest of the shop. The objects don’t clash with ‘Urrutia’s philosophy because they all have a function, as well as aesthetic value. “You can’t say that about a painting unless it is used to cover up a hole in the wall,” he quips.
The shop is also an extension of another basic — Urrutia’s view of himself as a missionary. “Being in a museum, what I was doing is spread-ing the word,” he said. “I’m now in the same position, without objects. I’m telling people look around you, it’s everywhere. You can have your own art moment if you’re not blinded into thinking art is only on mu-seum walls. “The shop continues my, work because I’m dealing with a total philosophy here in the tables, counters, tex-tures, materials, colors. Everything is technologically oriented. There are no frills, just basics.” “Like all objects, this place may transport some-one to an art moment. It may be an emotional re-Donse, it may make them, think and question. Maybe it will alter a life the way it did for me.
Author To Speak The Environmental Health Coalition -Will present Dr. Sam Epstein, author of The Politics of Cancer,” on Aug. 21 from 7-14.M. at-the home of Ruth .Heifetz, 1533 Virginia Way,. in La Jolla.
Friday, July 24, ’98’1 THE SAN DIEGO UNION D-5: