Another Frieze descended upon Los Angeles last week (February 16th to 19th), creating a citywide art frenzy with multiple concurrent art fairs, gallery openings, museum exhibitions, and special events for Frieze Week. For the art enthusiast and the lay person alike, Frieze Week is a crash course in contemporary art – specifically, in navigating LA’s diverse arts landscape. Each fair had its own voice, but if there was one overarching theme, it would have to be ceramics and textiles.
Taking place at a new location (the Santa Monica Airport) allowed for the biggest iteration of the fair to date, welcoming 35,000 visitors over the four-day fair. The 120 participating galleries were split into two areas: a custom-built tent by architect Kulapat Yantrasast, of WHY, and the Barker Hangar. Bridging the two areas, a good 10 minute walk across the airfield, were outdoor artworks and performances as part of the fair’s Frieze Projects ‘Now Playing’ program. The premise of the program was to shine a light on everyday elements of life in Los Angeles. It included a monumental inflatable version of the THANK YOU plastic bag (Divya Mehra); a float plane wrapped in discarded, recycled textiles sourced from Ghana and St. Louis (Basil Kincaid); a 40-foot step skyscraper (Chris Burden); and a mobile gallery with street vendor carts selling tamales and fruit (Ruben Ochoa).
Inside the Barker Hangar, galleries focusing on 20th century art contrasted with the Focus section – a curated selection of galleries aged 12 years and younger. Focus showcased artists “linking both personal and collective narratives of imagination across the generations, through the dystopic urban American landscape, or by using the body as a vessel for examining these histories.” This is the section for emerging artists to watch. Memorable works from some of the LA-based galleries include: Make Room, with soft focus, yet vibrant, Magritte-inspired paintings by Guimi You; Chris Sharp Gallery, with works on corrugated board by Edgar Ramirez; Ochi, with paintings by Hana Ward; Kristina Kite, with a large copper chainmail floor sculpture by Hanna Hur; and Baert Gallery, with ceramic fountains and lamps by Sophie Wahlquist.
Felix Art Fair
The relaxed Felix Art Fair at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel included 64 gallery participants who converted hotel rooms and cabanas into exhibition spaces, allowing visitors to view art in intimate spaces. Some galleries embraced the hotel room, placing works in shower stalls, above toilets and on beds, while others opted to turn their room into a minimal, gallery-like space. Some of my favourite works and LA-based galleries were Isys Hennigar’s Wishing Well at Sow & Tailor, a ceramic vessel adorned with metal components; Se Oh’s black porcelain vases resembling blooming oyster mushrooms, from One Trick Pony; and an incredible hand-embroidered piece by Jordan Nassar, at Anat Ebgi (who also had a booth at Frieze). There was art everywhere: in the hallway between the pool and cabanas was an installation by Jeffrey Dalessandro (53 action figures depicting the “who’s who” of the art world), and floating in the pool were alien inflatables – an installation titled Medusa’s Hair, by Esben Weile Kjaer with Andersen’s from Copenhagen.
SPRING/BREAK Art Show
Anything goes at SPRING/BREAK, where stepping into one of the 59 booths is like entering a completely unique experience that’s over-the-top, eccentric, and definitely creative. The show was full of colour, textile art, and ceramics. Unforgettable installations included:
The Four Seasons, curated by Michael Slenske: a two-part installation featuring ceramic sculptures by Emily Marchand. Giant cigarette butts and hand-painted pots on one side, and a ceramic fountain, live plants, and a large painting on ceramic tiles on the other.
YARD SALE, curated by Janet Loren Hill and Jonell Logan, where artist Taylor Lee Nicholson transformed their booth into a yard sale full of junk, trash, and junk food. Every object was made of paper mâché or ceramic.
Panathenaic: Lizzie Gill, curated by Ambre Kelly and Andrew Gori, featured still life paintings of urns and china by Lizzie Gill. Upon closer look, the works incorporated black-and-white image transfers.
Just being us. Just us…. And Us…, curated by Claire Foussard, who works with the artists Kinngait Studios, a world renowned printmaking studio in Nunavut. The standouts for me were drawings of life in a rapidly-changing Arctic climate, by Shuvinai Ashoona and Padloo Samayualie. These were shown alongside sculptures made of arctic marble, caribou antler, and serpentinite.
Works are still available to view on SPRING/BREAK’s website.
LA Art Show
The 28th edition of the LA Art Show returned to the Los Angeles Convention Centre, drawing the crowds who showed up on opening night to view art from the 120 participating galleries. The show’s highlight was itsDIVERSEartLA section, featuring interdisciplinary immersive presentations from nine non-profit organizations and artists, examining the climate crises. LA artist, Robert Vargas, was on site for a live mural painting – the third installation in a series spanning Albuquerque, New York, and now LA, addressing the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Art from the fair is available to view on Artsy until March 5th.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens
A morning at The Huntington was the perfect respite to the high-intensity fairs. Located near Pasadena, the research institution and cultural centre includes 130 acres of botanical gardens. Indoors, in the Art Museum, contemporary works create interesting dialogue with historical pieces. In the portrait gallery, Kehinde Wiley’s A Portrait of a Young Gentleman, unveiled in 2021, stands across from Thomas Gainsborough’s famous The Blue Boy, ca. 1771.
Also on view were works by Nigerian-born, LA-based artist, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, as part of a series of three shows on contemporary female artists curated by New Yorker magazine critic, Hilton Als (on view until June 12th). Elsewhere, Dominique Fung’s surrealist painting, Sans Les Mains, 2022 (a brand new acquisition) hangs alongside works by American modern artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Sam Francis. Outdoors, the incredible Desert Garden is a must-see and is one of the world’s largest and oldest collections (over 100 years old!) of cacti and succulents.