Down the Rabbit Hole: Royal/T’s Never Ending Story

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The Royal/T gallery and café in Culver City is a manga-spliced J-pop anomaly in the L.A. art scene, which recently opened The Never Ending Story: Fairytale, Fantasy, Obsession, an exhibit featuring pieces from owner Susan Hancock’s personal collection. The art connoisseur, entrepreneur, and part-time psychic has owned and operated the gallery for the last five years. She’s spent the last ten bringing together a culturally diverse cast of contemporary artists. To make The Never Ending Story especially brilliant, Hancock asked fellow New Yorker and art aficionado Laura Hoptman to design the exhibit. By combining an “Alice in Wonderland” theme (despite the title, the show has no connection to that other fantasy film) with the gallery’s trademark cos-play, she conveys the mind-altering aesthetics of surrealism.

At the show’s February 4 opening, a frenzy of “Alice” impersonators elegantly passed through the gallery in gothic costumes—pale blues, mat-black lace, and death metal eye shadow accentuated curious conversations throughout the space. In a corner, Jared Gold’s handcrafted collections of accessories and clothing were on display for sale and appreciation. The designer’s rich compositions, 19th century luxury items reworked in pastels, blend history and modern ideals into a signature, and they perfectly complimented the artwork haunting the walls: anthropomorphic phantasms from the most primal reaches of artist Wangechi Mutu’s daydreams. In Mutu’s “Your Story, My Curse,” the most prominently displayed piece, the divine dreariness of purgatory creates a space of uncomfortable self-reflection. This mixed-media cerebral assault invites the viewer to relive past jealousy, lust, obsession, and fruitless romances. The colorful palette is deceptive—patterns scattered across each figure in the piece recall Gustav Klimt’s charm, but their vibrant hues undermine the menacing drama and growing tension running through the canvas. It’s a living nightmare that’s hard to forget.

This city grows curiouser and curiouser: the show continues its outlandish parade through August 4.

By Jesse Alvarez