A trifecta of weekend-long events descends on Los Angeles this weekend: the straight-laced Art Los Angeles Contemporary, the sophomore iteration of the wildly successful LA Art Book Fair, and taking place in an old movie lot in the Agoura Hills, once-home to the faux adventures of countless Hollywood cowboys, the Paramount Ranch Art Fair will make its debut. Whereas emerging galleries at established fairs are designated by geo-political booth assignments like 'SE-207, basement floor (bring flashlight)', the thirty-plus participants will stake their claim in places like 'Sheriff's Station' or 'Old Saloon'.
Small in feel but international in scope, Paramount Ranch is the collective vision of Alex Freedman and Robbie Fitzpatrick of Freedman Fitzpatrick in mid Hollywood (their space, coincidentally, is just a couple of blocks from Gower Gulch, a self-consciously 'Old Western' strip mall boasting a Starbucks and a Thai restaurant) and artists Pentti Monkkonen and Liz Craft of Paradise Garage, a space situated on a sun-bleached residential street in Venice Beach.
Amid a flurry of preparations, Freedman and Monkkonen spoke with us about the origins and intentions of the fair.
Shimabuku, Asking the Repentistas - Peneira & Sonhador - to remix my octopus works, 2006; Courtesy of the Artist and Freedman Fitzpatrick.
Christina Catherine Martinez: How did Paramount Ranch come about?
Pentti Monkkonen: Liz and I found the site by accident, while looking for a new hiking spot. It was so surreal, an Old West movie set with nobody around for miles. We had been toying with the idea of an alternative art fair in LA for a long time and at some point realized this was the perfect spot. The idea probably would have remained a fantasy had we not discussed it with our friends Alex Freedman and Robbie Fitzpatrick who also had a plan to start an art fair at some point in the future, so we all teamed up and the Paramount Ranch was born.
Alex Freedman: Pentti called us at 7:30 on a Monday morning, leaving a voicemail: 'Guys! Liz and I think we all gotta throw an art fair!'
CCM: What inspired you to do an art fair?
AF: Before we moved to LA, Robbie and I started encouraging our artist and gallerist friends to come out and do projects. That it manifested into an art fair, co-organized with two LA-based artists, was serendipity.
PM: The Milwaukee International of 2006 was a definite inspiration. They took the basic structure of the art fair (people converging at a specific time and place to exchange art and ideas) and somehow removed the capitalist destructive element.
Since art fairs have supplanted almost the entire sphere of art, I think to attack and reinvent them seems an obvious choice.
CCM: How is this fair different from other fairs?
AF: We're four people on a shoestring that invited a number of galleries and artists run spaces living around the US, Europe, and Japan to show work without the standard art fair price tag. We charged galleries a mere percentage of what proper fairs cost and gave the artist-run spaces spots free of charge… Also it’s on a film set.
PM: Is there another like it?
CCM: For you Pentti, the location seems to dovetail with your interest in intervening / occupying existing spaces. Do you see the fair as an extension of your practice in any way?
PM: Art always occupies existing spaces; it’s always a theatrical situation, whether it's a museum, gallery or art fair—there's always a backstage. I guess with Paramount Ranch we want to highlight the theatricality of the situation but also to achieve the reverse, to make the movie turn into reality.
In my own work I have been interested in addressing the theatrical nature of the built environment; it can be very liberating to realize that 'all the worlds a stage, and the men and women merely players.'
CCM: What events are you most excited about this weekend?
AF: John Knight’s Cabinet opening at the Fitzpatrick-Leland House, the world premier of United Brother’s ‘Les Androids' at Green Tea Gallery at Paramount, ‘The Granite Block’ at Overduin & Co., and Donelle Woolford over at the LA Art Book Fair—I’ve always wanted to meet her.
PM: Honestly I’ve been so swamped getting ready for the Paramount Ranch that I haven’t time to keep tabs on whats going on. I do know that Oscar Tuazon will have a new sculpture at the Standard gallery’s booth at ALAC. And I heard Piero Golia will unveil something new at the Book Fair.
One of the goals of the Paramount Ranch is to work directly with artists and provide a platform for performance, video and installation. I'm excited to see what they do. We have scheduled performances by Dawn Kasper, Evan Holloway, Sara Clendening, Animal Charm, Charles Irvin, Lucy Dodd and many others.
CCM: What’s it like running a brand spanking new-ish LA Gallery?
AF: If I wasn't in love I'd be drug running in Belize. Install week is always my favorite.
PM: Starting a gallery was something Liz and I had talked about forever. We lived in New York for a year and enjoyed the intense social life there. When we returned to LA we felt we needed to create a place for artists outside of the dismal commercial gallery scene here. We like Venice; where else would you find high budget postmodern houses being built next to drug dealing bikers with a boat named 'Suicidal Tendencies'?
Merlin Carpenter, "Scarface", 2013, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 36 in / 91.4 x 91.4 cm. Courtesy Overduin & Co.
CCM: What makes LA so different, so appealing?
PM: I grew up here, so I don’t have the rosy opinion that many recent transplants have. LA had a really good art scene in the 90’s; it was small but high quality, with everyone reacting and interacting. The rapid art market expansion in the Bush era kind of destroyed it. I think now there’s some new energy, new galleries and artists moving here, and maybe it can become cool again.
AF: My family has lived in Beverly Grove for over seventy years; returning to the native sun after an eleven-year interlude abroad was inevitable. After PST [Pacific Standard Time], I realized that LA might be getting over its inferiority complex, and that it offered a less formulaic environment for running a new gallery.
CCM: How does hosting an art fair on an old faux-western movie lot, say, address that complex?
AF: I don’t know that the fair addresses that complex directly. That said, Paramount Ranch is not about LA, it’s about art and artists. The book fair, also, for example, is about art books. It’s a cut and dry delineation. Whereas, often, large-scale art events in LA have felt quite patriotic. In what other art center do you read headlines like 'Four local artists in the Whitney Biennial'? As if statistics and artists' practices were a synonymous phenomenon. Part of shedding the inferiority complex is going back to rather simple, but qualitative inquiries into art and exhibition making.
—Christina Catherine Martinez
*Editor's Note: This article was updated to include Pentti Monkkonen's responses.
(Image at top: Paramount Ranch.)