Double Booked

Left: CHRISTEENE performing at the Geffen courtyard stage. Right: Carrie Brownstein and Kim Gordon. (Except where noted, all photos: Christina Catherine Martinez)


“I don’t know,” Kim Gordon replies, “it might have died last night.” It’s a joke, you think. But maybe she’s talking about the in-exile Saint Laurent fall 2016 fashion show that took place the night prior at the Palladium in Hollywood, an odd coupling even in Los Angeles.

Visitors love to write off our peculiar cityscape with offhand references to Baudrillard’s hyperreality. But you were born here. Star Wagons and velvet ropes are as natural to you as aloe vera plants and buildings fringed with ice cream stucco. How does Los Angeles not play itself? You are, after all, standing in a re-creation of a punk record shop hosted by Gordon and sponsored by Gagosian. It’s a fittingly self-conscious project for an art-book fair that, since landing on the West Coast at least, has stressed punk and sex as ciphers for authenticity.

Left: Martine Syms and Claire Evans. Right: Artist Anna Sew Hoy and her daughter at Rob Pruitt's flea market.

The temperature is at an all-time high and the price of gas is at an all-time low. An ideal alchemy for tripping the Los Angeles art archipelago, were you not struck with a fever right as the fourth annual LA Art Book Fair flung open its doors last Thursday night. You frontload the weekend, stopping first at LaRosa Social Club, a co-branded popup interactive art-bar situation situated in a project space called The Project Space just a few blocks from the new Hauser Wirth & Schimmel compound. Everything from the artist-designed cocktail napkins (NO CHARGE WITH DRINK PURCHASE) to the limited-edition artist wines to the VIP wristbands collude in a Mission School nightclub vibe. “In LA,” says curator Aaron Rose, “you have the freedom to show art and experience art outside of the white-cube paradigm.” The digs are slick but the faces are friendly and the drinks are cheap and you are running late for the opening of the fair. “The art world and entertainment industry have a… complicated relationship,” Rose adds. For better or worse we are getting over it.

“Put your fucking camera down and feel me!” CHRISTEENE screams at the phalanx of iPhone screens separating her from the crowd. The Geffen is packed as the first wave of eager consumers descends on over 250 exhibitors, ranging from megagalleries with special projects (Gagosian’s aforementioned record shop, David Zwirner’s Jason Rhoades reissues) to independent presses and even independenter individual artists and bookmakers setting up shop in the crowded zine section.

You go outside for some air and catch some more CHRISTEENE. Dressed (to use the term loosely) in a pink glittery jockstrap, smeared with dirt, humping the air, and screaming into the microphone about art that makes her pussy wet, CHRISTEENE represents all that is right with this harried event. “Everyone in that box over there, I want to fuck,” she says. “Without the shit in that building, the world is no good.” On the way to the opening of Rob Pruitt’s Flea Market, you run into a gauntlet of friends and nonfriends huddled outside various Little Tokyo storefronts, awaiting their post-fair ramen. (This is an unofficial tradition for many fairgoers, and a good one.) A gallery director whips out her phone. “I’m going to show you three things on Instagram,” she says, “and I want you to tell me which one to go to.” One is the flea, one is the art bar, and the other is a dog meme. You point her to LaRosa, which by now has been kicked up a notch with DJ Sets from Dean Spunt of No Age and artist Chris Johanson.

Left: Artist Sarah Rara. Right: Artist Amanda Ross-Ho at Rob Pruitt's flea market.

It takes longer to park near the flea market than it did to drive there, but no matter. If the fair’s size overwhelms, Pruitt’s dusty warehouse extravaganza, put on in collaboration with LAND, short-circuits the eye by sheer range of offerings. You, you who have neon-limned bone marrow, are overwhelmed by the spread—from books, clothes, records, and general flea-market fare to editions of work in museum collections, actual trash, and studio refuse as merchandise. Dean Valentine fingers the goods. How’s business going? “Compared to what?” artist Sarah Rara asks. Fair enough.

The night ends at a strange house thirty minutes north in the hills of Eaton Canyon. Your partner-in-crime blasts trucker songs in the car to keep the mood up. In Los Angeles, soundtracking your itinerary is paramount, lest you give into the urge to simply drive home. The backyard is covered in string lights and heart-shaped Mylar balloons. The host is wearing a gorilla costume. The living room has been papier-mâché’d into a hot-box love cave, where artists Kate Hall and Rachelle Sawatsky are doing a sexy reading that turns into an all-gender topless dance party. A whisper of pink peeks up from the eastern horizon when you finally stumble back to the car.

“What I love about LA is how everything that’s beautiful is marred by something shitty,” declares writer, editor, app developer, and pop singer Claire L. Evans. It’s Friday afternoon. Your fever is only getting thicker, but you make it a point to catch Evans and Martine Syms in conversation at the fair. The talk spools out from an effort by the participants to categorize themselves. Syms reveals her “conceptual entrepreneur” epithet was jokingly inspired by one of Sol LeWitt’s paragraphs, “but my feelings toward the name have changed. Everyone’s an entrepreneur now.”

Left: Artist Kate Hall. (Photo: Andrew Berardini) Right: Artist Hannah Black.

On Saturday, Camille Henrot holds forth on the relationship between fatigue and knowledge in her new book Elephant Child. Lost fairgoers pop in and out of the Geffen’s tiny reading room. “The world is being transformed into a square” Henrot says “I want to escape the white box and cater to no space.” Is a book a kind of escape from the white cube? “Sometimes making books is a way to avoid studio visits.”

You swing by François Ghebaly for a Channa Horwitz opening, catching the tail end of Hannah Black reading from Dark Pool Party next door at LACA. “I love LA,” Black says outside. “It’s only my third time. Every time I’m just trying to figure out what the hell is going on.” You try to make plans with a gentleman friend, an actor, but he’s working a party in Beverly Hills. A rich woman is throwing a birthday party for her husband, he tells you. His job, should he choose to accept it, is picking up one hundred burgers from In-and-Out. He is being handsomely paid. You go to bed at a mostly reasonable hour.

The LA Marathon makes for a sparse Sunday crowd, and most exhibitors have caught whatever is going around. The fever dream is over. Kim Gordon’s Body/Head plays to the Little Tokyo sunset. Rachel Mason closes out Pruitt’s flea with a cameo by Future Clown. You recall the words of the immortal CHRISTEENE: “There’s still a lot of strange people in this town, and that’s cause for celebration.”

Left: Devandra Banhart, curator Aaron Moulton, Gagosian archivist Ben Lee Ritchie Handler, and Vivian Ritchie Handler. Right: Artist Scoli Acosta.

Left: Geneva Jacuzzi in the ladies room at the Geffen. Right: Allison Wolfe and music critic Byron Coley.

Left: Artist Despina Stoku. Right: Eve Fowler, Edie Fake, Jay Fishel, and Brent Freaney on a panel about sexually explicit artists' books.