Frieze LA 2019 at Paramount Studios
Located at the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood, the first edition of the Frieze Art Fair encompassed a full-on art gallery fair experience alongside the exterior New York backlot, which featured projects of selected artists from galleries participating in the fair programming. I was really excited to cover the inaugural Los Angeles edition of the fair as I have been to and covered the London and New York editions, and they have been simply amazing.
A favorite of mine is the programming for the Frieze Masters section, featured in the London edition. It gives the feeling of perusing through the collections of a global public museum. I was intrigued at how the fair’s curators would incorporate the backlot into its programming, as they’ve done with projects like Frieze Sculpture (another favorite).
As I arrived at the wrong gate (there were like five of them) for entry into the Paramount lot, I crossed paths with Jerry Saltz and got to have a short conversation with him and a cool selfie. To my surprise, he knew who I was – well, my work. I finally walked a couple of blocks to the correct entry and headed to see what all the fuss was about. I decided that it would be smart to head to the Frieze Projects section first, as the inconsistency with the weather would dampen the outside experience.
As you walk from the entrance to the backlot you couldn’t help but notice green stickers with bold white writing placed randomly along the walkway, grabbing the attention of visitors. These stickers posed questions to the viewer like “Whose Values?”, and “Whose Beliefs?”, allowing viewers to ponder what the answer would be as it related to them. This was a public art project by artist Barbara Kruger titled Untitled (Questions 3), 2019, with her famous style of boldly questioning authority through her visual practice.
If you weren’t looking down at Kruger’s public project you were probably looking upward as visitors were greeted by a large, almost movie poster-ish banner artwork presented by Los Angeles-based Contemporary Artist Mark Bradford. The banner featured a body camera on a white background titled Life Size, 2018 (which I later found out that he sold as a limited edition print through Hauser and Wirth for the Art For Justice Fund).
The Paramount Studios New York City backlot presented a different experience for visitors as it had the feeling of walking around the local neighborhood and finding a block party. It also felt very Disney, as building doors that opened up to nothing and streets that went nowhere quickly reminded you that you were “on set”. Such an appropriate feeling for an art fair, wouldn’t you say?
As you walk around the backlot you encounter the various projects presented by selected artists and their representative galleries. There was a sculpture by artist Claudine Czudej that appeared to be waiting patiently in a pose for Jimmy Hoffa (Waiting For Jimmy Hoffa, 2019) staring at a large bottle of “Daddie’s Ketchup”, a large public art installation by Paul McCarthy (Daddies Tomato Ketchup Inflatable, 2007 with Hauser and Wirth) that towered over the lot.
The backlot projects also featured a Psychic Art Advisor presented by artist Lisa Anne Auerbach which featured a performance of predicting your artistic future led by psychic Alpine Moon. I wondered how many collectors stopped by her office before heading into the main galleries hoping to gain insight on what to purchase once inside. Funny to think about, but I’d bet that at least one asked the question. (laughs).
My favorite works by far from the backlot projects were Karon Davis’ Game, 2019 presented by Wilding Cran Gallery, and Hannah Greeley’s High and Dry, 2019 presented by Parker Gallery. Both spaces are located in Los Angeles. Game, 2019 featured plaster sculptures made by Davis in the human form of two young students and an adult teacher. Staged in front of the fictitious Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy, a building on the backlot made to represent a public school facade, Davis recreates an after-school scene.
One of the students sits on the stoop possibly waiting for a pickup from a parent while simultaneously trying to figure out what’s going on with the string in his hands, while the other student makes her up the steps to the building while a teacher looks on. What really caught my attention was the antlers that were attached to the plastered creations. The term “Young Buck” comes to mind as a term of endearment for the male youth in the black community and I wondered if Davis saw these “bucks” in the same light.
What I thought was very cool was how Karon Davis’ work lent itself to the project of Hannah Greely and vice versa. Greeley’s High and Dry, 2019, an aerial sculpture consisting of painted fabrics that hung from a clothesline, really putting a stamp on inner-city living. It almost felt like the young student from Davis’ work was running to school from the apartment homes that Greeley’s installation was installed.
As the chill from the weird weather week started to set back in, I decided to head into the galleries section of the fair and see what was new, old, put on hold, or sold. Art advisors and consultants were tied to the hip of their clients (and their phones) as they coordinated guided tours with VIPs hoping to secure the sought after treasures before they were quickly snatched up by excited patrons.
I was hoping to get in and get to talk with some artists and get some photos of amazing works. I was able to do at least one of those things as the featured artists in the majority of the booths were completely on a swivel as their gallerists and potential patrons pulled them every which way possible. I can’t blame them though, for those booth prices and immediate access to a focused client base, the ROI comes first and foremost.