"No one intended it to begin with assfucking and passed out hippies," writes Art-Agenda contributing editor Andrew Berardini of Art Los Angeles Contemporary. "But there it was."
Past freeways of traffic and a phalanx of security guards, I stepped into Art Los Angeles Contemporary (or the acronymical ALAC) last Thursday night and glanced to my right to see Milavepa, a 1966 painting by Duane Zaloudek at Rome’s Monitor, with which solid smooth planes of color depict in geometric abstraction a plump pink ass getting penetrated with a perfect white rod. On the floor in front of it lay a Paul Thek-ish sculpture of a fucked-up hippie by Nathaniel Mellors (Fallen Neanderthal with Boxed Visions, 2015), his shaggy head encased in a plexiglass box. Irreverent and a bit dark, weird and desirous, a little bohemian but hardly downbeat, injected with its own special feeling of togetherness. In other words, the vibe of Los Angeles amidst its threesome of fairs: ALAC, the LA Art Book Fair, and Paramount Ranch.
ALAC served as the most classic of the trio. Classic as in a large, semi-anonymous space with booths and carpets, cleanly apportioned and seriously wrought but hardly unique. The glaze of white booths and industrial carpet aside, there were certainly more than a few artworks that firecrackered.
After a few hours, I left ALAC to drive east to the MOCA at Geffen Contemporary Downtown to catch the opening of the third edition of Printed Matter’s LA Art Book Fair. With over 300 exhibitors from 21 countries and at least 18 American states, the Book Fair was the most diverse, inclusive, cacophonous, crowded, and overwhelmingly delightful of all the weekend’s fairishness. Every random stop or run-in hid something astonishing: Rick Myers’s tracing the movements of eyes over an image with ice skates into a black, painted hockey rink in Drawing With Removed Subject, 2011; a just-published collection of Allan Kaprow’s posters edited by Alice Dusapin and Christophe Daviet-Thery with contributions by Steve Roden and Oscar Tuazon; Cammie Staros’s take on the Endless Column at Colpa Press with riso prints of stacked vases bound together in a handmade book, each copy coming with unique curvy column of wood with painted ends (I bought one of In the Round, 2015, so should 19 more of you).
I could have spent all weekend only here, happily wandering from table to table, astonished by how many rich and varying publications can be made and then affordably possessed. By Sunday when I briefly returned for a fourth visit, more than a few tables were bare and nearly sold out. And if you’d showed up at the right moment, you might have caught John Wiese and Thurston Moore jamming noise on the steps outside.
On Saturday, I drove an hour from downtown to the countryside just on the edge of the sprawling metropolis for the second edition of Paramount Ranch. The local galleries Freedman Fitzpatrick and Paradise Garage conceived of the fair at an old movie ranch now owned by the National Park Service and after a successful first year, the two galleries expanded their invite list to 54 exhibitors including commercial galleries, non-profits, and alternative spaces, with a program of 19 performances and installations listed on the hand-drawn photocopied map passed out at the gate with the five-dollar admission (nearly one-fifth the cost of admission at ALAC, whilst the book fair was free except for its opening night).
Surrounded by lush green hills and past an official sign discouraging pot-smoking, the sunstroked ranch’s convivial atmosphere, goofy sets (the jail, the saloon, the stable), and idyllic weather made the whole affair feel like a hot, punky, western summer camp for weirdo intellectuals and frisky aestheticists.