“Sometimes I live in Aspen. I am all over the world”-Shari Appelbaum at Art Los Angeles Contemporary
12 Hang Art director and rock star friend. Photo by Allison Stewart allison-stewart.com
The last two weeks in January are all about the Los Angeles art fairs. The Fine Art Dealers Association’s 15th annual Los Angeles art fair kicked off the festivities on January 20th at the Los Angeles Convention Center with free champagne and Hana sushi. Celebrities and collectors on hand for the event included Rachel Griffiths, Eli Broad, Michael Gold, and Paris Hilton. The fashion accessory must have for the fair was a vintage fur, and this Jet Setter spotted a striking 1930’s gorilla wrap that seemed both chic and frightening, paralleling the aesthetic mish-mash that vast fairs like FADA always embody.
The international offerings this year were stronger than those from the US, especially a beautiful black and white booth presented by Arushi Arts from New Delhi, India. A gorgeous painting by Shobha Broota dominated the black side of the booth. A formal meditation on the dot and the beginning and end of all things both modern and ancient, Broota’s piece seemed to defy description in both its flawless presentation and touched quality. In another area of the fair another Arushi artist Gigi Scaria’s video piece entitled Raise Your Hands Those Who Have Touched Him stunned an audience expecting to see overworked digital manipulation and random plot less narratives. Scaria’s piece is more akin to a documentary film, in which the elderly talk about their memories of interactions with Gandhi. The lenses of childhood create a wistful, sentimental image of Gandhi didactically serving as a classroom teacher figure. Also stunning was the Uruguay pavilion curated by Gustavo Tabares. The video piece Artadecer by Pablo Uribe was a fine stand out. In the piece Uribe hired an actor to imitate the sounds of native animals in the forests of Uruguay. Mining the subjects of portraiture and landscape, Uribe generated a powerful meditation on reality and representation in art.
The golden Shari Appelbaum at ALAC. Photo by Allison Stewart allison-stewart.com
As far as stateside galleries go, the strongest New York gallery on hand was Morgan Lehman Gallery with a stunning installation piece entitled Yes by Paul Villinski. Notably absent were almost all of Los Angeles’ contemporary art galleries. The absence of LA galleries at FADA was not surprising with the advent of the Art Los Angeles Contemporary fair that opened January 28th at the Pacific Design Center. Most of the local contemporary art heavy hitters opted for the new fair because of its venue and singular focus. The Pacific Design Center plays a major role in the experience of looking at the ALAC offerings. The booths feel like rooms in a private Malibu or Palisades beach house, with exquisite lighting and glass facades. Among the Los Angeles galleries present this week are Karen Lovegrove, Solway Jones, David Kordansky, Crisp, Honor Fraser, Marc Foxx, China Art Objects Gallery, The Company (Artlurker West Coast editor Annie Wharton’s venue), Patrick Painter, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), and LA><ART.
“Yes” by Paul Villinski at FADA. Courtesy Morgan Lehman Gallery. Photo by Allison Stewart allison-stewart.com
The ALAC fair is not about who is here, but rather who is not. The exhibitors were clearly screened for inclusion, keeping everything that might fall into the category of “hotel” art (unlike much of the work seen at FADA) out of the fair. Some of the biggest names in contemporary art such as Walead Beshty, Monique Van Genderen, Jim Shaw, John Miller, Jen DeNike, Wolfgang Tillmans, Lari Pittman, and Ruby Neri are all at ALAC.
There are fewer international galleries on hand at this fair than FADA. Striking pieces available at The Breeder, an Athenian gallery, chose to focus its entire booth on Mindy Shapero and created a gorgeous, textural aesthetic meditation. Starkwhite from New Zealand showed three sumptuous Peter Stitchbury portraits that can only be described as bizarrely Aryan via fetishistic white skin surfaces and gleaming blonde faces. And Kalfayana Galleries from Thessaloniki exhibited several ephemeral Antonis Donef drawings.
Ezrha Jean Black in the Marc Foxx booth at ALAC. Photo by Allison Stewart allison-stewart.com
Among the important Los Angeles galleries, Patrick Painter focused on John Miller. The stunning gold piece Absorption seems to wryly comment on the vacant consumerism of the “collector” while maintaining its assertation that life is about collecting a kind of personal menagerie. Regen Projects sported a smart Kay Rosen entitled A Slice of Life. So witty and so now, Kay Rosen is one of those women whose work is always on the money. But Miami-based Charest Weinberg’s booth — with its odd combination of bad temple sculpture and bananas — left this Jet Setter wanting more.
There are some strong booths focused on photography. Francois Ghebaly exhibited a number of Gina Osterloh photographs that seem to pick up where John Divola’s beach house photos ended. Osterloh spray paints and collages cardboard inside empty rooms photographing the results. The cardboard cut out forms stacked inside the photographic spaces create a kind of low-tech version of an acid trip. Osterloh is innovative in her use of spatial dynamics, pattern, and simple black and white contrast. Also impressive was the massive Anne Collier photo of a Judy Garland film still at Marc Foxx. The photo depicts pages of a monograph that are tabbed with Post-it notes. Collier’s image is less homage to the movie star and more a strange portrait of an anonymous character that pines for Garland.
Francois Ghebaly exhibited a number of Gina Osterlach photos. Photo by Allison Stewart allison-stewart.com
On the subject of objects (i.e., sculptures), Franklin Parrasch gallery had a significant set of Peter Alexander resin sculptures from the sixties that are dreamy. Primarily known in Los Angeles as a painter, Alexander’s resin pieces seem to defy spatial dynamics and bring to mind Lucio Fontana’s cut pieces with their ability to play with surface tension in a minimalist way. Also admirable was Robert Lazzarini’s brass knuckles at Honor Fraser, which extends from the wall like a brass hanger for a whip, where the artist crafted a decadent piece that casts a soft cloudy shadow, creating its own cognitive dissonance.
Getting back to the subject, this Jet Setter is off to do a little shopping and a little nibbling hopefully scoring some better VIP food this weekend. Alas, the food and hospitality was much better at FADA. By contrast, the aesthetics at ALAC really raise the bar on the experience of fair viewing rather than lounging. I suppose the myriad of hedonistic choices are why true jet-setters score VIP tickets to both FADA and ALAC. So here I am shopping, lounging, and viewing for two vivacious weeks of fun in the warm California sun.
This post was contributed by Mary Anna Pomonis