Paramount Importance

Kate Sutton at Paramount Ranch and the LA Art Book Fair

Left: Artists Zoe Crosher and Silke Otto-Knapp at the LA Art Book Fair. Right: Primary Information’s Miriam Katzeff with poet Bill Berkson at the LA Art Book Fair.

IT WAS THE WEEKEND of the Big Game and tensions were high.


“Where’s the Stoned team?”

“Seriously, guys—get on the field! It’s game time!”

Emerald-teed Team Stoned stumbled onto the part of a dusty parking lot marked up to resemble a soccer field, as their red-shirted opponents—Team Drunk—roared cheers from a formidable-looking huddle. Less than ten seconds after the first whistle, one of Drunk’s forwards sent an impassioned kick toward the Stoned goalie, who was casually chatting with a passing stranger. The ball flew by him, easily sailing through the parking cone goalposts. Team Drunk erupted into howls and fist-pumps. Team Stoned dissolved into disparaging grumbles: “Cooome on, man! You gotta watch the goal, if you’re going to play…” “That guy asked me a question!” the goalie protested. Needless to say, what followed was a pummeling akin to that of this weekend’s other big game (the Puppy Bowl).

Drunk vs Stoned was Scott Reeder and Tyson Reeder’s contribution to Paramount Ranch, Los Angeles’s newest art fair, masterminded by Paradise Garage’s Liz Craft and Pentti Monkkonen and fresh transplants Robbie Fitzpatrick and Alex Freedman. Paramount Ranch eschewed the convention centers, expo halls, and airport hangars of other fairs, installing thirty-some galleries and artists-run spaces in an eponymous prop Western town tucked into the Santa Monica Mountains. Once known as Rancho Las Virgenes, in its sixty years as a movie set the ranch has appeared on screen as everything from Old Salem to an isle in the South Pacific. Most attendees knew it—if at all—as the set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, but apparently it’s also a hotspot for theme weddings.

Left: Paramount Ranch. Right: Artist Marlous Borm at Paramount Ranch.

The fair was free to all who made the journey, and closed at sundown. (The latter was less a nod to cinematic tropes than deference to the National Park Service, which maintains the site.) “We prefer to think of it not so much as a commercial fair as a community street festival,” Fitzpatrick explained. “Our mission has really been to connect these new, young, globe-trotting galleries, but in a way that’s more interesting than just another white-cube fair.” Outfits like Supportico Lopez, Neue Alte Brücke, Misako & Rosen, and Essex Street settled behind the old-timey facades of the General Store, the Great Bend Jail, and Hotel Mud Bug, while 356 Mission/Ooga Booga headquartered in the open-air Depot (where Teams Drunk and Stoned pregamed at a finger-painting station).

“If you’re going to have to have a hangover, this is a pretty sweet place to spend it,” dealer François Ghebaly mused from the sun-soaked porch of the Barn, where he was showing some coltish Mike Kuchar drawings. Over outside the Saloon, two cowboys wearing little more than their hats, boots, and limited edition Artists Space Stewart Uoo scarves sunned themselves in front of a red pickup truck. “I tried to get us some Hollister models, but we ended up with porn stars,” director Stefan Kalmár admitted. “I think it still works, no?”

Kalmár was sporting a hat of his own, but those who embraced the Wild West couture were by and large outnumbered by fairgoers who stuck to the all-black, I’m-from-Milan uniform of European art folk. By a little past high noon, the main street was patrolled by curators Cecilia Alemani, Ann Goldstein, Aram Moshayedi, Ali Subotnik, and Marc Olivier-Wahler; collectors Michael Chow, Susan and Michael Hort, Herbert and Lenore Schorr, and John Morace; and too many artists to count. On the porch of the General Store, the dealers of Night Gallery and Balice Hertling were mixing sun and cigarettes, when artist Anicka Yi paused from bemoaning the dust coating her white pants (“I figured if I wasn’t going to wear a cowboy hat, I might as well go Elton John in the Hamptons”) to pose a relevant question: “Wait, so who’s tending your booths at the other fair?”

Left: Publishers Seth Zucker and Dan Wagner at the Ooga Booga pancake breakfast. Right: Artist Shimon Minamikawa and UNITED BROTHERS's Tomoo Arakawa at Paramount Ranch.

After all, Paramount Ranch wasn’t the only rodeo in town. Besides Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ostensibly the week’s big ticket venue), Printed Matter’s second annual LA Art Book Fair brought together over 250 independent publishers and book peddlers at MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary. Overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of the offerings, I pleaded my way into a walking tour with fair curator Shannon Michael Cane and coordinator Jordan Nassar, who pointed out the newly rechristened “(Xe)rox & Paper+Scissors” (née “Zineworld”), where very earnest-looking artists manned folding tables full of DIY mags and mailing list sign-up sheets. “That was fast,” Cane marveled, tapping a print of what looked like a dick somebody had accidentally stepped on. “It’s a Pharrell hat,” he clarified. (I made a mental note to Google that.)

Up the ramp, the Paul Schimmel Gallery was lined wall-to-wall with full frontal posters of naked bears (not the Smokey variety)—denizens of Christopher Schultz’s Pinups world. They stood watch over the two hundred–plus handmade queer zines combined from the collections of Phil Aarons and AA Bronson. Onlookers gingerly fingered titles like Straight to Hell: The Manhattan Review of Unnatural Acts, Johnny Are You Queer?, They Shoot Homos Don’t They?, and Sluts: Special Death Issue. I was charmed by a humble edition titled Great Paintings of Western Civilization, which featured cheesecake hunks pasted over Rubens, van Dycks, and Jan Weenix’s Trophies of the Chase.

Speaking of trophies, all over the fair folks were lining up to get newly purchased copies autographed by the likes of Dave Hickey, Allen Ruppersberg, and Frances Stark, the last of who was camped out with her adolescent son Arlo at Contemporary Art Gallery of Vancouver, signing transcripts of her chat-room-sex epic, My Best Thing. I asked for a photo of the two of them, and Arlo gave me the eye: “What do you want it for…?” “Oh, he’s already such an operator,” Stark laughed, proudly.

Left: Dealers David Lieske and Robbie Fitzpatrick with artist Lisa Jo at Paramount Ranch. Right: Artist James Krone at the LA Art Book Fair.

Not everyone was in a sunny mood. While there seemed to be plenty of appreciation, cash flow was in shorter supply. “I came all the way from New York, so I could not sell any books,” grumbled Ari Marcopoulos. “I have a friend who’s done this fair before, and he warned me ahead of time not to bring too many books,” Pin-Up’s Felix Burrichter confessed. “He told me that people here don’t buy books, they buy merchandise.” This would explain the Etsy-esque arrays of prints, bumper stickers, T-shirts, tote bags, coffee mugs, coasters, keychains, and infant onesies crowding the aisles.

For the window-shoppers, the fair provided a full program of performances, panels, and conversations at the Japanese American National Museum’s Democracy Forum, just “30 secs away,” according to the fair map. Much like the merch, variety was key. At 11 AM on Saturday, I stumbled from a well-attended discussion of the journal Documents into a one-woman show by Dynasty Handbag, sponsored by MoCA TV. Handbag used the early hour as an excuse to riff on brunch themes (“Tabasco, ketchup, salt and pepper, milk for the coffee / So much shit on the table at brunch time” and “Pigs can open a door / Do you want to eat something that can open a door?!”) while gyrating before a only-very-recently-caffeinated audience. “You’re awake now, aren’t you?” cracked organizer Emma Reeves from our ill-thought-out front-row seats.

Left: Artist Edgar Arceneaux with writer Julian Myers at the LA Art Book Fair. Right: Sonja Kroop and Artadia's Carolyn Ramo at Paramount Ranch.

For those who couldn’t nab a spot for Surface magazine’s Saturday night showdown featuring Hans Ulrich Obrist, John Baldessari, and Meg Cranston at the Ace Hotel’s theater, ForYourArt organized a morning-after event at the fair. “Artists Reading Baldessari” (#BackAtchaBaldi) enlisted fifty artists, friends, and longtime supporters to read selected texts from the recently published/perpetually launched More than You Wanted to Know About John Baldessari, Vol 1 + 2. Each reader offered his or her own interpretation of the artist’s dry wit and dogmatic antidogma. Actor Fred Savage nailed “Advice to a Young Artist,” reading from a binder, audition style. Jim Shaw punctuated his assigned text with falsetto trills, while Rachel Lord delivered hers to the tune of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.” Ed Fornieles sent a thick-drawled friend to read in his stead. (“I’m kind of obsessed with Americana right now, and what’s more American than a Southern accent,” the artist grinned.) Simone Forti struck a series of poses, pronouncing “I Am Making Art” after each as a single spotlight followed her around the stage. “That was really special,” fellow reader Alex Israel gushed afterwards. “I mean, come on, it’s Simone Forti.”

Slow sales aside, the LA Art Book Fair was filled with the kinds of endorphin highs LA usually attributes to kale salads and canyon runs. Who wouldn’t feel hopeful looking at all those would-be bibliophiles corralled into a queue outside the Geffen? “This won’t take long,” someone assured their line companion as I slipped out. “I just need to take a quick selfie here.”

Left: Dealers Misako Rosen, John Riepenhoff, and Jeffrey Rosen at Paramount Ranch. Right: Hacienda's Fabian Marti at Paramount Ranch.

Left: OSMOS Cay Sophie Rabinowitz and Paige Greco at the LA Art Book Fair. Right: Dynasty Handbag performs at the LA Art Book Fair.

Left: Artists Space cowboys at Paramount Ranch. Right: Paramount Ranch organizers Liz Craft and Pentti Monkkonen at Paramount Ranch. (All photo: Kate Sutton)

Left: Karma’s Nickolis Planck with artist Ryan Foerster at the LA Art Book Fair. Right: Dealer Shirley Morales and curator Marc-Olivier Wahler at Paramount Ranch.

Left: Curator Piper Marshall with artist Sam Falls at Paramount Ranch. Right: Darren Flook and Alistair Frost at Paramount Ranch.

Left: Dealer Federico Vavassori at Paramount Ranch. Right: Artists Space director Stefan Kalmar at Paramount Ranch.

Left: Dealer François Ghebaly at Paramount Ranch. Right: Actor Fred Savage, artist Meg Cranston, and curator Bettina Korek at the #BackAtchaBaldi event at the LA Art Book Fair.

Left:  Frances Stark and her son Arlo at the LA Art Book Fair. Right: Scott Reeder and Tyson Reeder’s Drunk vs. Stoned at Paramount Ranch.

Left: Artist Scott Reeder at Ooga Booga. Right: Printed Matters’ Shannon Michael Cane and Jordan Nassar at the LA Art Book Fair.

Left: Miggi Hood, Alex Hertling, and Alex Freedman at Paramount Ranch. Right: Paramount Ranch organizer and dealer Robbie Fitzpatrick at Paramount Ranch.