Cultured Magazine

April/May 2016

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162 NOMADIC TENDENCIES Artist-run galleries are popping up all over Los Angeles' vast cultural landscape, with the latest wave— including BBQ LA—opening in some of the last places you'd think to look. Degen Pener goes on an art hunt. PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEFF MCLANE Kansas City's Timo Fahler is bringing art (and meat) to L.A. The art world boom town of Los Angeles is not only adding dozens of new galleries to its ranks, but it's also drawing hundreds of artists every year to live and set up studios. Among the many who don't land shows at commercial galleries, some are going DIY, setting up artist-run spaces across the city. In the last few years, almost two dozen such galleries have opened, either in permanent or pop- up spaces, including Egyptian Art & Antiques, located above a watch shop in Beverly Hills; The Pit, located in part of a former mechanic shop in Glendale; and Arturo Bandini, in a stucco pavilion in a backyard in Cypress Park. But only one artist-run space offers meat with its mixed media: BBQ LA. It was started in 2015 by three guys who moved to L.A. from Kansas City—one of the barbecue capitals of the world—where they'd all gone to school together at the Kansas City Art Institute. At BBQ LA's one-night-only openings, which rove to different locations around town, the crowd turns out not only for the group shows of emerging and established artists but also for fare like barbecue chicken legs, hot dogs with Dijon caramelized onions and grilled drumsticks. "Some people didn't realize there were art shows happening," admits BBQ LA co-founder Adam Beris, a painter whose newest works feature emoji-like faces created by directly squeezing paint tubes onto canvas. "People would ask, 'When are you doing another barbecue?'" Three BBQ LA events have taken place behind the house Beris rents in Silver Lake—in a greenhouse-like structure that Beris and fellow artist Thomas Linder built—while another sprang up below the now-demolished Sixth Street Bridge downtown. "It was purely guerilla. We were drilling into the pillars of the bridge. The artists hung their own work," says co- founder Timo Fahler, a multimedia artist whose latest works are rich topographies of plaster entwined with hand-dyed linen. Adds Linder, a sculptor and painter currently working with paint on stretched fiberglass, "It was a bring-it, take-it kind of show." Artist-run galleries have a long history in L.A. Chris Burden carried out his infamous Shoot performance piece in 1971 in a space he co- founded with other artists, while Mark Grotjahn started an exhibition space early in his career. Similar to most artist-run spaces, the mission at BBQ LA is to give a platform to struggling artists. "It's really difficult to get started, especially in L.A.," says Beris, citing rising studio space rents. "The spirit of BBQ LA is giving people an opportunity to start showing." The gallery asks for a 20 percent donation for any sale made. Not every artist in these group exhibitions is under the radar, though. For almost every show, the gallery's founders have used their connections to entice one well-known artist to join the mix. Last November, for example, painter Mary Weatherford—for whom Fahler has worked as an assistant—showed two previously unexhibited ink drawings at BBQ LA. "A lot of her collectors came out," says Beris. "It was a really weird thing to have two of her drawings inside the shed in our backyard." Next up: BBQ LA will set up shop on April 23 in a semi-permanent downtown space adjacent to Fahler and Linder's studios with a show that includes Dashiell Manley and Jennifer Guidi. As for where the gallery falls on the great debate on the best kind of American barbecue, Linder says, "It's definitely vinegar- based. Get that ketchup crap out of here."

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