Frieze Los Angeles / Snapshot
Natalie Kovacs reports from the City of Dreams, bringing us the collectible design highlights of her trip.
‘TOTUM’ – 518 N. Western Avenue, Los Angeles
Until 27th February 2022
The Endless Summer – Friedman Benda, LA.
Until 26th March 2022
‘Everyday Rituals’ – 322 South Broadway (2nd floor), Los Angeles
Until 2nd April 2022
DESIGN HAD A more prominent role in this comeback edition of Frieze Los Angeles, both in the official fairs, with local hotshot gallerist Francois Gehbaly and Marta Gallery, plus at Spring Break Art Show and even more so, with the rising number of offsite and alternative exhibition venues taking centre stage post pandemic.
These are promising times for new ways of exhibiting and consuming art and design. Prime examples included: Seventh House Gallery, housed in Frank Gehry’s Danziger Studio and Residence; Gallery Half with ‘Harmonious Arrangements’ on Melrose; FARAGO x Tiwa Select’s ‘Everyday Objects’; Kyle DeWoody’s ‘TOTUM’; Job Piston’s Villa Madrid and Friedman Benda’s inaugural show in their new gallery ‘home’.
I also visited some private homes, architectural masterpieces in their own right and custodians of extraordinary art collections. These inspire deep respect for LA’s roots in modernism and Spanish colonial architecture, where sculpture, nature and design meet. Among my favourites were Peter Gaillard’s collection at Richard Neutra’s Sales House (some of the best placements of Donald Judd I have yet to encounter), along with a Carl Andre that is so subtle it looks like a construction outline, and a 1957 Wayne McAllister house in Beverly Hills, home of Eugenio Lopez’s collection.
Among the most passionate collectors I met is Keith Rivers, a famous NFL football player turned collector whose curiosity and eye are impeccable. His enthusiastic guest tours carried on throughout the night. In one home I discovered lighting by French designer Matthieu Matégo among ancient trees, and was offered an avocado to take home by my host, the designer Cliff Hang. His garden and home hosted sculpture, art and design in expansive ways that left me feeling healed within a few hours.
Curators and gallerists too found unforgettable ways to share the work of their artists, affirming my affection for design as a lens through which to experience both art and design.
Here is a close-up of three visits:
Kyle DeWoody is an amazing curator and champion of design. The founder of the company Grey Area, through which she collaborates with artists and designers to create accessible limited edition art and design objects – ranging from inflatable pool toys to jewellery and yoga mats – today, her focus is the environment. After the Covid hiatus, art needs to stand for something, and Kyle is a genuine advocate. A longtime lover of art and design, she has been able to put her passion to work, using wood as a medium to commission functional sculpture and art works that do good.
For ‘TOTUM’, Kyle has brought together twenty-three artists, the majority from LA and the surrounding area, each of whom has made work from pieces of black claro walnut harvested from Kyle’s ranch outside Ojai California. A former walnut farm, several trees on the ranch had died in the drought of 2016, and so, as Kyle says, “I decided to invite all these artists to create works using this incredible material.”
This collection, first installed at Ojai and then exhibited in a pop-up space during Frieze, brings together an incredible A-list of accomplished artists, makers and thinkers (including Lita Albuquerque, the celebrated land artist, and Vanessa Beecroft). Both raising awareness and funds for Earthjustice, these works celebrate mother nature, the land and the challenging medium of wood.
Catching up with Kyle after the opening (the show runs through 27th February), she told me: “The show is about our relationship to nature, but also a reminder that we are nature. ‘TOTUM’ translates to ‘the whole’ or ‘all’ in Latin, injecting the idea of interconnectedness.”
The Endless Summer at Albertz Benda/Friedman Benda
Excited to visit Albertz Benda/Friedman Benda’s inaugural exhibition, I attended the breakfast and was able to experience the architecture and sculpture in the gallery’s new LA home almost to myself.
Firstly, I was struck by the vista, which was perfectly punctuated by Devon DeJardin’s bronze sculpture, ‘Tutelar’ (2022), apparently his first foray with the medium as he is a painter by trade. Another discovery was ‘The Storyteller’ (2021) – a fantastic book shelf by a new artist to the gallery programme, Barbora Žilinskaitė. It was made from an intriguing, alien material, that I found both irresistible and odd to the touch.
Among the usual suspects, the Campana Brothers’s ‘Bolotas Puff (Cherry)’ (2019), made from sheep’s wool, is a classic, while the piece by British artist Sam Ross, ‘Jut, Impale, Emerge’ (2021) was a bold reminder of his dominance at this last edition of Design Miami/.
The most fun part of the exhibition was my favourite installation in the loo – a universe in itself. It offered a snapshot of a 1930s Hollywood crime scene, with Angela Anh Nguyen’s witty rug placed on the shower floor and ceramicist Carmen D’Apollonio’s lamps. As always, her work makes me smile at her ingenuity and playful nature.
Meanwhile, irritatingly clever as always, Arsham’s brilliant and somewhat affordable new edition prototype ‘Dino Dining Chair’ (2021) really is cute and somehow irresistible, for reasons I have yet to understand. I am not sure what to make of his prod at provenance, or use of materials, but somehow his work always gets under my skin.
‘Everyday Rituals’ – FARAGO x Tiwa Select
Tiwa has emerged from the pandemic with two of the more memorable shows: at Noyes House with Object and Thing (in collaboration with Brazilian gallery Mendes Wood DM and LA’s Blum and Poe); and Big Plates, an exhibition of oversized platters to celebrate the art of Outdoor Dining. Both locations – one in Connecticut and the other in the Catskills – were destinations and treasure hunts that took us outside the traditional confines of the gallery, into nature.
Here in LA, in a former theatre downtown, Alex Tieghi-Walker of Tiwa Select and Max Farago of FARAGO joined forces to curate ‘Everyday Rituals’, an exhibition of works by artists developing “unsuspected career paths”, to quote Tiwa, the youngest aged seventy-five. I was the very last person to experience the show – in fact 5 minutes after closing (#wellworthit)
It was certainly worth seeing the Peter Shire desk ‘IRL’. This piece commands the space. I learned that Shire was among the founding members of the Memphis Group. The other works, smaller in scale, humbly expressed really big ideas (who knew a jug could be that riveting, or that a single mug could offer so much insight into history?). This was among the more gracious exhibitions I’ve experienced. Clad in knowledge and good humour, as well as shorts, a men’s overcoat and a beanie, Tiwa offered me a splendid tour of this eclectic selection of artists’ and designers’ works, united by their decades of long practice.
I also loved this location, a wedding notary being one neighbour and a disco/karaoke marriage venue the other, providing entertainment while I waited the typical 20 minutes for an Uber drive back to base. It was the perfect “Hollywood Ending” to a perfect trip.