“On The Edge of Society” @ The Venice Beach House

15 30th Avenue Venice, CA 90291 by appointment only


Immerse yourself in the works of three legendary artists Jim Ganzer, Anthony Friedkin and Wynn Miller who’s influence on modern culture can’t be measured and impossible to overlook. Followed by the young and emerging, an Art Installation in the basement of the house.

Curated by Skip Engblom and Matt Wessen


The show explores the urban decay of a dream.

A full century has passed since the ‘Venice of America’ dream began. Founded by a visionary, a businessman named Abbot Kinney who was set to re-create the enchantment of Venice of Italy mixed with Cony Island on the Westside of Los Angeles. The man took a chance on the area he won in a coin toss with his business partners, dredged it’s beachy marshland and built the unexpected to help stimulate local art and culture with the pier hosting carnival attractions. Some called this endeavor “Kinney’s folly”. In 1911, his best friend, owner of the Los Angeles Daily Journal and outspoken supporter of progressive causes including women’s suffrage and racial equality, Warren Wilson, built his own dream house and one of its first and finest buildings as the antidote of the city life. Both Kinney’s sons married Wilson’s daughters. Due to its magnificent history, vibrant social life and a long list of celebrity visitors, beginning with Charlie Chaplin who developed the character of the Little Tramp while staying at the house. This property was the first one in Venice to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The history of the area shifted again in the early 30s when the oil and depression years had begun. The fever for black gold seemed to happen overnight and the oil derricks towered over peoples homes across the Los Angeles Basin. Previously serene canals were filled with sludge and the schools began to close in the area due to the pollution. Money was good, but the environmental price was too high. By 1942 a total of over 47 million barrels of bubbling crude had been sucked out of the shoreline. Kinney’s dream was gone, in 1946 when the family's' lease expired the attractions and the pier were taken down, the canals were paved over as people saw them as an opportunity to arrive in their new cars. By the ’50s the area was called ‘Slum by The Sea’. 

It’s kinda weird and it was really cheap, $75/month. The pumping sound at night was very relaxing. As you are being polluted while you sleep, it almost resembles the beat of your heart.
— Skip Engblom on renting an apartment with his mother near the breakwater in 1960 that had an oil rig pumping in a backyard.

Pacific Ocean Park ("POP"), a nautical themed amusement park opened its doors in 1958. Designed by Fred Harpman, one of the set designers of 1956’s film “Around the World in 80 Days”. Googie architecture inspired by 1950’s space and jets fascination mixed with Disneyland adventure vibe. In 1967 POP closed for repairs never to reopen. The end of the Modernism that focused on industry and the optimistic outlook was followed by the times in which youth culture, surf, and skate culture became important, and big businesses were very aware of it at the time. The pier burnt in a night fire in 1970 and began to be occupied by artists and laid-back surfers riding waves between bent leftovers of the rollercoasters sitting half-covered in ocean water. With the Venice Beach House in the middle of it all the area attracted beatniks, then hippies, and then after the 1984 Olympics came tourists from all over the world. Up until ten years ago, the area was populated with a wide variety of artists and gang members coexisting. The colorful part of the culture with significant historical relevance is overpowered by gentrification, high-end developers and tech industry expanding from San Francisco and New York. LA County Historical Society presents a show in order to preserve the area's historical and cultural heritage. The location is where the dream of Venice began and took place in the imagination of many.

A hidden oasis, faithfully restored by the Boesch family and maintained for travelers and for all of Venice, the Venice Beach House remains a throwback to an era gone by, a mysterious gem in a city where discovery and tranquility are hard to come by.
— Brennan Boesch

written by Anna Wessen