March 16, 2013
WAXING THE BUD
San Francisco Arts Quarterly
By Eric Kim
Waxing the Bud, the current group show at Actual Size gallery, takes as its central theme the visual forms of sex and reproduction. Organizer Erich Bollman culls together the “disparate strategies” of artists Deanna Erdmann, Esmeralda Montes, Orlando Tirado, and Paul Waddell to create a landscape of shapes and images related to this idea.
At the gallery’s center stands Orlando Tirado’s Untitled, a work made of a distressed gallery pedestal upon which hang a number of personal affects: a draped jean jacket vest, a photograph of a shirtless boy, and a patch of rabbit fur. Taking as its cue the form of reproductive organs, both human and flower, Tirado’s sculpture seems to show an unaggressive and curious idea of sexualization.
Most of the work similarly suggests curatorial attention to this idea; Erdmann’s video “COLT” is a collection of edits from erotic films, emphasizing the sexual forms of the actors’ bodies rather than their potency. Bollman’s curatorial method, while direct and simple, seems to focus the small space and the exhibited work into a short and easily read phrase.
To read the full article go to: sfaqonline.com
June 8, 2012
SAMI BENHADJ AND TARIK HAYWARD
Artforum Critics' Picks
By Travis Diehl
In a warehouse in the Swiss Alps, Sami Benhadj and Tarik Hayward (in collaboration with Guy Meldem) spent a yearlong residency producing “Made of Concrete,” 2012, a series of sixteen massive still-life photographs; six are on view in this exhibition. The artists employed cranes and cables to poise a tractor, boulders, mattresses, a shipping container, a silo, and other modern relics in collapsing arrangements—impossible except as photos, wherein the supports have been retouched away. Made of Concrete #5 props a wheelchair on a ski gondola on a Jacuzzi on a pine coffin, accented with branches and straw and anchored by the strong diagonal of a tree trunk. These composed ruins are monuments to the Swiss countryside, perhaps, or to the contraptions we occupy—or, as in ikebana, the balance of the two.
Printed in black-and-white at a claustrophobic sixteen by twenty inches, the images render giant piles as miniatures; as with Smithson’s “quiet catastrophes,” the scale of the fallout is also uncertain—and what could be quieter than a photograph? Just as impressive, and more telling, are the underlying armatures: the machines needed to place the huge components, like forklifts and winches, but also the artists’ government-supported residency, as well as access to objects like full-grown trees that, though familiar, are not so easy to come by. Benhadj and Hayward’s designed landscape is restrained and distant, set against edgeless white fabric yet coldly cramped by the edge of the frame, like the Bechers’ typologies of derelict industrial forms. Indeed, the most deeply embedded armature is the late-stage civilization that would both build and discard such constructions. In these photos, as in the culture they come from, the catastrophes are imminent, instant, and constant.
To read the full article go to: artforum.com
May 28, 2012
OPEN NETWORK/PRINT IMPRINT
White Hot Magazine
By Danielle McCullough
Open Network & Print Imprint was a collaborative curatorial project between Cirrus Gallery and Actual Size, on view first at Cirrus Gallery, after which a smaller corresponding exhibition opened at Actual Size. These exhibitions offered an incredibly generous interaction with collaborative technology-based work and artist-books inspired by art of the 1970s and 80s -- art that challenged the roles of museums and galleries and the ways in which institutional structures dictate audience interaction with and understanding of art. The resulting exhibition at Cirrus was a sort of public library of contemporary art whereby technologies are presented side by side with rare books -- notably without vitrines, the better to provide a civic space which encourages direct interaction. The reply exhibition at Actual Size, a tiny artist run space, functioned as a postcard testament to the continued dialog between the texts of conceptual art and younger generations of artists -- particularly those situated in Southern California.
Open Network was formed partly by invitation, and partly by a call for open submissions on a site built as part of the project at oncenowexhbition.com. The result is that there are several Los Angeles-based emerging artists and collective endeavors, such as Eternal Telethon, engaging in a dialogue with iconic artists such as Chris Burden, whose once-revolutionary ephemera has been spirited away to the untouchable collections of museums and private collectors. In the case of Eternal Telethon, this open conversation with the the archive is a fairly direct one. Eternal Telethon is an ongoing endeavor, which directly references Chris Burden’s “Send Me Your Money,” originally broadcast on KPFK and now available on Ubuweb. The broadcast portion of this incarnation of the work is a collaborative installation with video by Alexis Disselkoen, read by Niko Solorio and transcript modifications by Adam Overton. The installation component is comprised of lawn chairs, a towel, a beach sari, a monitor, a box, and a donations jar; it’s out of place beach accessories invoke the aesthetic of the Occupy encampment – whereby computer monitors, lean-tos, and temporary furniture coexisted comfortably. Sitting down in this haunted encampment one watches images ranging from end-of-the-Earth high desert landscapes to a young girl pantomiming a request for money to a grandmotherly figure, all the while listening to a drifting plea for contributions to a retirement fund for artists.
Barbara T Smith’s Materials for the Production of Rope functions well as a transition from the Open Network exhibition, into Print Imprint, as it too deals with networks and histories, but they are along the lines of handwritten correspondence. Made in 1971, it offers a rare glimpse into the business records of an artist who also had an artist-run space. Given the time-frame of this letter, it is likely that it is made of materials from Fspace, a now legendary experimental art gallery which Smith launched alongside Nancy Buchanan and Chris Burden while she was in Irvine. Within this scrapbook sized frame, Smith has anthologized her day-to-day clerical duties by sharing a Polaroid of an Ed Ruscha book cover, a book page, and letter from Ruscha, asking her to write Faith Pleasonton Stein of the now closed Wittenborn Art Books store on Madison Avenue with an offer to sell his book at a discount or on consignment. Ruscha’s Rope was exhibited in a rough plywood vitrine at Actual Size which is a few miles up from Cirrus, and acts as a present-day follow through of the initial request to assist with the circulation of this book-based project.
In a room adjacent to Smith’s work, gallery visitors could thumb through Katie Herzog’s Feng Shuing the Panopticon, an absurdist meditation of the paradox formed by combining the drastically different philosophies that stem from the desire to realign and rehabilitate human behavior through spatial arrangement. The spiral text, published by the library humor organization Molesworth Institute, begins with an anecdote of how it was rejected by an Iowa based correctional facility print shop when a page with “a photo of Tracey Emin’s tits” was leaked and started a prison riot. Accompanying this tome was an architectural model for the Feng Shuied Panopticon, covered with reflective sticker film in a fastidious gesture to deflect all bad energies.
Adjacent to Herzog’s archival humor is an amazing array of Laura Owen’s artist books. Printed and painted on a variety of luxurious papers which are bound by hand these are the kind of book treasures that are usually relegated to library special collections and museum flat files. Owens’ book Fruits and Nuts, which was also on view at Actual Size, incorporated delicate old newspapers once housed in the California News Paper Project based in the UC Library system. That said, these objects seem like they’ve been handled often, and they possess a very personal method of mark making that invites touching without anxiety. One book features a reprint from an embroidery manual, which Owens begins coloring carefully and ends up littering with energetic embroidery inspired marks. As is the case with many of her paintings, several of the books interact with art historical reproduction on a very personalized level, one incorporates a series of wintergreen transfers of Jupiter and Callisto, another is a sort of highlighted and illuminated reprint of a chapter on Lila Katzen from Cindy Nemser’s Art Talk: Conversations with 15 Women Artists.
To read the full article go to: whitehotmagazine.com
March 30, 2012
Temporary Art Review
Interview by Sarrita Hunn
How is the project operated? For-profit, non-profit, artist-run, etc.
How long has it been in existence?
Since April 2010.
What was your motivation?
Our mission was to create a gallery that presented work formally and that encouraged critical discourse, but that was also welcoming and flexible.
Number of organizers/responsible persons of the project.
4: Lee Rachel Foley, Justin John Greene, Samia Mirza, and Corrie Siegel.
How are programs funded? (membership fees, public funding, sponsors, etc.)
Our organization is funded by membership fees, sponsors, donations and sales.
Who is responsible for the programming? (Curators, Directors, etc.)
We collaboratively direct and curate exhibitions and events, though we also work with with other curators and artists on selected projects and initiatives.
Number and average duration of exhibitions/events per year.
We host about 18 events per year, at the gallery and off-site. Our exhibitions are usually on view for 4-5 weeks.
What kind of events are usually organized?
Our events range from openings of solo and group exhibitions to events that make use of the space as a multi-faceted resource for artists. In addition to formal exhibitions, we hold lectures, screenings, musical performances, BBQ’s, brunches, and panel discussions.
For one event, entitled 12:12 Song, a participatory concert began at 12 midnight and ended at 12 noon the next day. During these 12 hours, over 50 visual and performing artists collaborated to create a continuous sound experience through overlapping sets and improvisation. This project recruited the efforts of artists around the world who contributed live performances within the gallery and via Skype.
How is your programming determined?
Detailed discussion and consensus.
Do you accept proposals/submissions?
What is your artistic/curatorial approach?
We present work by a diverse range of artists, and hope to enrich the cultural landscape of Los Angeles by supporting investigative work and critical dialogue. Through studio visits, conversation and correspondence, we encourage artists to take risks and to expand on traditional concepts of the exhibition. We attempt to activate the space through events that involve different audiences and invite viewers into the culture of the artist’s work.
What’s working? What’s not working?
Working: Spirited collaboration with each other, artists and the community.
Not working: The mysteriously disappearing toilet seat in our bathroom.
What kind of role do you hope to play in your local art scene or community?
We hope to encourage artists to share their visions with the community and create a space for new ideas and approaches.
What idea are you most excited about for the future?
We are interested in the way our satellite projects will push our curatorial practice and develop ongoing conversations about the work.
To read the full article go to: temporaryartreview.com
December 1, 2011
San Francisco Arts Quarterly
Interview by Hailey Loman
SFAQ Interview with:
(C) Corrie Siegel
(L) Lee Foley
(S) Samia Mirza
(J) Justin John Greene
How did the Actual Size come about?
(L) It’s hard to imagine now because there are a lot of artist-run spaces reaching out, doing collaborative projects, but I was just talking to some fellow gallery owners about how, when I first moved here a couple years ago, it seemed like there were a lot of high-end spaces and a lot of casual artist run spaces…
(J) And a lot of non-profits.
(L) But that there weren’t that many nice clean spaces, that were approachable and seemed open to hosting a wide range of events.
Would you say that you are a space that shows “Emerging Artists?”
(C) We don’t limit ourselves to the term “Emerging Artist.” We enjoy collaborating with and creating conversations between artists at all levels and disciplines. We have worked with artists such as Larry Fink, Alex Prager, Gaylen Gerber and Tyson Reeder. In an upcoming exhibition we are curating in conjunction with the Pacific Standard Time initiative we are exhibiting works from Ed Ruscha, Barbara T Smith, Gui de Cointet, and Larry Bell. One of our main goals is to show artists as if they are emerging. There is no distinction between the more established artists and the people who haven’t had many shows. Instead, it’s about developing an intimacy with the work and the artist’s focus in order to create an experience that allows you to feel connected and understand the culture of the work.
Can you tell me about some favorite projects Actual Space has done?
(C) The Hook was an arm wrestling championship we planned in conjunction with the Perform Chinatown festival. Even though the contest got pretty heated, it also showed the collaborative spirit of the Los Angeles art community. In many ways the match was a great equalizer, creating unlikely pairings between artists that make completely different types of work in different points in their career, it does not matter what level you are at as long as you are committed to the creative struggle.
(L) We collaborate with artists in order to develop events and exhibitions, but we also initiate projects through Actual Size. We often create a framework and then invite artists to participate. We hosted an event last summer called Twelve Hour Song, which was a collaborative sound experiment that started at midnight and continued through noon the next day. We invited over 40 groups of musicians to generate a continuous sound experience for that entire time. While one band was finishing a set, another group of musicians would set up outside. It allowed different artists to work together, but within a set of a few simple rules.
(S) That being said, we try to get our artists to extend beyond the opening by way of curating an event, let’s say, a reading or a performance. Katie Herzog, whose artwork revolves around libraries and literacy, brought in certified therapy poodles and allowed children to read to them as a supplementary event. That allowed us to get into her work and tap into her influences. All four of us agreed that we wanted a space that was really flexible in what we would do. We are privileged, at least geographically, because we are here in Chinatown, which is really secluded, especially at night when we have most of our events. Its possible to spill out into the streets, and we have taken advantage of that for many of our events, including Please Remember Everything, a late-night multimedia party that included live performance, DJs, and a 4 hour long video loop that over 30 artists contributed to. Sometimes we hold performances next door in the alley. I think the important thing is giving an artist a space where they don’t feel limited.
What would you define is your curatorial mission:
(L) We curate different types of exhibitions to engage audiences in the culture of the artist’s work.
(J) It’s a really small space with a lot of limitations but we are also free of so many limitations that galleries and spaces around us have, like financial ones, we are not representing artists and we don’t have the strict agenda nonprofits have so it can be all about the art in a way that other galleries might not be able to.
Can you tell me how you go about choosing artists and developing projects for Actual Size?
(S) We meet once a week at the least, sometimes more. We toss things around, think about ideas and somehow get to the conclusion of, say arm wrestling and bratwurst. We throw around adjectives that we like or what we want to feel from a performance.
(C) We have extensive talks where we voice our thoughts about artists, projects, and what we are excited about. We work closely, and we make all of our decisions together. It’s a very involved process, talking things over. We demand a lot of integrity from the artists that we are involved with. The four of us have different sensibilities in our work, so we are looking for something that we can appreciate and all stand behind. It’s a collaboration amongst us and with the other artist. We try our best to get them to present their visions in a way that they are really proud of.
(L) It’s almost a crit type environment, that also manifests into a real interaction between artists and the outside world.
(J) We try not to be predictable in our projects. The show on exhibit right now, Hollenbeck, has this “cabinet of wonders” feeling. It is pin lit, and very much an installation, yet the show we had prior to this couldn’t have been more different. Negotiation of Objects was a very minimal sculpture show that was brightly lit – making those decisions that don’t ever define us as a gallery that is only going to show one kind of work is something that we have been concerned with.
Can you talk about West Coast art? Actual Size’s relationship with the Bay Area?
(L) We got this space from a woman who owns a gallery in San Francisco who said she really wanted to hand it off to someone who wanted to keep this building a gallery, not just make it into a store. Because we don’t really represent artists, a lot of our exhibitions are not centered on the goal of selling things, which allows for flexibility in location.
(C) I think there is a growing fluidity in terms of the arts because of the internet. Our community extends beyond the people that you are surrounded by. San Francisco, to Berlin, to New York, to anywhere someone has a computer. When we first started we wanted to create a space that we would want to spend time in and as we are moving on we are realizing that community expands beyond locality.
Do you have future plans for the space?
(L) We have an upcoming project where we are collaborating with two Swiss artists, Sami Benhadj and Tarik Hayward, who recently completed a project that consists of photographs of large objects like boxcars or hot tubs that are suspended by a crane in a manner similar to ikebana flower arrangements. We are going to work with artist, David Abir in Feburary 2012. His installations deal with light, architectural space, and scale. We are also putting more effort into extending the exhibition beyond the walls of the space. We are always looking to collaborate with galleries and artists from varying locations.
To read the full article go to: sfaqonline.com
September 20, 2011
Co/Lab at Art Platform LA
Co/Lab is a unique event bringing together non-profit art institutions, alternative spaces,
and independent art initiatives under one roof where artists, gallerists, curators and collectors
can survey the thriving non-commercial art landscape of Los Angeles.
Opening Preview: Friday, September 30, 2011
3PM – 5PM Opening Preview
5PM – 9PM Vernissage Party
benefitting the Hammer Museum,
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
and The Museum of Contemporary Art.
Saturday, Oct 1 • 11AM – 6PM
Sunday, Oct 2 • 11AM – 6PM
Monday, Oct 3 • 11AM – 4PM
1933 S. Broadway
Los Angeles, CA
part of Art Platform Los Angeles
Produced by ARTRA Curatorial
Artist Curated Projects
The Artillery Magazine Lounge
Durden and Ray
Emma Gray HQ
Las Cienegas Projects
Materials and Applications
Monte Vista Projects
Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum
Summer Camp's Project Project
For more information visit: www.artrala.org
Sunday, May 1, 2011
CONVERGE Chicago: Contemporary Curators Forum
Ambiguity of Place
The Merchandise Mart
April 29 - May 2, 2011
Renovating the Underground
3:45 - 4:45pm
It is often assumed that independently-run exhibition venues are the
unruly cousins of mainstream museums and for-profit galleries, but at
the forefront of the alternative scene are spaces that mirror the
professionalism of the heavyweights. Clean white walls, good lighting,
press lists and a board of trustees are assets to the newly emergent
gallery scene. This panel will consider how ‘alternative’ spaces
situate themselves within the larger art world. A national practice
with a Chicago perspective will be addressed; of the four panelists,
two currently run spaces in Chicago, and two lived in Chicago and now
run spaces in other cities. Jason Foumberg, Art Editor, Newcity will
discuss this trend and its traction in Chicago and beyond alongside
Edmund Chia, founder, Peregrine Program, Chicago; Dan Berger, founder
Iceberg, Chicago; Samia Mirza, Co-Director of Actual Size, Los
Angeles; and Jeff DeGolier, Co-Director of Regina Rex, New York.
For the full schedule of panel discussions go to: www.artchicago.com
February 12, 2011
by Kate Wolf
What a nice surprise to see Larry Fink’s name included in the line-up at Actual Size’s current show, “Angle of Incidence.” Fink, who also just had an exhibition open at LACMA, is a well-known photographer but the type, like William Eggelston even, I tend to think of as getting sectioned off and left out of multiple artistic contexts. And that’s part of the strength of looking at Fink’s photographs outside of the photo ghetto and alongside the sculpture of J Patrick Walsh III. There’s a marked, formal relationship between the layers—the slant and ooze of Walsh’s rainbow blocks of melted candle wax— to the shapes and objects— the slope of an airplane wing, a removable staircase—and sections of shadow in Fink’s work. Both also happen to share a sense of motion in their composition. Here, Fink shows three black and white photos, all of which take place on an airport tarmac, two of which are from Obama’s presidential campaign trail.
Transformation is another element that binds the work of these three artists, including the show’s third member, Alex Prager. With Walsh’s sculptures, it’s through a manipulation and recasting of materials. For Fink, the transformation is the ability to change the way we normally see someone, often a public persona. President Obama’s daughter Sasha is shot from above in an odd expression that changes her from the pretty young girl we’re used to, into someone who looks agitated, aged by exhaustion. The president himself is shot from a distance, making him look small. The wind picks up his tie in the photo, suggesting a certain fragility or even spontaneity not often associated with politics. Prager does the exact opposite in her staging of a clichéd image. Unlike Fink, she is trying to create something we feel we’ve seen before, a composite that is completely controlled, transforming cultural sediments into something essential, condensed. Fink’s figures are all arriving or leaving; Prager’s blonde, beautiful damsel, also on the airport tarmac, has the bewildered, dramatic expression of someone being left.
To read the full article go to: www.artslant.com
January 10, 2011
COLLECTIVE SHOW LAUNCHES LOS ANGELES EXHIBITION
Collective Show is pleased to present “Collective Show Los Angeles 2011,” an artist organized exhibition of contemporary art groups recently established in Los Angeles. This collaboratively curated “group show of group shows” features artist-run spaces and projects formed in the past five years.
Previously realized in New York in 2009 and 2010, Collective Show exhibits local art groups that work in a growing space between established non-profit organizations and commercial galleries. These groups explore a wide range of collaborative approaches and missions, often in flexible and adaptive conditions with an emphasis on communities and conversations.
Over 30 groups will exhibit artwork, publications and posters during the show at a newly renovated space in Chinatown. In addition, screenings, performances and talks will take place during the exhibition. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition and will be available at www.collectiveshow.org/LA
Participating groups include: 323 Projects, Actual Size Los Angeles, Adrian Piper Gallery, Artist Curated Projects, CANAL, Commonwealth and Council, CUBO, Dan Graham, Ditch Projects, Eighteen Thirty Collaborations (ETC), Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0 *particle group* b.a.n.g. lab, Elephant, The Elysian Park Museum of Art, Eternal Telethon, Gibsmir Family, Human Resources, JMoca (Justin’s Museum of Contemporary Art), LA Pedestrians, Los Angeles Road Concerts, MATERIAL, [Name], NIGHT GALLERY, Public Address, Public Fiction, The Public School, S1F, secondhome projects, Silvershed, Statler Waldorf Gallery, Summer Camp, Workspace, WPA, and guest groups from Zurich and Berlin.
Collective Show Los Angeles 2011 is organized by artist groups ACP (Artist Curated Projects), Human Resources, Name, Night Gallery, Public Fiction, The Public School, Silvershed, Statler Waldorf Gallery and Workspace. Collective Show was founded by collaborators from New York and Los Angeles, and aims to further creative relationships by providing an open-source format for locally organized shows. Collective Show is not-for-profit, volunteer organized, and is free and open to the public. To learn more about Collective Show, please visit us online at www.collectiveshow.org
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 6-9pm
Exhibition Hours: Friday, January 21 to Sunday, January 23, 2011, 12-6 pm
and Thursday, January 27 through Sunday, January 30, 2011, 12-6 pm
995, 997 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Please see the calendar at www.collectiveshow.org/LA for listings of screenings, performances and talks.
About Collective Show
Previously realized in New York at Participant Inc (www.participantinc.org) in September 2010, Collective Show is an artist-organized exhibition of contemporary art groups. This collaboratively-curated "group show of group shows" features local artist-run projects and spaces, independent curatorial initiatives, not-for-profit endeavors and web-based groups established in the past five years. Collective Show is an open-source project organized by Silvershed, an artist-run project space in New York and Los Angeles. Collective Show
organizers are currently developing the next Collective Show in Berlin.
Silvershed is an artist-run contemporary art project space in Chelsea. Collaborating on exhibitions, publications and events in New York, Los Angeles and Berlin, Silvershed explores contemporary art values, ethics and aesthetics of the early 21st century. Started in 2008 by Patrick Meagher, Yunhee Min and Oliver Lanz, Silvershed is volunteer organized and accepts tax-deductible contributions as a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. www.thesilvershed.org
August 20, 2010
KATIE HERZOG @ ACTUAL SIZE GALLERY
Los Angeles Times - Culture Monster
By Chistopher Knight
Memory rather than vision seems to be the animating engine for Katie Herzog's paintings. The past shapes their present.
Five recent, very disparate works are at Actual Size Gallery. One playful picture shows a childhood playroom. Another is composed of rudimentary brushstrokes of yellow paint on a yellow background, loosely recalling a spectral face. A Latin inscription embroidered backward on a length of burlap is suspended like an ecclesiastical banner from another painting of a cloistered study.
Stylistically, no two works are alike. Conceptually, however, they offer a multidirectional consideration of the ways in which recollection operates. Herzog aptly titles the exhibition "Informel," after the postwar European painting movement that explored intuition, independent of the reasoning processes that had proven to be so impotent against the rise of fascism.
The most compelling work is the largest. "Braille Institute: Sight Center" is a strange rendering of the well-known facility on Vermont Avenue in Hollywood.
Broad, horizontal smears of blended rainbow colors are topped by a thick blue-black band of paint that drips in arcs across the surface. A line of little rectangles of metallic color, somewhat like light reflected on an oily puddle, marches across the top. Absent any evidence of brushstrokes, the handprints encountered here and there on the surface suggest that this imposing depiction of the Braille Institute was entirely finger-painted.
A gallery handout says that Herzog studied the building's fortress-like facade from across the street for an hour every day for five weeks, before returning to her studio, closing her eyes and painting (with her hands) from what she could remember. In this savvy work, Herzog attempts to reconcile a division in place since Marcel Duchamp famously dismissed painting as merely retinal art, favoring the eye over the mind.
The back story seems necessary to fleshing out her painting, as is often the case with Conceptual art, but that's a memory a viewer cannot bring to the experience. Still, on the evidence of this small show Herzog is headed into provocative territory.
To read the full article go to: latimesblogs.latimes.com
June 22, 2010
IN THE ARTISTS' HANDS: ACTUAL SIZE LOS ANGELES
By Alexander Ferrando
Actual Size Los Angeles is a new exhibition space that recently opened in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. To talk about this new spec on the cultural landscape of the city I have asked co-founders Esteban Schimpf and Samia Mirza some questions.
ALEXANDER FERRANDO: Who founded Actual Size along with the two of you? What are your backgrounds and how did you come to establish the space?
Samia Mirza: Five Los Angeles-based artists founded Actual Size: Lee Foley, Justin Greene, Corrie Siegel, Esteban Schimpf and myself. We started our gallery because we wanted to add a malleable space to the Los Angeles cultural landscape that supported emerging artists via traditional exhibitions as well as innovative projects.
AF: Where does the name come from?
Esteban Schimpf: Actual Size is the title of a work by Ed Ruscha. It is the painting with SPAM written across the top; on the bottom half a true to scale can of Spam flies like a rocket. Our gallery space is one basic and discreet room. What you see is what you get.
AF: I am using the term ‘space’, which I typically like to avoid due to the word’s ambiguity, because Actual Size itself is a bit ambiguous. Tell me about its distinctive programming?
SM: Artists often feel that the efforts they put into an exhibition are too concentrated on the opening. They need to make a big impression and hope that their artistic efforts communicate successfully for just one night. There is something interesting about being involved in the developmental stages of an artist's practice. The program at Actual Size gives artists the opportunity to further engage their audience within the culture of their work through programming that they create. Our responsibilities extend further than putting on a show every month; we are an artist run gallery and in many ways that changes the context of the way our audience engages with us. We encourage experimentation and offer artists the opportunity to create unrealized projects in a forum that is free from commercial or institutional pressure. Most importantly, we strive to maintain an open environment that encourages artists to creatively approach their exhibitions.
AF: As artists, what drove you to open your own space?
ES: We saw something missing from the Los Angeles art scene. We were hungry and saw that everyone around us was too. At a panel discussion at Honor Fraser earlier in the year Piero Golia and Jeff Poe discussed Los Angeles’ artists use of the city and landscape. One of the highlights of the discussion was when Jeff Poe, who had just opened a massive new space for his gallery, passionately exclaimed, “My huge retail store across the street doesn’t do anything for the emerging Los Angeles Art scene! It’s the artists that lead the way and make the scene! It’s your responsibility.” We were inspired by what he said because galleries and museums are often assumed to be the architects of the cultural landscape; that they have the power to determine the shape of culture but really it’s the artists! Artists may not have all of the power, but they create the work and ideas, they are the reason why the art world exists.
SM: The gallery is also an extension of our studio practices. Working as a unit compared to the singular has been an incredible experience for all of us. We are developing our curatorial, artistic, and social practices in this endeavor. It’s good to ask ourselves: what can we do for each other rather than what can I do for myself-- we’ve developed a great community this way.
AF: Why is Los Angeles an appealing place for young artists? Why isn’t it?
ES: The concept of Los Angeles has yet to be solidified. It takes effort to understand what the city is, and as an artist you have the opportunity to help define the cultural persona, and to contribute to how it is understood. Los Angeles is oriented from the bottom up in many ways. Youth culture permeates everything. People pursue youth here. I always joke that in New York young people want to wear Chanel cocktail dresses and expensive pearls, they want to be establishment. In L.A. the executive driving an Italian sports car to work wears a t-shirt and a backward baseball cap. Here, the establishment wants to be young. Also, the California landscape itself is unclassifiable, you can drive 40 kilometers in any direction and be in a different world and that world is often vast in scale.
SM: All of the vastness and space can sometimes come with a price though, and that is the feeling of isolation and lonesomeness. Being an artist and working in your studio is already a very singular activity. We are not in a pedestrian metropolis where one frequently encounters acquaintances and friends on the street; we’re in a vehicle. It is a private place, and the best artists utilize that privacy to form distinctive and strange practices. Look at artists like Jim Shaw, Paul McCarthy, and Tim Hawkinson.
AF: Actual Size is located in Chinatown, which is home to many galleries. Can you describe the neighborhood?
ES: Chinatown has a reputation for bringing fresh new ideas to the scene. There is a bit of the Wild West here. Galleries and artists do what they don’t do elsewhere and they generally take risks and have experimental programs. Actual Size is several blocks away from the main gallery drag on Chung King Road. We like that because it gives us room to breathe but still allows us to participate in the more established scene. Steve Hanson started China Art Objects and solidified the neighborhood as an art destination. He has been a great mentor and guide in this whole process as has David Quadrini who does excellent projects in this city. Right now a lot of young spaces are opening up here, and there is a fresh wave of creativity in the neighborhood. I recommend looking at Young Art, Dan Graham, Human Resources, and François Ghebaly’s new spaces.
SM: I’m always amazed at how the shops and bars here are very much involved in the neighborhood art scene. Once in awhile Hop Louie, a local bar, hosts video screenings proposed by artists. Mountain Bar is where the Mountain School of Art meets bi-weekly. Galleries use the old signage of stores they inhabit; it’s all very connected.
AF: Describe your first opening.
ES: We had an incredible first show! Butchy Fuego, who is a drummer for The Boredoms played a 20-minute drum improvisation that blessed the space. All I can say is that the sound was loud, beautiful, and above all else, percussive. The other two artists in the exhibition, Bobbi Woods and Eamon Ore-Giron, presented striking works that manipulated pre-existing text and imagery from old movie posters to quotes from the Popol Vuh.
SM: We had an overwhelming public response. Over 150 people came, from artists, writers, and musicians, to dealers, curators, and collectors. Since our space is so small, when 150 people show up it feels like an enormous crowd, with people spilling out into the street. We felt supported that evening and knew Los Angeles really was the right place to do this.
AF: What does the future have in store?
ES: In August we will have our first solo presentation by painter, Katie Herzog. September will be a great month for us we are going to host a show of media and performance art from dozens of artists both famous and unknown. September is big in LA and our contribution will be a late night exhibition/party of music and media art. The show will run from 11pm to 4am. Overall we are so excited and the artists we’re working with are the ones making our future exciting
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