LOS ANGELES — Around 7pm yesterday, September 21, just outside the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, the sun was setting and a crescent moon was out. The weather was cool for September. A woman at a white picnic table said she thought summer in Santa Monica was supposed to last until November. Around her, a tamale cart, a taco cart, and an Indonesian fusion food truck served dinner to visitors of The Other Art Fair. Inside the hangar, other fairgoers, staff, and artists roamed the aisles, looking at art, drinking cocktails, and chatting — here, artists manage their own booths, with occasional help from family and friends. It was a collegial affair, and indeed an “other” relative to Frieze Los Angeles, which takes place in February in the same vicinity.
The Other Art Fair’s LA edition, inaugurated in 2018, runs through Sunday, September 24. Work is on view by 140 exhibitors selected from a pool of over 500 applicants, according to a fair representative. The Other Art Fair, presented by Saatchi Art, originated in London in 2011 and now operates in seven cities around the globe.
“LA has its own flavor,” said Erin Remington, a member of the selection committee. “We have a laid-back culture. People like ocean scenes, they like bright colors, they like vibrancy, they want to bring nature into their life — landscapes do really well. And a sense of culture … identity, too.”
One of this year’s exhibitors actually took on a curatorial role: Artist Ruben Ochoa co-curated the fair’s food offerings. Outside, Bev’s Tamales and Tacos De Canasta sold from platforms Ochoa designed in collaboration with Revolution Carts. The artist is partnering with Inclusive Action for the City, a nonprofit organization, to raise funds for street vendors. Ochoa mans a cart in his own booth, but the tacos in the containers aren’t flour or corn — they’re made from cast bronze. Ochoa grew up selling tortillas as part of a family business that finally expanded into a brick-and-mortar shop: Carlito’s Chicken in Oceanside.
“I created this as a tribute to my mom and to one of the greatest inventions of the Americas. The tortilla. Next to the tamale,” Ochoa said.
The fair welcomed both local artists such as Ochoa and those from far-flung locales. At her standout booth of paintings, Istanbul-based Erna Ucar had sold all but one of her seven canvases by 7:45pm. For five years, Ucar has shown with Saatchi Art, which supports her appearance at the fair. “I love the atmosphere. It is not only about art. I can meet other artists,” Ucar said, with the help of a translator. Her paintings depict crowds amid distinctive blocks of colors and textures: The artist makes composite images from her photographs of herself and other people, then builds up her surfaces with acrylic, graphite, and sand on unprimed cotton canvas.
A few rows over, Mostafa Fotovat and his family showcased a very different kind of painting. In town from Fort Lauderdale, the artist paints intricate designs with a homemade cat hair paintbrush on watch faces and camel bone boxes. He uses natural materials — lapis lazuli, turquoise — and a gum arabic medium. A microscope was on view, indicating the artist’s precision and rigor as he creates his finely detailed scenes. If Fotovat’s intricate miniatures offer a striking divergence from the supersaturated painting of a skatepark at the next booth over, Fotovat insists his work is contemporary. “We are working now,” he said. He has shown in the Brooklyn and Dallas editions of the fair, and this was his first time showing in Los Angeles. So far, he said, he’d visited Hollywood, downtown, Century City, and Santa Monica. He added that it is a beautiful city.
The Other Art Fair indeed embraces artists working in a variety of media and styles, and some of the more utilitarian objects are particularly winning. In town from Las Vegas, Ashley Zabarte displayed colorful, rough-hewn light sculptures with exposed bulbs. Local artist Rachel Traub exhibited fingerprint ceramic vessels with plants emerging from their mouths. These artists’ works would shine in many different environments. But alternately earthy and exuberant, they seem especially suited for LA.