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Santa Monica Exposed! Photo LA + Art LA Projects 2011

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by Arely Villegas for LAist

January is synonymous as art fair month in Los Angeles and the oldest fair kickstarts the new season by celebrating it’s 20th anniversary.

Photo LA is not your traditional art fair given the eclectic audience the fair attracts, and at the opening reception this past Thursday, artists, art aficionados, collectors, and dealers traversed through the fair grounds at The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Surprisingly, the auditorium lends itself for Photo LA as walking through different booths was easily manageable. The layout of the fair can be quickly memorized, unless, you’re not interested in the study of flows at art fairs this is not something you should worry about.

Photography of different periods, celebrated artists, and upcoming contenders can be found at the fair. The presence of Chinese art galleries was felt immediately and seemed to connect the growing impact of the Asian market in the international art front. Photography non profits, such as The Blind Photographers Guild, are also making a special impact this year. The Queensland Centre for Photography of Australia and Light Work/ Community Darkrooms based in New York, are impressive examples with their ongoing mission of supporting artists since 1973. Light Work is also famous for their artist residency which has attracted artists such as photographer Cindy Sherman early in her career.

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The wide range of mediums is sure to please anyone. Walking through the fair revealed two to three paintings at Kaycee Olsen Gallery of artist Josh Peters, and a Video Lounge was hidden in a dark corner behind The Los Angeles Art Association booth, where the recent censored work of artist David Wojnarowicz at The Smithsonian Institution, “A Fire in My Belly” was being screened in infinite loop. Mastodon Mesa, an artist run space at The Pacific Design Center, will be making an appearance as well this weekend inviting artists to contribute to their “cave”, if you’re lucky you might run into artist Megan Daalder to experience the surreal technological practice of her work.

As admiration was winding down and becoming evanescent as characters in a John Baldessari print at EL Nopal Press booth, Stephen Cohen appeared and graciously answered a couple of questions. The most obvious was the lingering curiosity of Art LA as a fair and not a project based label. Cohen quick with enthusiasm shared the plans of a busy upcoming year for both art in Los Angeles and his fair Art LA:

“ Art LA will be held in 2011 in downtown Los Angeles along with the new art fair from New York, there’s great activity in Los Angeles in recent years with new galleries moving from New York -- Cheim and Reid is opening a branch this year and The Pacific Standard Time Survey of LA Art is hugely important”.

“ Art LA Projects is an initiative that will serve as an outlet for artists in Los Angeles in an effort to find different ways to bring art to our city and a greater audience”
Right after, guest of honor, photographer William Eggleston signed books at the LACMA booth and a representative expressed the satisfaction of a successful night, for the unexpected high rate of new members signed to the museum that night. The fair runs though Monday, for more information and a schedule of artist panels visit Photo LA.