Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Launch Party May 18th, 2019
@ The Pit
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Launch Party February 2019
Frieze Los Angeles, ALAC,
Spring Break Art Fair, Felix
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Launch Party November 18, 2018
at Odd Ark L.A.
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Launch Party August 18, 2018
At Praz-Delavallade
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Christina Quarles
Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Launch Party May 19, 2018
at Karma International
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Launch Party
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Launch Party November 18, 2017
at the Landing
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Launch Party August 19th at Blum and Poe
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Launch Party May 13, 2017
at Commonwealth and Council
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party February 18, 2017
at Shulamit Nazarian
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Launch Party Carla Issue 4
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Launch Party Carla Issue 3
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
A+D Museum
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Château Shatto
Elevator Mondays
The Geffen Contemporary 
Ghebaly Gallery
Mistake Room
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Night Gallery
The Box
Wilding Cran Gallery
Boyle Heights/ Chinatown
A.G. Geiger
Charlie James
Good Luck Gallery
Human Resources
Ibid Gallery
Parrasch Heijnen Gallery
Nicodim Gallery

Odd Ark LA
Oof Books
River Gallery
Smart Objects
Women's Center for Creative Work
18th Street Arts
Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis
Crap Eyewear
DXIX Projects
Five Car Garage
Laband Art Gallery at LMU
team (bungalow)
Pasadena/ Glendale/ Valley
The Armory Center for the Arts
The Pit
Los Angeles Valley College
1301 PE
Big Pictures Los Angeles
California African American Museum
E.C. Liná
Commonwealth & Council
David Kordansky Gallery
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
Kayne Griffin Corcoran
Lowell Ryan Projects
ltd Los Angeles
Marciano Art Foundation
Ochi Projects
the Landing
Shoot the Lobster
The Underground Museum
USC Fisher Museum of Art
Visitor Welcome Center
Culver City
Anat Ebgi
Arcana Books
Blum & Poe
Honor Fraser
Klowden Mann
Luis De Jesus
Philip Martin Gallery
Roberts Projects
Susanne Vielmetter
Diane Rosenstein
East Hollywood Fine Art
Family Books
Nino Mier Gallery
Moskowitz Bayse
Noysky Projects
Regen Projects
Shulamit Nazarian
Steve Turner
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
Various Small Fires
Gas Gallery
Elsewhere in CA
CLOACA (San Fransisco)
Curatorial Research Bureau @ the YBCA (San Fransisco)
Et al. (San Francisco)
Ever Gold [Projects] (San Francisco)
fused space (San Francisco)
Gym Standard (San Diego)
Interface Gallery (Oakland)
Jessica Silverman (San Francisco)
Left Field (San Luis Obispo)
Minnesota Street Projects (San Fransisco)
San Diego Art Institute (San Diego)
Verge Center for the Arts (Sacramento)
Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art (San Francisco)
Wolfman Books (Oakland)
Non CA
Artbook @ MoMA PS1 (Long Island City, NY)
Nationale (Portland, OR)
McNally Jackson (New York)
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Skowhegan, ME)
Small Editions (Brooklyn, NY)
Space 42 (Jacksonville, FL)
Spoonbill & Sugartown (Brooklyn, NY)
Ulises (Philadelphia, PA)
Libraries/ Collections
Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
CalArts (Valencia, CA)
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Research Library (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Emerging Leaders of Arts (Santa Barbara, CA)
Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, ID)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Scholes Library, NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Accessible as Humanly Possible

“I’m just really at a loss at this point,” tweeted film critic April Wolfe on December 28, 2017. The newly bought LA Weekly, from which she and 9 of 13 editorial staffers were fired in November, had just published three reviews she wrote while still on staff there. Then it summed up an end-of-year retrospective of articles mostly by fired writers with the phrase “a new year brings new hope and determination.”1 Former music columnist Jeff Weiss calls the pub’s new, largely Orange County-based, all-male, mostly libertarian owners “Vichy LA Weekly” and daily updates his twitter followers on the pub’s output (or lack thereof)—old articles with new dates deceptively assigned to them kept appearing on the homepage of the once-storied alt paper. I wrote for the publication for seven years but now feel like a confused outsider, watching to see what happens next.

Publications, even seemingly thriving ones, die all the time, sometimes before they technically cease circulating. Renata Adler wrote that The New Yorker died in the 1990s, when, in her eyes, it stopped putting the “curiosity and energy” of editors and writers above concerns of advertisers.2 From that perspective, some cynics argued, most mainstream publications were dead already.3 But in the realm of alt weeklies and local news, the death knells clanging right now suggest something of a national blood bath. “We weren’t expecting the red wedding,” tweeted former editor-in-chief Mara Shaloup the day she and her LA Weekly staff lost their jobs. The Village Voice published its last print edition in August 2017, right before the LAist, Gothamist, and associated publications (essentially the online-only siblings to local weeklies) were abruptly shut down; the Baltimore City Paper shuttered; and City Paper in Washington DC went up for sale. The Awl and The Hairpin, not local but certainly alt, closed down in mid-January.

In late December, journalist Mark Oppenheimer wrote an op-ed for the LA Times, in which he described the formula that made alt weeklies what they were as “free + local politics + local arts.”4 The local arts part is its own loss, exacerbating a problem that has been growing for the past half century anyway: the siloing of art worlds from other worlds, so that conversations about visual art in particular become accessible only to the initiated.

Much of the grappling—like Kate Knibbs’ article for The Ringer, or the panel on “Who’s Covering L.A.” held at the Annenberg School—focus on the loss of alternative civic news. This is understandable given that the number of widely circulated papers in SoCal dropped from five to two in just three years, thus crippling democracy and diversity. Still, privileging civics implicitly suggests that arts writing is less crucial to lively, democratic city life, and emphasizes the very assumption that alt weeklies warded off for longer than most publication genres. “Separating the cultural from the political,” wrote longtime former LA Weekly editor Harold Meyerson, “is often a fool’s errand.”5

“Jonathan Gold had to go to the LA Times from LA Weekly. It wouldn’t have worked the other way around,” a friend commented recently, noting how the Weekly’s agile institutional structure gave critics a permission rarely available at larger, bureaucratic papers. And populist cultural coverage thrives when it can be agile—the work of John Perrault, Jill Johnston, Ella Taylor, Ron Athey and other alt paper alums shows that.

“Beautiful, efficient, sarcastic!”wrote Perreault in 1968, in a gleeful Village Voice piece about an anonymous artist’s installation at an anarchic Lower East Side alt space.6 He’d just observed the word “serial” stenciled on each stair landing (a quite literal joke). In its prime, the publication willingly offered space to local art experiences that had no commercial value, and questionable clout. Two years later, music critic Tom Johnson reviewed songs of a thrush outside his window in the same issue of the Voice in which reporter Howard Blum wrote of mafia gun-running in the Middle East. That version of the Voice, in which arts coverage critiqued social values while reportage dug into political realities, started fading sometime in the 1990s, and then more so when the corporate New Times bought it in 2005.7

“There should be other options for those of us who do critical work,” Jen Graves, former critic at the Seattle-based alt weekly The Stranger, told ARTNews last year, right after she resigned from the job she held since 2006. She’d been asked, increasingly, to write less critically about general art and pop culture. “Instead there seems to be a real, somewhat unfounded misunderstanding and disregard for what we bring to a city.”8 The corporate acquirers of alt pubs can push general audience critics back toward art mags and ivory towers, though there’s not necessarily room for them there either.

In 2002, a group of critics, most of whom spent their careers in academic and institutional art worlds, debated their own field’s narrowness for the 100th issue of October, a magazine intentionally more specialized than the oft-inscrutable Artforum. Curator Helen Molesworth worried about how theory-laden criticism had become: “Is, then, that sense of the diminishment of the audience for criticism partly bound up with this sense of criticism’s academicization? So now it’s for students?”9 Historian David Joselit agreed that this “academicization” “encourages scholars to stay within narrowly defined discursive channels,” narrowing readership as a result.10

A Village Voice anthology has been sitting on my bed stand. The range of eccentric and politically charged ideas in it, made accessible by clear-headed literary voices, is gratifying—the basic sensibility, the opposite of the one Joselit ascribes to academia, suggests that a general audience can understand anything if the writer works to make it possible.

The crumbling of local pubs makes readability all the more crucial. Art writers have an obligation to fight the narrowness and marginalization of our profession if we want lively, thoughtful local dialogue about culture. “I have always had a tortured relationship with writing because of the desire to have the language that’s formed around artists to be accessible as humanly possible, and seeing so much of it not be,” said curator Jamillah James one morning in early November, speaking as part of an art writing panel at The Convening, a conference organized in downtown L.A. by the non-profit Common Field.11 “We need to move away from writing to an art audience,” she continued later on. “As a curator, I think about a public, a diverse group of people.”12

“I agree in a general sense,” said Sarrita Hunn, co-founder of Temporary Art Review. “[T]here’s also a way that through writing you create a public.”13

This has indeed been how a small group of new alternative art publications grew their readership over the past few years—offering a perspective absent in their community, attracting an audience as a result. It is feasible, if still very challenging, to do this within one field, where you know at least that your subject matter interests a niche readership. But in her 1999 diatribe against The New Yorker, Renata Adler argued that any readership for arts content grows in the same way, by readers finding then returning to a well-developed voice that attracts them: “An audience, for anything in the arts, does not pre-exist. It is part of what is created.” When “pollsters” start trying to “determine the preferences of some imaginary, pre-existing and statistically desirable new readership,” she writes, publications lose pull.14

This year, in their annual list of the art world’s “least powerful,” the online art pub Hyperallergic listed at number seven, “Arts & Local Journalists,” citing the shutdowns and sales of alt weeklies and the “ist” sites (LAist, Gothamist, etc.). Often Hyperallergic has included critics on its powerless list but never combined with news writers. Arguably, Hyperallergic, which pays on average 10 cents a word and edits unevenly, is part of the problem, producing content but offering marginal support. But it was perhaps on to something by grouping the failing arts writers with the lost news outlets.

Small alternative art publications that are attempting to pay writers decently and craft thoughtful, diverse commentary might serve as models for new general interest local pubs. As models, they’re modest to the core: no ambitions to start an empire; ads sold for sustainability only (not allowed to drive content, as has happened at so many art glossies); respectful rates paid to writers, but not salaries. (“They weren’t making a living but they were doing what they want to do,”15 Ed Fancher said of staffers who kept the Village Voice alive in its early years). That writers for alt platforms can’t make livings without hustling is inarguably terrible, but before it sold, the long-turned-corporate LA Weekly’s per word rate for contractors was often worse than that at art publications Momus and Carla (this pub).

Now that the corporately- owned LA Times has suddenly, seemingly, become the only dominant general interest publication in this particular city, we need models openly defiant of such trickle-down structures. They seem among the only ways to ensure democracy in our local coverage. Such democracy requires mutual respect and cross-disciplinary collaboration between politics reporters and culture writers (happening already at publications like L.A. Taco). It also requires deep respect for local readers, an assumption that if writers put the work into accessibly fleshing out nuanced cultural realities, readers will care assuming an audience is willing to engage with complexity, just not jargon.

I remember a strange weekend in the desert that I had meant to spend hiking. Instead I spent frantic, long hours revising an essay for LA Weekly. It had been too opaque and niche when I turned it in, my editor told me, rightly. I was responding to an L.A. Times review that I’d found wrong, sexist, and annoying, but my response required explaining how the historical marginalization of female mystics has been exacerbated by things like exhibition design. I was also arguing that properly acknowledging these women might require a new kind of language. Making all of this accessible to someone who might, say, pick up the paper at a Hollywood coffee shop proved all-consuming. But how thrilling, and necessary, to make sense to people different from oneself.

Originally published in Carla issue 11

  1.  Brette Callwood, “Good Riddance 2017! This Year Was Tough on Pretty Much Everyone,” Dec. 28, 2017, LA Weekly, tough-on-pretty-much-everyone-in-la-8998318.
  2.  Renata Adler, Gone the Last Days of the New Yorker (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999), 12.
  3.  Michael Wolff made this point in “Mr. Shawn’s Last Tribe,” an article on Adler published in New York Magazine in 2000.
  4.  Mark Oppenheimer, “Fiercely Local Alt-Weeklies are Worth Fighting For,” Dec. 7, 2017, LA Times, followed by link:
  5.  Harold Myerson, “LA Weekly without left-wing politics is like Hamlet without the prince,” Dec. 24, 2017, LA Times, followed by link:
  6. John Perreault, “More Than Eyes to Please,” in The Village Voice Anthology (1956-1982), ed. by Geoffrey Stokes (New York: Quill, 1982), 311.
  7.  After purchasing the Voice, New Times, which also owned LA Weekly until last November, changed its name to Voice Media.
  8.  Andrew Russeth, “Seattle’s Jen Graves Resigns as Art Critic for the Stranger,” ARTNews, Feb. 2, 2017, as-art- critic-of- the-stranger/.
  9.  “Round Table: The Present Conditions of Art Criticism,” October 100 (2002), 221.
  10.  Ibid.
  11.  Jamillah James as transcribed by Simone Krug, Art Writing: Sustainability, Taste Making and Critical Art Discourses, Organized by Eunsong Kim and Gelare Khoshgozaran (contemporary) with James McAnally and Sarrita Hunn (Temporary Art Review).
  12.  Ibid.
  13.  Sarrita Hunn as transcribed by Simone Krug, Art Writing: Sustainability, Taste Making and Critical Art Discourses, organized by Gelare Khoshgozaran, Common Field Convening, Nov. 4, 2017.
  14.  Adler, 12. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999), 2.
  15.  Edwin Fancher, interview with John Berman
    and Roberta Gratz, Greenwhich Village Historical Preservation Society, Jan. 26, 2000.