White Columns and Shoot the Lobster announced today that Wendy Yao, the founder of the Los Angeles–based bookstore Ooga Booga, is the recipient of the 2017 White Columns / Shoot the Lobster Award, which recognizes individuals who work to create opportunities for both artists and audiences. Yao will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a commissioned artwork that will be presented to her during the 2017 Printed Matter LA Art Book Fair, which kicks off on February 24.
Artist and publisher Asher Penn said, “Ooga Booga has become a non-institutional hub within the Los Angeles area; a go-to place for its selection of books, multiples, fashion items, and accessories. Outside Los Angeles, Ooga Booga is an icon of independent entrepreneurship, participating in art and book fairs, opening temporary satellite stores, creating online resources for independent publishers, and organizing events in various venues.” She added, “While Yao insists that the store’s success could not be possible without the support of the store’s participants and local community, as well as the help of interns and staff, Ooga Booga is nevertheless an incredibly small and personal operation.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Yao founded Ooga Booga in 2004. Specializing in artist publications, music, design, and independent culture, the shop has hosted a range of events over the past thirteen years, including free performances, film screenings, readings, radio shows, book and music events, exhibitions, and artist projects. Is also publishes fanzines, art books, and music recordings.
In addition, Yao has set up projects at off-site locations, such as a reading room at the Swiss Institute, New York, in 2009 and at Kadist Foundation, San Francisco in 2012, a mini-fair for independent publishers in 2010, and the “Excursus III” exhibition and programming series at the ICA Philadelphia in 2012. From 2004 to 2012, Yao and her sister Amy co-organized an annual Art Swap Meet in Joshua Tree at High Desert Test Sites, in which artists were invited to sell and exchange wares in a free-form market. In 2008, she started an online database of art book printers as a free resource to artists, designers, and customers who frequently ask for advice on art-book publishing and printing. In 2013, she opened a second store location at 356 South Mission Road, in the same space as the art gallery that she runs in collaboration with Laura Owens and Gavin Brown.