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Daniel Garza-Usabiaga on Zona Maco / Mexico City

As Zona Maco gears up for its 2017 edition in Mexico City, artistic director Daniel Garza-Usabiaga provides insight into this international art fair, now in its thirteenth year.

Tell us about some of the programming you have developed for this edition.

Within New Proposals — one of the five sections of the fair — and together with curator Humberto Moro, we are creating a new initiative called SAMPLE that will provide exhibition space for artists from the galleries participating in that section. Luis Silva and Joao Mourao are curating Zona Maco Sur for the third consecutive year, and they have created a section that is witty, astute and gathers a group of interesting and experimental proposals. Cecilia León de la Barra has been leading Zona Maco Design, and this year the section will gather a larger number of participating galleries featuring notable historical and contemporary examples of design from Mexico and abroad.

What is the role of the conference series?

The conference program is developed with the curators of the various fair sections, which makes it very diverse and interesting. We have invited speakers such as designer Nikolai Haas, artists Pedro Reyes and John Houck among others, and a performance by Regina José Galindo. I am particularly happy that this year will include the presentation of projects highlighting collaboration between individuals and institutions in the North American continent. Specifically, the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles/Latin America” and “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1900–1950,” an exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Mexico’s Ministry of Culture. For 2017 the fair is also introducing two new awards: one for public art projects and one for artists participating in the New Proposals section.

What are you most interested in this year overall?

I find the whole fair very exciting, but I am also excited for everything that happens outside the fair. Local galleries excel in their exhibitions during Zona Maco, as do institutions. I am looking forward to seeing “Paint the Revolution” at the Palace of Fine Arts and Lawrence Weiner’s project Forever & A Day based at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, which also includes work at iconic sites around the historic center of the city.

by Leslie Moody Castro

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ALAC / Los Angeles

Now in its eighth year, Art Los Angeles Contemporary presents established and emerging international galleries while maintaining a strong focus on Los Angeles. Founder and director Tim Fleming spoke to Flash Art about the latest edition, to be held January 26–29.

What was your vision for ALAC when you started it eight years ago, and how has the fair changed since then?

Over the past eight years we’ve invested considerable time to know our city and its evolving art community. The process of building the fair has been fascinating, forming the relationships that have sustained ALAC and allowed us to grow in step with the city’s expansion. Essential to this are the participating exhibitors that return each year to present work on an intimate and accessible scale. Our relationships with galleries have grown stronger every year and now form the foundation of our VIP and public program that includes private collection visits, curator-led museum tours, and performances and talks with members of Los Angeles’s cultural community. We invest in galleries and work to build them an audience that sees L.A. as a destination for learning about, experiencing and buying art in ways that have not been previously widespread.

As the founder and director of ALAC, you have a unique vantage on art in Los Angeles, as well a sense of the image of Los Angeles held by the rest of the art world. How these have changed over the past eight years?

What I love about L.A., which remains unchanged, is there are consistently new young spaces that are just starting out. People will rent a modest storefront and offer an interesting level of access to artists. I don’t see the proliferation of spaces like this in any other city. In a town that is fueled by its progressive art schools with incredibly strong fine-art programs, you find a really intimate relationship between gallerists and young, emerging artists. It’s possible come to L.A., start a career as an artist and explore so many incredible possibilities. What I think will continue to define L.A. is the dialogue between new international galleries, established local galleries and young galleries starting out. That’s truly where you find the momentum that moves the city’s creative current forward.

What can people expect at ALAC this year?

Each year we refine our vision of the fair, working foremost with our participating galleries and partners. Sotheby’s Institute of Art has put together a schedule of critical talks on the role of contemporary art with preeminent critics, curators and educators. Our programming schedule, ANYTHING YOU SOW, focuses intently on the legacy of performance art and time-based mediums, with screenings and performances by William Basinski, Roger Corman, Jasmine Nyende and Puppies Puppies. This year’s edition marks a change to the layout, as we’ve brought our young Freeways section in on the main floor to make it even more a part of the experience of the fair.

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Social Fabric / Atelier E.B

Atelier E.B, the studio practice and collaborative fashion label run between Edinburgh and Brussels by artist Lucy McKenzie and designer Beca Lipscombe is preoccupied with dress as a phenomenon emerging from a lineage of industry, craft and labor.

On the occasion of the group show “’33 – ’29 – ’36,” curated by McKenzie and on view at the UM Gallery of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, and their latest book, The Inventors of Tradition II, published by Koenig Books, McKenzie and Lipscombe spoke with Flash Art.

What is the methodology behind how and when you disseminate your collections?

We do not work with the fashion timetable. Instead, we work slowly to let things develop at the pace it needs around our other work and lives. Nothing is fixed, and with each new collection we try something new — working with different graphic designers, photographers, models and mannequins. The clothes are something of a pretext to do other things we like to do together and with collaborators.

What does it mean to exhibit fashion objects in a gallery space? What does art’s critical framework offer Atelier E.B?

Within an exhibition format our work can be part of broader discourse around showing design objects in a gallery or museum — where hierarchies of status dictate how it should be read. Through showing in galleries we get financial and moral support without having to submit to the pressure and self-interest of the fashion industry, with all its gatekeepers in the form of editors, buyers and stylists.

There is often a feminist orientation to your work, particularly in “’33 – ’29 – ’36.” How do you relate to dress and its history as a women’s industry?

Examining history from a feminist point of view is especially rich for fashion as a field with many great female producers that are now being written about seriously. Academic writers like Elizabeth Wilson, Caroline Evans and Tag Gronberg all explore fashions’ inherent radicalism instead of regarding it only of interest because of its proximity to existing grand narratives. As if fashion is only relevant because male figures like Mallarmé, Benjamin, Loos or Simmel permit it. Atelier E.B wants to be part of the project that uncovers lost histories and celebrates marginalized figures, especially women.

Does your work attempt to critique or destabilize of fashion’s market framework?

We don’t start from such a negative or conceptual starting point. Primarily, we make clothes for ourselves and our friends for working and that make us feel strong. That we can only go about that in a way which ignores the traditional fashion market framework is secondary. If that is read as inherently critical then it shows how entrenched those market rules are. We are more preoccupied with finding a way for Atelier E.B to flourish with our set values and ethics; this is more invigorating and empowering than critiquing.

by Laura Gardner

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Untitled / San Francisco

Joining the ranks of art fairs recently cropping up in Northern California’s Bay Area — proliferating as in so many urban locales worldwide — Untitled launches its initial bid for distinction by basing its main exhibition site within the repurposing-before-your-eyes shipyard buildings of Pier 70 on the Bay itself.

The pier sits on the industrial-chic margins of San Francisco’s rapidly gentrifying Dogpatch neighborhood, an area embodying yet another cycle of creative placemaking in urban centers throughout the US. The topic of art practices as an attractor and particular bleeding edge of real estate development will be addressed specifically in a panel talk as part of Untitled’s programing by the well-resourced initiators of two such projects: Minnesota Street Projects in San Francisco and the Rubell Family Collection in Miami.

Untitled will also be reaching for distinction in its inaugural effort by featuring a small range of nonprofit art spaces among the invited presenters in the fair’s booth spaces, along with some other unique programming led by a panel on the Berkeley Art Museum’s upcoming version of the touring “Hippie Modernism” show. Featured off-site will be a series of boat tours launched by The Lab and meant to highlight the precarity of Bay Area housing for many of the region’s past and current residents, especially artists (made extra poignant and raw by the recent, highly fatal Ghost Ship fire in Oakland).

At the fair, from January 13 until January 15, the mingling of booths occupied by highly local cultural purveyors alongside those landing from international sites will make for an idiosyncratic mix of commercial galleries and alternative spaces, whose offerings could be as impelled by thematic concerns as those of the marketplace and collecting. Among the artist projects specially programmed for the fair are Paul Clipson’s filmic treatment of elements of the unique former home of deceased Bay Area creative favorite son David Ireland, and Brent Green’s quirky musical performances that include custom-made musical instrument costumes.

by Brian Karl

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Faux Oedipus Complex / Omer Fast

The only thing in life that one can be certain of is death — or at least that’s the current status of the human life cycle. Omer Fast’s immersive seven-film installation, part of a retrospective organized by the Berliner Festspiele and Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, however, asks us how certain can we really be of authentic life and death.

Tripping through 231 minutes of film imagery in various locations, several of them physically restaged in the museum or on screen, the viewer moves through airport departure lounges; hot, acrid war zones in Afghanistan; family-run funeral parlors; and the unglamorous, stiffly staged Los Angeles porn industry. Fast takes us on a journey that transcends our own narratives on and off camera as we dissect the terrain of his multidimensional screened works.

The artist’s direction is reminiscent of both a LARP (live-action role play) and a glitch in the system — think of David Cronenberg’s cult gaming platform as depicted in the sci-fi film Existenz (1999). Within his immersive viewing spaces, Fast uses replay and reenactment as tools to flood the viewer with familiarity. Looking Pretty for God (After G. W.) (2008) is set in a replica waiting room in the museum, and his companion films Spring (2016) and Continuity (2012) deal with replay through plot devices. In the latter, a desperate couple pays a young boy and then several men to impersonate their deceased or imaginary son. But they have to hire new surrogates as the years go by; there are inconsistences in the men, passionate moments of tenderness, confusion and painful needs. This spews over into sexual proclivities of failure and discomfort resulting in an unsettling faux Oedipus complex.

Most of Fast’s works delve into the psychology of contemporary trauma, often relying on the blurring of memory and the re-telling of actual events via moving image. His work renders the formalities of the cinematic genre at once useless to the audience. Playing with absurd, looped plots and surreal contexts, he pushing us into a space where we must confront our most erratic phobias and values — including incest, homophobia and the fear of death or loneliness. He is a modern-day Georges Bataille, relentless in trawling through our waking lives, uprooting the unthinkable and leaving us stranded in our own minds.

by Penny Rafferty

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Against Mediocrity / Donald Judd Writings

Donald Judd engaged a lifelong struggle against mediocrity and its hazards. “Mediocrity is lazy thinking,” the artist’s son and Judd Foundation co-president Flavin Judd told Flash Art. “Don was very curious, and this innocent idea — that you can’t know enough, that you have to dig deeper and look wider — is what he thought everybody should do.”

A new book of Judd’s essays, published this fall by the Foundation with David Zwirner Books, expounds on this notion. Its modest orange, cloth-laminated cover and minimalist typeface, reading simply Donald Judd Writings, belies its weighty contents: one-thousand-or-so pages worth of the late Judd’s musings on his vast body of interests, written between 1958 and 1993. Many of his essays, both the well-known and the previously unpublished, with some of the later hailing from his college days, are pedantic, incisively critical evaluations of the art world. Topics include the virtues of Lee Bontecou’s reliefs (“primitive, oppressive, and unmitigated individuality”); the decline of new art over the fifteen years leading up to 1983; navigating New York, the “world’s leading art center”; and why a young Yayoi Kusama should receive a US visa. Other essays, alongside scattered notes — wry one-off epiphanies that the Foundation has painstakingly deciphered and organized — explore other topics: architecture, design, politics, consumerism. “Some TV sets are not so bad,” he wrote in 1982, “and some are awful, like Zenith and Johnson and Burgee.”

“Just as the language cannot have the physical, visceral effect of the art, the art cannot tell you where it came from and why it matters,” writes Flavin Judd in the book’s foreword. The artist’s writings give a deeper context to his artwork by constructing a portrait of his understanding of the world, his curiosity and his piercing wit. But the foreword ends in disclaimer: “It would be a mistake to think that after reading nearly nine hundred pages of Don’s writings you will know him, but that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be to find something within the writings that is useful, something that can be a tool for future use… Ideas are tools and this is a toolbox.”

by Janelle Zara

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