Among the glitz and bling of blue-chip galleries and international art powerhouses at Frieze Los Angeles’s 2022 edition this week, one section aims to shine a light on smaller, hometown spaces. Organized by Amanda Hunt, director of public programs and creative practice at the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Focus LA features 11 L.A. galleries in operation for 15 years or fewer. This includes more established galleries like Charlie James in Chinatown and Luis De Jesus, which recently relocated from Culver City to a burgeoning gallery strip just west of the L.A. River, alongside house-galleries like Parker Gallery and Garden, and young upstarts Gattopardo and Stanley’s. The 20 or so artists featured range from emerging stars to under-recognized veterans, and present work that addresses themes of labor, the body, and identity, through an innovative use of craft and materials.
“At the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, we’re defining for ourselves in public space how narrative is made visual,” Hunt said in an interview. “I’m considering what narratives I’m really invested in highlighting here. In laying out the section, I’m being thoughtful about the flow of people, sight lines, relationships between works. With the story we’re stringing together, how do they support each other or diverge? How can we create longer periods of engagement in these booths, and support learning opportunities for everyone, from the gallerist next door to seasoned collectors?”
Some artists dealing with challenging but important narratives include Ben Sakoguchi at Bel Ami who will be showing his multi-panel painting Towers (2014) which addresses the Japanese internment in the U.S. during World War II, alongside a series based on Goya’s Caprices. Charlie James will show a collaborative presentation featuring Patrick Martinez’s wall paintings with cardboard cutouts of laborers by Jay Lynn Gomez that wryly critique David Hockney’s bucolic visions of Angeleno life.
Given the fraught timeline we’ve all experienced over the past two years—from the pandemic and ongoing environmental crises to movements for social and racial justice and political unrest—Focus LA will also spotlight works that look at the body, physicality, and movement.
“There’s a lot of body in this,” Hunt said. “We’ve all been through something pretty intense together as a global civilization. I’m interested in how that informs people moving through these presentations.”
Examples of this include Amia Yokoyama’s sensuous ceramics of contorting, melting figures at Stanley’s and Diné artist Eric-Paul Riege’s hanging works constructed from fabric, faux fur, and hair that visitors can interact with at Stars. At Luis De Jesus, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s tightly composed photographs resemble Constructivist post-apocalyptic landscapes, devoid of people.
Another through line is an emphasis on materiality, expressed in novel ways. “It’s pretty explosive in terms of color, form, and content—it’s going to be humming,” Hunt added. “The space allowed is modest, so I’m asking everyone to pack a punch.”
In this vein, visitors can look forward to vibrant stained-glass works from Timo Fahler at Stanley’s and intricate terrazzo constructions by collaborative duo Ficus Interfaith paired with Pauline Shaw’s rapturous felted wall-hangings at In Lieu. At Parker Gallery, ceramics by pioneering artist Melvino Garretti, who has been working in South-Central Los Angeles since the ’60s are paired with celebratory visions of Black life by Troy Lamarr Chew II, more than 40 years Garretti’s junior.
Overall, Hunt hopes that Focus LA will introduce visitors, both locals and out-of-towners, to new artists and spaces, and create connections that last beyond the confines of the fair. “People are going to learn about artists they haven’t seen before and get really curious,” Hunt said. “Maybe the L.A. market looks a little different after this in terms of support streams and networks—a new flow for these artists and galleries. I hope it opens up and expands.”