Dave Tourjé is a freaking force of nature–an unstoppable creative giant. The Los Angeles native (thus the title of tonight’s film, L.A. Aboriginal) lives and breathes art. Raised in Northeast Los Angeles, Dave grew up as a skater and surfer stimulated by the vibrant colors and energy of a neighborhood rich in Latin American immigrant culture with a history of hot rods, low riders and early motocross riding. His family was involved in art and encouraged him to draw and paint. In high school his art teacher, recognizing his talent, told him to ignore class assignments and just draw whatever he wanted.
When the drought hit California, swimming pools were emptied becoming skateboard ramps, and punk rock became the dominant youth soundtrack, Dave jumped into the frenetic scenes. A stint at college didn’t quite hack it for him so he moved back home, eventually starting a successful contracting business, all the while making art and music. He just couldn’t stop creating sculptures and paintings, developing a method of painting in reverse on acrylic glass and playing in punk bands.
During the course of his L.A. adventures, Dave was part of a group that uncovered Street Meeting, a lost mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros. It is now on a wall at the original Chouinard Art Institute in LA and was the subject of an Emmy-nominated documentary on KCET.
Dave also resurrected another important part of Los Angeles history. He purchased a home in South Pasadena and in the course of restoring it, learned that it had been the home of Nelbert Chouinard, founder of the Chouinard Art Institute whose graduates include artists Larry Bell, Laddie John Dill, Llyn Foulkes, Joe Goode, Ed Ruscha, Peter Shire, Chuck Jones, Chaz Borójquez, John Van Hamersveld and Gary Wong. Dave helped establish the Chouinard Foundation. The foundation produced a 2001 retrospective exhibition and gave art classes, first in its own building and then under contract with the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. Since 2009, when funding for the art classes ran out, Dave has focused on keeping the Chouinard name alive with the Chouinard Foundation website, celebrating its graduates and documenting its history.
I met Dave in May of this year at the opening of “California Locos,” at Red Pipe Gallery, one of the most important art shows to open this decade. The genesis of “California Locos” can be seen in L.A. Aboriginal–the artists in “California Locos” are Chaz Borójquez, Dave Tourjé, John Van Hamersveld, Norman Wisdom, and Gary Wong. His energy, enthusiasm and talent blew me away. (And it turns out we know a lot of the same people through punk rock!)
Dave’s love of Los Angeles, of her culture and history, is enthusiastic, deep and thoughtful. He is passionate, driven and inspirational, and L.A. Aboriginalis a great leaping off point to delve into all our city has to offer, and so much that Dave has given.