With winter come the art-fair storms.
If the inaugural edition of Frieze Los Angeles created a thunderous roar when it rolled into town last February, then the concurrent debut of Felix L.A. added a flash of lightning. That fair — which unfurled at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, with art on view in guest rooms and poolside cabanas instead of booths — was intimate, unconventional and energetic.
When it returns Feb. 13-16, Felix will again have a Special Projects series, this time centered on gender, queerness and feminism. Last year fair co-founders Dean Valentine, Mills Moran and Al Moran chose the projects; this year they have appointed William J. Simmons to organize the series.
“I was thinking through imagination at this time when we’re beleaguered by questions of identity,” Simmons said. “We’re all kind of afraid. Where is the optimism in all of this? Where is queer and feminism optimism in all of this? These are artists who are engaging with hope and fear and criticality — and more often than not, they turned out to be queer people, or women-identified artists, or both.”
The 14 projects by 15 artists will appear throughout the hotel’s lobby as well as in ballrooms and outdoor bungalows, where a long-ago-painted David Hockney mural shimmers at the bottom of the pool.
For one project, presented by Jessica Silverman Gallery of San Francisco, TV producer Jill Soloway selected works on paper, sculptures and a video piece by feminist artist Judy Chicago. The presentation in the hotel lobby entryway will be very of Los Angeles, Simmons said, in that Chicago has SoCal roots, the hotel is a quintessentially L.A. space and Soloway is an entertainment industry figure. But more important, the works speak to a weaving of queerness and feminism.
“Jill’s brought a lot of people who aren’t clued into queer theory and feminist theory into the conversation, young people watching ‘Transparent’ who had their eyes opened,” Simmons said. “And I think Judy did the same thing in [educating] a whole generation about what kinds of images women can make and what women artists deserve.”
New York gallery P.P.O.W. will present work by Betty Tompkins, Martha Wilson and Carolee Schneemann. For Tompkins’ “Women Words,” the artist solicited from the public words and phrases that come to mind when they think of women. (“Her idea of foreplay is making you beg for ten minutes,” one person wrote. “Can’t understand normal things,” wrote another.) She then painted the phrases onto pages torn from art books and museum catalogs, obscuring the female figures in the pictures. In a reproduction of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” for example, the farmer stands stoically, clutching his pitchfork, while his wife is obscured by the phrase “She has curves in all the places.”
Wilson’s video, “Makeover: Melania,” shows the artist gradually transforming into Melania Trump. Her “Mona/Martha/Marge” digital collage depicts a hybrid of the artist, the “Mona Lisa” and Marge Simpson, with a nod to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-made “L.H.O.O.Q.”
Schneemann will show historic photographs and hand-colored prints dating to 1963. Expect the presentation to be “powerful, political and even potentially groundbreaking,” Simmons said. “She’s a pioneering performance artist and poet, a mystic, a feminist foremother for a whole generation of women artists and writers.”
Performance artist Dynasty Handbag will stage a free, opening night happening around the pool. She curates a monthly evening of song, dance and comedy at Zebulon in Elysian Valley, where comedian Casey Jane Ellison and “Portlandia” star Carrie Brownstein have appeared in the past. Dynasty Handbag will present a similar review at Felix.
Matthew Brown Gallery will present a sculptural installation by Luis Flores transforming the hotel’s lobby chandelier. “It’s a combination of found materials and the handmade,” Simmons said. “But his work is also very much about gender, being a male-identified artist of color who sort of deconstructs masculinity.”
The other Special Projects artists are Math Bass, Ellen Berkenblit, Anne Collier, Hayden Dunham, Eve Fowler, Paula Hayes, Deborah Kass and David Benjamin Sherry.
Felix said it keeps exhibitor fees low and is geared toward showing more affordable art, this year from 60 galleries. Whereas the 2019 event was free to the public, this year admission is $20.
The Special Projects works are for sale, but they also function as a site-specific group exhibition.
“It’s about putting artists in conversation who wouldn’t normally be in conversation,” Simmons said. “And they all have political elements to their work — they’re all dealing with optimism and opposition in this time where those sort of emotional states kind of collide.”