Galleries

The Debut of LA’s Fountain Art Fair

by Abe Ahn on October 3, 2011

Entrance to the 2011 Fountain Art Fair Los Angeles (all photos by the author)

LOS ANGELES — The stretch of Imperial Street which leads to Lot 613 is prefaced by a series of murals by street artist ROA. Feathered and furry creatures drawn in spray paint serve as handy guideposts to the warehouse venue, where, over the past weekend, the Fountain Art Fair hosted works by emerging artists.

The art fair arrived in Los Angeles in time for the opening weekend of the much publicized Pacific Standard Time, a series of collaborative exhibitions celebrating the region’s artistic output from 1945 to 1980. While the latter attempts to write (or rewrite) art history, the Fountain Art Fair showcased works that demonstrate the political and cultural anxieties of today’s active artists.

Inside Downtown’s Lot 613 at Fountain Art Fair Los Angeles

Evo Love, “Papa was a Rolling Stone,” mixed media, 12.25” x 9.75” (click to enlarge)

Upon entering the venue, I caught sight of a carnivalesque display by Stash Gallery’s Evo Love. The Miami-based artist converts antique furniture and wine boxes into nostalgic shrines composed of plastic toys, book covers and other ephemera. Combining childhood kitsch and poignant reflections, the display included tributes to William S. Burroughs, Bettie Page and Dash Snow.

Nearby, street artist GILF! presented her politically conscious take-downs of corporate greed and militarism. While I appreciated her willingness to engage with the iconography of protest, too much of her style borrowed from the stenciled imagery of Banksy or Blek Le Rat without surpassing or matching their visual wit.

A view of the Christina Ray Gallery’s booth featuring Danni Rash.

One of my favorite series at the fair was Danni Rash’s Gang Banging. Represented by the Christina Ray Gallery, whose mission is concerned with the psychology of places, the series featured marker and spray paint drawings depicting Los Angeles: busy freeways, ethnic markets and ubiquitous automobiles. Snarky and irreverent, the drawings look like rough travel sketches and commentaries of American life by Basquiat.

Upstairs in the mezzanine, the Murder Lounge laid claim to the fair’s most explicit content with Sergio Coyote’s acid trip paintings and Dave Tree’s “Nazi UFOs.” What the collection sometimes lacked in subtlety it made up for in sheer attitude and outrage. Meanwhile, the outdoor street art installation, co-curated by artist Carly Ivan Garcia, had a strong lineup in Cryptik’s Arabic calligraphy and Shark Toof’s comic-style pop mural. Also notable were the intricate abstractions of Bay Area artists Ian Ross and Chor Boogie.

A view of the CANLOVE booth

The adjacent warehouse featured additional artists and projects, including Chalk Los Angeles’ CANLOVE graffiti recycling program. Based in Venice Beach, the collective gathers discarded spray cans and uses all portions of the waste toward creating paintings and sculptures. Leftover paint, empty canisters and disjointed nozzles became colorful works of art instead of ending up in a landfill. In a similar vein, Alevé Mei Loh’s crushed linen and acrylic works evoked the crushed and refurbished metals of industrial waste.

Mark Benson, “Clown Car,” mixed media (click to enlarge)

Leaning toward the cheeky and playful, Ever Gold Gallery’s booth featured Adam Parker Smith’s trompe-l’œil print of “Untitled (pizza),” in which a fake sausage protrudes from an image of a pizza, and Guy Overfelt’s “This Is Not a Pipe,” part of his series of repurposed everyday objects (in this case, a Four Loko can made into a smoking pipe). Mark Benson’s “Clown Car” similarly balances humor and everyday objects with its balancing act of dishes and utensils.

As the arts establishment of Southern California develops its canons and hagiographies, the emerging artists at the Fountain Art Fair sought out their own slice of art history over the weekend. Whether or not these artists hit it big, those of us who attended the fair can say we knew them when they were still relatively unknown and affordable.

The 2011 Fountain Art Fair in Los Angeles took place from September 30 to October 2 at Lot 613 (613 Imperial Street, Los Angeles).

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