Issue 35 February 2024

Issue 34 November 2023

Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 16 May 2019

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
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
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Issue 15 February 2019

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
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
Buy the Issue In our Online Shop

Issue 14 November 2018

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
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
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Issue 13 August 2018

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
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
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Issue 12 May 2018

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
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 11 February 2018

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
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
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Issue 10 November 2017

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
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
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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 9 August 2017

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
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 to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 8 May 2017

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
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 to the Editor
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 7 February 2017

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
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 6 November 2016

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
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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 5 August 2016

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
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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 4 May 2016

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
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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 3 February 2016

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
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 2 November 2015

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
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
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
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop

Issue 1 August 2015

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
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.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega)
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Babst Gallery
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Clay ca
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art (Inglewood)
D2 Art (Westwood)
David Kordansky Gallery
David Zwirner
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
Gana Art Los Angeles
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
LaPau Gallery
Lisson Gallery
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
Nazarian / Curcio
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
Regen Projects
Reparations Club
r d f a
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
The Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Village Well Books & Coffee
Outside L.A.
Libraries/ Collections
Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Bard College, CCS Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY)
University of California Irvine, Langston IMCA (Irvine, CA)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Episode 7:
Amanda Ross-Ho, Norm Laich,
Matt Stromberg

Episode 7

Whose work is it anyway? — Norm Laich’s world as a brush for hire — The art of the collaboration — Is there a viable way to share your work on social media?

Writer’s Room

Lindsay is joined by Carla contributor, Matt Stromberg to discuss his article from Carla issue 13 called “The Collaborative Art World of Norm Laich,” which discusses Norm’s recent show Brush for Hire at ICA, and his role as a fabricator over the years. We talk about Norm’s work as it pertains to questions of authorship, fabrication, and the role of artist assistants.  

LA at Large

Next on LA at Large, Lindsay is joined by the man himself, Norm Laich, as well as artist Amanda Ross-Ho. Norm and Amanda are long-time friends and have worked on a number of projects together. We discuss how they met, the process behind art-making, and their experiences as artists living and working in Los Angeles.

Dear Carla

Lindsay continues the conversation with Amanda Ross-Ho to answer a listener-submitted question about posting work on social media, fears of being copied or ripped-off, and the viability of Instagram to reach new audiences or galleries.

Listen on iTunes, Buzzsprout, Spotify, or Stitcher.

Lindsay Preston Zappas: Hello and welcome to the podcast. My name is Lindsay Preston Zappas and I am the founder and editor in chief of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles. Carla is a quarterly magazine online art journal and podcast committed to being an active source for critical dialogue surrounding L.A.’s art community. We have a great lineup this episode. First up in the Writers Room, I’m joined by contributor Matt Stromberg to discuss his article from Carla Issue 13 on the artist Norm Laich, called the Collaborative Art World of Norm Laich. We discuss Norm’s recent show Brush for Hire at the ICA, which was a collection of work that Norm has fabricated over the years for other artists. Matt and I also discussed ideas that come up often around Norm’s work, like authorship fabrication and the role of artist assistants.

Matt Stromberg: This is kind of a bottom-up way to look at all this work. So it’s a collaborative lens.

LPZ: Next on L.A. at Large I’m joined by the man himself, Norm Laich, as well as artist Amanda Ross-Ho. Norm and Amanda are longtime friends and have worked on several projects together, and one of Amanda’s pieces was also included in the ICA exhibition. The two of them discuss how they met, walk us through the process of working together, and share experiences they’ve had living and working as artists in Los Angeles.

Norm Laich: I sort of got that idea in my head that most artists are never going to make—you know it’s like the 1% are the people that are making a lot of money. So, why even worry about it? Just enjoy doing the art which is worth a lot in itself. Bruce are the people actually make the move. So why even worry about it just

Lindsay Preston Zappas: And finally Amanda Ross-Ho stays with us for Dear Carla, the segment where I turn to someone in our community to answer a listener-submitted question about the art world. Amanda weighs in on the benefits and limitations to posting your work on social media as well as the viability of Instagram to reach new audiences or galleries. It’s a packed episode so stay with us.

Ad:  The Carla Podcast is supported in part by the ICA LA. The Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles presents This Has no Name, the first major U.S. museum survey of the New York-based sculptor B. Wurtz, on view through February 3rd. The exhibition explores the visual language of B. Wurtz with approximately 150 objects made from a remarkable array of everyday materials. Items such as food tins, clothing, plastic bags, mesh produce bags, and yogurt containers are transformed into elegant meditations on form and line while simultaneously underscoring the artist’s commitment to the ethics of reuse. Learn more at the ICA.LA.

Lindsay Preston Zappas: Welcome to the Writer’s Room. Today I’m joined by writer Matt Stromberg who in addition to Carla has written for publications such as Hyperallergic, KCET Artbound, The  Guardian, and others. The basis of this conversation stems from an article that Matt published with us in Carla issue 13 called “The Collaborative Art World of Norm Laich.” You can find a link to this article in the episode description in this piece. Matt discussed Norm’s role as a collaborator and a fabricator to many museums and artists in and outside of Los Angeles, specifically touching on his recent show at the ICA, This brush for Hire. Here’s Matt to explain Norm’s role within the art world.

Matt Stromberg:  So Norm Laich is a commercial sign painter, but for the past 30 years he’s also been the go-to guy for artists mostly L.A. artists who need text painted in their work. So everybody from John Baldessari to Lawrence Wiener to Amanda Ross-Ho…

LPZ: Barbara Kruger, Alexis Smith.

MS: Yeah…Daniel Joseph Martinez, Stephen Prina. So a whole range of artists across the contemporary art spectrum he’s worked for.

LPZ: And why do you think so many artists work with him. What’s so special about him.

MS:  I think he’s very good at what he does. Yeah. So technically he’s very talented. There an exhibition at the ICA LA right now called This Brush for Hire which features all artists he’s worked for.

LPZ: Right. I love the title of that show because his name is in the title. You know.. it’s This Brush for Hire: Norm Laich and other artists. I’ve explained the show to some people and it’s a hard one to kind of get your head around because his work—he has one small piece in the show—but otherwise, it’s all other artists.

MS:  That’s right yeah. And so I think in my article I raise the issue of “whose work is this?” How do you define the creator of an artwork? A producer or an artwork. You know he’s more than just—you know I think he’s which he downplays his role a lot and says you know “oh I’m a production assistant.” There’s a good documentary by Pauline Stella Sanchez that accompanies the show, and Scott Grieger who’s one of his works is in the show says that “I don’t think of him as an assistant. I think of him as another artist I work with.” So I think addition to just his physical hand creating some of these artworks, he also lends artistic feedback. It is more of a collaboration with a lot of these artists right. And Norm I think he kind of has a foot in both of these worlds of the commercial art world and kind of the very technical, physical aspect of it. But he also creates his own work in addition to being just a fabricator.

LPZ: Right. Which yeah. I mean you say just . You know there’s a sort of value judgment there between this kind of producer assistant/fabricator relationship and then the artist, right? I love that about the show because it kind of dispels that myth a little—that artists make the work on their own. You know it kind of shows the process behind. But still, we value the artist as being a little more primary than the producers or the fabricators.

MS:  And I think you know I think that’s what’s so interesting about this show. There’s a lot of different lenses that exhibitions framework in. So you have an art historical perspective, where curators and academics present things in a certain way. There’s shows that are organized by a collector. So it’s “the so and so collections,” which is very market-oriented. But this is kind of a bottom-up perspective. It’s a for-artists-by-artists way to look at all this work. It’s a more collaborative lens. So there’s no thematic through-line I guess although conceptual art has been a large part of the work but you really see a broad range of work. And the only tie is Norm had a hand in it all.

LPZ: Sure. Which also means text. I mean that’s a big element in the show but not entirely. So Norm grew up in Detroit, right? And then he moved to L.A. early ‘80s which is like West Coast conceptualism, right? A little after?

MS: I mean Baldesarri…

LPZ: Had been rockin’…

MS: Yeah that’s already two decades.

LPZ: I feel like in a way he got lucky with his timing and arriving to L.A., and the type of art being made at that time kind of desiring text. Maybe like Ed Ruscha…

MS: I think there is a lot of serendipity. I mean you have West Coast conceptualists who were obviously still working. You know, they were kind of more established at that point. You know it’s Pictures Generation.. so yeah I think there’s a number of different movements that he was able to capitalize on or his skills fit into a certain way.

LPZ: Sure. And then in the video, I believe it was Stephen Prina who said that in a way it was his idea for the show. Is that right? He said something like…

MS: I think he had an early idea of this kind of show.

LPZ: Sure. Yeah for Norm. And saying that if an exhibition was organized around Norm, it would be almost—like you said earlier—an interesting collection of contemporary art that’s more from the bottom up.

MS: Yeah. It’s a cross-section or I don’t know how we say in the article…a journey or a romp around through the last 30 years. Right. That presents a unique perspective. You know we’ve seen a lot of this work, but not in this way.

LPZ: Let’s talk more about this idea of collaboration. Towards the end of the article, you say that “Laich’s work, and the work he does for others reveals a parallel horizontally structured art world one that’s not defined by networks of collectors, auction records, or jet setting curators. This offers a refreshing perspective. Maybe the rules don’t need to be imposed from the top, but can bubble up from the nexus of labor collaboration and kinship. The art world can be what you make it.” I mean yeah, I feel like Norm is so refreshing in that way because he’s not it doesn’t appear that his first thought is money or success.

MS: Yeah you know I think it kind of goes back to his like punk roots in Detroit. You know he said that growing up, the MC 5 and The Stooges played an influence on his work. You know it’s funny because his work is so polished and so clean and so professional but there’s kind of a thumbing your nose at the academy or you know the market. I think that really shows itself in the Chiat Day Mike Kelly boardroom piece.

LPZ: That’s in the show at the ICA.

MS:   Yes. So it’s a proposal for the decoration of an island of conference rooms with a copy room for an advertising agency designed by Frank Gehry. So it’s Chait Day, which is an ad firm. It’s a commission that he got to design their conference room. And he kind of took these kind of rude childish cartoons and slogans and things you would find photocopied tacked up in a mailroom or a copy room.

LPZ: But also a bit dated, right? I mean those comics wouldn’t pass now…there’s so much gender humor.

MS:  Yeah, it’s very juvenile. But, you know, so he blows these up and Norm paints them all around these conference rooms. So it takes a blue-collar aesthetic and overlays it onto this very white-collar space. And they didn’t go for it.

LPZ: Right. So he got commissioned to do this for an ad agency and then they chose to not go forward with it.

MS:   And then Paul Schimmel curated it into Helter Skelter, a very influential show of early ‘90s art and then I think it had been seen one other time since that before the [ICA] show.

LPZ: So in parallel two Norm’s show at the ICA he had a show also an artist-run space Animals with Human Rights Humans with Animal Rights.

MS: Right.

LPZ: So tell us about that, and that happening in conjunction with the ICA show.

MS: So there’s one piece of Norm’s own work in the ICA show—a very small painting—and his work kind of uses sign painting techniques and the language of advertising and kind of subverts it. So the show at AWHRHWAR features four paintings of Norm’s. His own work over the past 20 years so it’s kind of a very mini-retrospective. He uses graphics and logos and text and advertising imagery, and kind of twists it’s very legible, seductive quality on its head. Here he presents a more complicated darker image…I guess of the American Dream or American exceptionalism.

LPZ: Sure. So for example, this one work called Condemned it has this beautiful image of sort of like a mid-century modern style backyard with a pool and then above that you see dollar signs crossed out and bellow it says Condemned.

MS: Yes that’s probably one of the most direct of the paintings in the show. Pretty clear cut. But he got that image of the house from a clip art book for a real estate firm to use. So you know he’s kind of using these ready-made images that he kind of twists. The pool—there’s a pool in front that like black—that you wouldn’t want to take a dive in. But you know it could be like a punk album cover in my estimation. So yes that’s where the show gets its name from. One of my favorites in the show is Black Fifth which is kind of a black and white image of an explosion of a firework. And it’s very starkly presented almost like a palm tree. But it’s you know referencing Fourth of July and kind of taking out all of the fun and jingoistic excitement and then repainting it that’s just as this very dour monochromatic…

LPZ: And also the it’s kind of referring to maybe the aftermath of that Americana or patriotism, and where that leads us. And then I think the word black is significant in that work too.

MS: Yeah yeah I mean I think of Black Flag. You know, who had their own incredible visual style. Raymond Pettibon doing their logo. But it’s just such a simplification of this image. And, it’s painted on this kind of a round canvas..this nice roundel. So yeah it’s just a very simple straightforward image.

LPZ:    Yeah it’s a really interesting contrast to have both shows up at the same time because at the ICA You see what Norm’s made for other people. And then here at AWHRHWAR you see his own work and how the two are connected, but so different. And I want to note that Norm painted the facade for AWHRHWAR, right.

MS:  That’s right. Yeah. So he’s been working with the people who started the space: Erik Frydenborg, the artist, is one of them. They met when Erik’s professor recommended that his class contact Norm to have him do their vinyl exhibition graphics for their thesis shows. So they all went there and then I think he’s done work for Eric after that. So when it came time for him to open the space they reached out to Norm to design a logo. And he contributed this mural of this skinny kind of ghostly cowboy, shadowy cowboy figure. Right, which he actually told me it’s from a pile of rejected designs.

LPZ: Oh..Meaning?

MS:  I think he had designs that a gallery had asked for..and nobody wanted this one.

LPZ: Ah. So he was like “put it on the artist-run space.”

MS: Ha. Well, they picked it. They liked it. but that’s great. But whoever else it was, he was like why would they want this creepy skinny cowboy?

LPZ: Yeah, and its all silhouetted in back and its on this pink wall.

MS: Right. It’s called Eastern Skinny Poke. But what I kind of like about that is. You know it continues this western theme like This Brush for Hire. It’s kind of a gun for hire, right. And I think John Baldessari or Norm says in the film that whenever Norm would work at John’s studio he would find him like napping in the back with westerns running on the TV. So that’s kind of where the name comes from. And then you have this Eastern Skinny Poke kind of looking over the show at AWHRHWAR.

LPZ: Yeah—It’s really nice to see also his work at this artist or in space and you describe the collaboration between the artists that run that space and Norm. I think collaboration is such a crossover between really everything Norm does. It seems like he’s really thrilled to just work with people.

MS: Yeah, and he doesn’t have any misgivings or confusion about whose work it is. Like I’ve asked him that and he’s like “yeah it’s their work. They hired me. I did a job.”

LPZ: Right.

MS: You, know for the rest of us. I think the show brings up those questions in a more powerful way.

LPZ: Well yeah, and you know a lot of younger artists make a living working for more established artists. I myself have done that. I worked for Laura Owens for a short time. But I feel like in that environment a lot of artists are kind of looking forward. Like where will this get me…What’s the next thing? Maybe that artist who’s a little more established can kind of help or kind of further their own career as an artist. So there’s almost like this it’s almost like a pecking order. It implies a certain lineage of like “okay this is the older artists it’s their turn to wait in line and then eventually like I’ll get there and have my own assistants” and whatnot. But I I love that with Norm, this is just kind of what he does. I mean it’s his career. He’s not kind of expecting to fall into that hierarchy but he just kind of keeps going.

MS: Yeah I mean he does his own work. Where he’s you know he’s showing it AWHR. Now he’s shown at Mandujano cell, which as an artist-run space in Inglewood. So he’s had other shows but you know his bread and butter is working for artists and galleries, or whoever hires him.

LPZ: So yeah he’s definitely able to kind of exist in both worlds without the mental conflicts that a lot of artists can have. It’s really hard, and a lot of artists…you know I hear this a lot where we want to protect ourselves if we’re working for another artist. Like the minute you start offering creative input, you’ve gone too far. You know, where you want to really be a brush for hire and not someone who’s like “oh but what if you did it that way.” Because then it’s like the lines get so slippery. But again, Norm doesn’t seem to…I mean it seems like such a collaboration with him that he could potentially offer ideas or input. And he’s happy to do that.

MS: Yeah that’s why I think the show raises the question of “whose work is that?” Not in a way of like “we have to figure out who the real artist is,” but just making us aware that just because one artist’s name is on a work doesn’t mean there isn’t a whole crew or more people involved in bringing that to realization. It’s funny, at a talk at the ICA (where he don’t think he’s been on any of these panels)…they’ve had a lot of talks and you know [Norm’s] just in the audience. But they give him a mike to ask a question or answer a question, and he was like “well you know there’s other people who are involved, like the stretcher bar company, or the people who make the canvas.” You know he just sees himself as part of the entire process.

LPZ: Right.

MS: Yeah, I think as the art world really gets more and more market driven, It’s like everything needs to be broken down into categories and assigned names.

LPZ: And also, for a museum to highlight that I think that’s really refreshing. You know a lot of times museums collect according to market value and things like this so it’s really refreshing to see that the ICA…

MS: A non-collecting institution.

LPZ:  Right. But you know to kind of flip that notion and instead expose this sort of production behind art, which is kind of the Boogeyman or something that’s never talked about openly.

MS: Yeah I mean…well it is and it isn’t. We all know Jeff Koons…

LPZ:  Has an army…

MS: Right. That’s the kind of a stereotype or the cliche that he’s got a studio of 40 assistants and he never touches the paintings. You know I think for all of us who study art and make art and write about it, the artists not having not touching on work is something we’re used to. Right. Tony Smith calls in instructions. So it’s not something that we have a problem with.

LPZ: Right.

MS: But I think to highlight those often unappreciated collaborators is what’s meaningful.


Lindsay Preston Zappas:

To follow up on my conversation with Matt, I thought who better to talk about Norm then Norm himself? So in this conversation, I am joined by Norm Laich as well as artist Amanda Ross Ho. Norm and Amanda have been friends for quite a while and have collaborated on many of Amanda’s artworks. In our conversation the two of them describe how they first met. What’s influenced their friendship, work, and collaborations, and some of the more technical aspects of Norm’s production process. Here’s Amanda and Norm on how they first met:

Amanda Ross Ho: Norm and I met…Let’s see. This would be probably 2004 in the context of my partner Erik Frydenborg and I being in graduate school at USC. And for some reason Eric and I both had in our minds at that time to use wall graphics, both as part of the work but also as didactic text and stuff. So, I believe it was David Bunn who maybe connected us with Norm in terms of just…I think the very first thing that we needed to just literally some wall vinyl with our names on. And so we ended up going I think to Norm’s shop just to do that really pragmatic need. One of the interesting things about working with Norm right from the bat was that he was cognizant of the fact that we were students and so we probably came into the whole scenario saying “and also can you give us a lowdown deal, because we’re poor.” And so one of one of the parts of the process that Norm does his shop is that when cutting vinyl lettering or stencils there’s this kind of laborious part where you have to remove all the negative space from the vinyl and that’s a very time-consuming process.

LPZ: Called weeding?

ARH: Right. So Norm offered us kind of a little bit of like a work exchange type of thing where he said “okay well how about this: I’ll cut the vinyl for you, and you can come to my shop and do the weeding and I’ll give you a discount.” And we said okay.

Norm Laich: I don’t like to weed very much. [laughs]

LPZ: I mean, really, who does?

ARH: It’s all in the name…it’s just like it’s a chore. So I believe that the first…I mean essentially what ended up happening was we ended up doing a bunch of different projects with Norm not just for you know pragmatic kind of didactic text but for projects that were much more elaborate. Specifically Erik used vinyl stencils for a series of pieces that were insanely detailed and so the weeding took a long time. So by proxy of that, we would spend a lot of time at Norm’s studio, and by proxy that after you know 7th hour of weeding we’d inevitably go to a liquor store next door and pick up a six pack and hang out and basically became friends. So that’s the short version of the story, right? What am I leaving out my forgetting?

NL: Well I think the main thing I would say is that when you guys showed up—and they showed up with a bunch of doughnuts and coffee—and you’re like alright these guys can hang out. [laughs] And also, it was interesting that I saw that you guys were like a team and you worked on each other’s projects.

ARH: That remains true.

NL: Yeah that was kind of unusual to me.

ARH: You were like, “what’s up with these freaks?” [laughs]

NL: No I liked it. I though, this is refreshing…it’s a new situation I haven’t experienced that often. And also I also became a friend very quickly. Sometimes when you meet people you’re always like instant friends which was really pretty cool. Yeah but that’s one of the advantages of my business: I get to meet a lot of artists that I become friends with. Not just, you know, doing work for them.

LPZ: Right. So OK so how does this transition from what you guys are students bringing in six packs and doughnuts and treats and bribes…and then let’s talk about how working with Norm potentially evolved some ideas for the two of you of what was possible in your work. Because you say you start with the vinyl text, and then we have Erik making elaborate stencils. How did that maybe influence your artistic conception of a project?

ARH: Yeah I think it’s a weird thing to say, but Erik and I always talk about the role of labor in our work and I think we both think of ourselves as kind of like working artists, if that makes sense. We like to really kind of get into processes in kind of an anatomical way, and it’s something that both of us share in terms of the way that we end up immersing in, not just the end result of something, but the procedural kind of…you know the process of making something. And so, I mean I think one of the things that’s really great about Norm’s shop is that it’s also his studio. And so you’re amongst the other artists projects—or the commercial projects in some cases—that he’s doing. He also has his own artwork that is evolving and kind of moving through this space. And so every time that we would go there, it was also a studio visit. Like you’d sort of learn what he was up to, what he was working on…his role as someone who works with so many other people. Like he was synthesizing their work. And there was like the real fluidity in terms like exchanging and consuming their work as artwork and then consuming commercial data, like printed matter. And you know other things.

So it’s definitely kind of a I mean definitely an energized space because it’s his studio space, not just a production space. So I think that—not really answering your question—but I think that having this sensation of like a very nutritious experience like going over and working on something and getting something done but then also kind of like talking about a bunch of other people’s ideas and all the work in the past. So we became intimately familiar with you know the history of his production that he’d been working on, and you know seen kind of documentation and evidence of those past projects that we had read about in catalogs before we even moved [to L.A.].

So we were kind of getting this history through him which for me is always really interesting to sort of, you know, get a scholarship through a different avenue. So not through the canon, but through like a person whose hands were on these things. We had a natural chemistry that just came from you know all the reasons why you like a person: humor and intelligence and smartness and all that stuff. But also we shared, I think in some way, this deep ethic of being makers and we shared that kind of intellectual curiosity. So we would just have a lot to kind of like exchange at those times. So I think, you know, if you know Norm he’s also just like an incredibly straightforward earnest authentic human being, and yeah it’s hard to find those people. So, when well when you find someone like that you hold them close. Like real friends…so anyway I think we had like a creative chemistry, but it’s also a Midwestern thing.

NL: But I like the way Matt was talking about process, because that is a very important part that I’ve seen of her work. A major part of it. One of the first pieces I saw was this piece she was working on—one of the drywall pieces—and then in front of that drywall piece was all the spray cans you used to spray all kinds of graffiti style painting on it.

LPZ: Right.

NL: And that was the one I wanted. Somehow that slipped away. I wanted that piece myslef.

ARH: Oh, that can be arranged Norm. It’s still in storage.


NL: You gotta deal!

LPZ: Alright!

NL: But yeah I really admire that about Amanda, because I’ve always been interested in the process. In terms of artists that focus on process as opposed to the finished precious object. When I was going to school, there was more emphasis on process. It was more about the journey to the point of having a finished piece. That journey of the process was just as important as the finished thing. And, Amanda, like those 4×8 drywall pieces are like a great example of process art. And I think we’ve gotten away a little bit from that, and back to the focus zeroing in on the object without even thinking about.

So the show had a little bit to do with that too…trying to bring attention back to the process, as opposed to my specialty. The show is called Brush for Hire. So my specialty was the painting part of processes, where there was paintings or sculpture installation pieces. But there’s other people getting involved also in other aspects of fabricating the piece

LPZ: Right.

ARH: Well I would say like in terms of the idea of process, I mean there’s obviously a bunch of different ways that that kind of manifests in art making, but I think in one way that it’s used is uses like a little bit less direct. Which is more of, like a you know, a Baldesarri kind of implication, in which I think probably to begin—and I think he talks about this a bit in terms of how he talked about his initial collaboration with you—was more like a form of ventriloquism where it was about using a really particular hand in order to produce something that was about detaching from the sort of authorship of the artist, and so that becomes like a different way to use that process. Not as just a singular thing, but that can have a conceptual implication in a myriad of ways.

So I think that like, yeah there’s a bunch of different ways to think about process in that way and Baldesarri is a great example of one very particular way, but you could probably sit here all afternoon kind of thinking about how some of the other artists that you work with kind of use it. Some of it is maybe more you know having to do with the way that some of those traditional sign painting techniques are currency in the world already. And it’s a form of appropriation.

NL: Yeah it’s anonymous, sign painting. No one knows who did it.

ARH: Right yeah.

LPZ: Yeah but some projects are much more straightforward with your involvement, and than others are much more involved. I mean the Mike Kelly piece seems like an obvious example of a piece that you’re heavily involved in the construction of, and kind of masterminding the making of it. How technique is applied to how the images are going to be applied to the wall.

NL: Well and that piece was planned that was for the Helter-Skelter show at MOCA in 1992 and Mike came to me with the plans, and he sort of just handed it to me and took off. Because his career was just starting to shoot off into the stratosphere. And he had all these different projects all going on at once. And, he knew from me working with him or other projects that I could take his thing and just treat it as like say like a billboard project…Which is pretty straight forward as far as a commercial process applied to making art instead of selling product. Like you drive out on the highway and see billboards and then they’re advertising liquor and cars, or cigarettes.

He realized that I could take what he gave me and just use a similar process to blow up these crazy cartoons on the walls of the piece. And then, basically—which I was glad about—he wasn’t even there when we painted it. He just showed up and pretty much it was pretty much done. I think he did some final…a few little final touch ups.

But you know it’s like it’s so weird because it’s like the originator of the idea, Mike Kelley, he was sort acting as the foreman of a project. And then myself and about six other people were all just you know doing the billboard painter part of it. Producing it.

LPZ: Right.

ARH: I feel like it’s fair to say that Mike was probably very well aware of all the implications of that and even that attachment was authored. Right? Like, that that became an important part of how the piece was made. I mean, the images are from Xerox machines, and so that kind of like generation loss and that kind of level of translation are built into the piece. In addition to sort of like the larger conceptual conceit of the project. So, it feels like he’s not someone who is not in control of every sort of aspect of the work.

LPZ: Sure.

ARH: And so it’s an interesting thing to think about. Of course he was busy, but also I have to think that that was in his mind and you were able to form with him this level of trust that he was able to sort of know that whatever kind of variations that could possibly take place through your hand would be something that he would want in the piece.

LPZ: Right. Yeah. Well I want to talk about the specific method. I mean you’re just talking about it as billboard painting but you use methods that date back to the Renaissance, right? And is that standard for Billboard painting?

NL: Well, it used to be. But now, most billboards aren’t painted..unless it’s a one of a kind on the Sunset Strip I think.

LPZ: Yeah right.

NL: Because most billboards now are digital or vinyl, and they are like wallpaper.

ARH: Digital wraps..

NL: Yeah, they’re applied to existing structures, and you see these guys up there just unrolling vinyl and applying it.

LPZ: Yeah but the process you use, as you said this maybe was an old school method for billboard painting called Pouncing, right?

NL: Pouncing Yeah yeah.

LPZ: Tell us about that. Because I think it’s really interesting that, you know, as technology has adapted (as you’re saying people are using vinyl on billboards instead and there are things like projectors, and vinyl plodders and other techniques, that I’m sure you use as well at times) that you maintain some of these methods that are a little more analog.

NL: Yes. First a projector would be used to project the image on paper and draw it on paper and then perforate the lines. That’s the pouncing part. Where you go along the lines and burn little holes with an electric pencil. The Renaissance way was they would just they would draw on paper just so that they didn’t have to draw it on the wall or the ceiling especially. Cause, it would be hard to draw these perspective scenes out on the ceiling. So they would draw it in their studio first and get all that corrections on the paper and then they would have like a tool that was like a call a pounce wheel.

ARH: They use it in textiles too. It’s like a little wheel with little spikes on it.

LPZ: Like a little pizza slicer..

NL: And then that makes all the holes. And then that would be taped to the wall where they wanted to paint, and rub it with like a powder usually charcoal powder. And that would go through the little holes out to the wall and then take the paper off and you’re ready to paint. This process we used for Mike’s piece. Although, we used a projector, we’re not just drawing it by hand.

LPZ: Sure sure yeah. So you’re integrating some of the more updated..

NL: Yeah, and then using the electric pencil instead of the pounce wheel. It’s like a stylus with a metal tip that’s then hooked up to the electrical box and as you go along the line, it burns a little hole.

ARH: But you still have to have a steady hand right? And precision.

NL: It depends on the design, like for Kelley’s you could be looser because you know, it was rougher…these multi-generation back cartoons, and that kind of thing. And we wanted it to look rough. I think when Mike came in he actually went around and made things a little rougher. He made it look more…

ARH: Decrepit.

NL: Yeah decrepit, that’s a good word.


ARH: But, there’s a good story about the pounce pattern with Mike’s piece, right? Because it exists only that way (as far as I remember talking to you about). Which I think it’s kind of an interesting situation. Like the pattern that was used (and correct me if I’m wrong Norm), but the pattern that I used at the ICA was literally the same pattern had been made and  used in Helter-Skelter, which means that incredibly analog situation.

NL: Yes. So it was saved in Mike’s, the attic of his studio. Luckily they found everything.

ARH: Otherwise there would have had to be a sort of elaborate digital kind of like recreation of that whole thing. Which could be done of course, but using the same thing is really quite beautiful.

LPZ: And really amazing that what is saved from that piece is your stencil. Like that becomes the archived aspect of the artwork.

NL: Yeah, the pounce pattern.

LPZ: Yeah because that’s how it’s recreated right? And the drywall can be redone, and thrown away and can be bought.

NL: Yes. It’s being torn down as we speak I think

ARH: Well I remember going to your studio, like the very first time and there’s a black and white silver gelatin print of the Helter-Skelter piece like hanging on his wall, and just talking to Norm about that piece and just asking him a million questions. It’s like an alternate form of education. I was like, tell me everything about working on this project. Like you know what I mean? It was crazy to see it again—for me even, having not seen Helter-Skelter in person. And I can only imagine for folks who had seen it, and for Norm especially to see it again. You know just to see it after talking about it so much, and knowing it historically. It was almost like an intense psychic thing.

LPZ: To see it again at the ICA.

NL: Yeah, a lot of people told me that they had seen it in books or catalogues. Seeing the person really made a big difference, of course. Christopher Knight, from the L.A. Times, called it a masterpiece.

ARH: It is a masterpiece. It’s undoubtedly a masterpiece. No question.

LPZ: I mean, we’re talking about the Sistine Chapel, but this is not far off.

NL: It’s L.A.’s Sistine Chapel. [laughs]

LPZ: Right, all right so let’s talk about your piece in the exhibition [Amanda]. So you have a piece of work included in the ICA show. It’s called A Very Rough Proposal, right.

ARH: A Very Very Very Rough Proposal.

LPZ: Very very very.

ARH: Yeah, it’s actually a fragment from a larger piece. Actually, the original context was that it was made was for an exhibition (it wasn’t even a very old piece—it was 2016 I think) that was in Mexico. And essentially the kind of conceit of the project was that I was designing an installation for a space that I hadn’t seen. And so the idea was that typically that’s not the first time I had done that and so there’s always this kind of interesting kind of conjecture space, where you’re kind of like looking at photographs, looking at maybe some shitty iPhone videos, and just trying to get a sense of what the space is actually going to be like. And then inevitably there’s like just a bunch of scribbling into a floor plan. And so what I had done was I was kind of like just working on you know making this space, and doing measurements, and translating from metric, and all of these things into this floorplan of the literal gallery in Guadalajara. And inevitably that just produces all of this like data: like there’s just like measurements and calculations and things like that.

Anyway so in the end what I ended up doing was taking all those calculations and translating them into vinyl via Norm, and then we plastered the space with them so it was like…it was just a recursive space of like measuring the room, and you know sort of like…

NL: Scribbling…

ARH: Yeah, and then also just like negotiating the floor plan, and so everything was kind of just kind of like acknowledgment of like that of that transaction. And it turned into something that I wrote on the floor plan and sent to the gallery: “This is a very very very rough proposal of what I’m going to do.” And then that just ended up being the title. So that’s just one tiny fragment from this kind of larger room-sized immersive thing that I’d done.

LPZ: So, then what was your end of that Norm? So, Amanda sent you these scribbles, and how does how do you take it from there?

NL: Yes I like scribbles too. So, I was like, oh great, scribbles!

ARH: Norm is a scribble fan.


NL: So what she did was she sent me an illustrator file, or a PDF file, or a file that is compatible with my sign software that I could bring you to a computer, with a list of sizes for each..scribble, or what should we call it?

LPZ: I know, I feel like scribble is a little reductive…

ARH:  No no. Literally the files were called like “scribble one,” “scribble two,” “scribble three.” [laughs]

NL: So then, I made her up a package of those at the size she needed, and she threw him in her backpack and took off her Guadalajara.

ARH: I just took them with me on the plane. There were some other objects that were made there. But, kind of like largest part of the presentation I was just on a roll. Which I like doing.

At that point, we were kind of just emailing things. I think in the beginning sometimes I would come into the studio and we like scan something right there or something. Or…

NL: Figure things out at the studio…

ARH: Or we’d work on it on your computer. But this was very straightforward and the translation was kind of like really kind of a one to one at that point. So that was pretty automated into that stage.

NL: But then, of course that’s vinyl, and people were—you know, the show is called Brush for Hire—So there is these pieces that are vinyl, and people were saying, well that’s not brush work. So I do other things besides brush. Right.

LPZ: Right. So you have the Lawrence Wiener on the floor.

NL: Oh yes. I like how Matt talked about that piece. About how when the show is over it just gets rolled. Yeah. Peeled off the floor bunched up into a ball and thrown in the dumpster. [laughs]. It’s interesting to think about a Lawrence Wiener piece that way. You think about Lawrence Wiener being a blue-chip artist. But it is an actual thing that happens with a lot of like temporary pieces..

LPZ: And text based…

NL: It just gets thrown out like trash.

LPZ: I mean a lot of the work in this show will be thrown away. I mean you’re vinyl, Lawrence Wiener…Obviously the work on canvas is a little different but the mural, the Arturo Herrera mural, will all get painted over. The Mike Kelly will exist only as your stencils. So it’s a really interesting aspect. Especially for someone like Lawrence Wiener, that’s so…I mean his work sells for…

NL: Yeah. He sells work. You know collectors that don’t throw it out. Of course they install it in their house.

ARH: But if they have to move it let’s say they move houses or paint over it and you know they own the idea.

LPZ: Sure.

NL: And that’s one of the cool things about Lawrence Wiener is that it could be done at different sites. It can be resized to go to a specific site.

LPZ: Is there a technique that you really look forward to implementing? I mean you say you don’t always use a brush. Do you prefer the brush, do you prefer vinyl? I mean, your work personally is really hand painted.

NL: Yeah I think I prefer using the brush. Vinyl is something that’s a little bit mechanical. You know, a machine cuts out the vinyl. As opposed to being brushed all by hand. So I guess I’m a little old school that way. And then I’ve done like so much vinyl for exhibition graphics and museums and galleries and I’m burned out on it a little bit. I don’t mind doing like the work that Amanda has in vinyl, because to me, whatever works best is what you should do. I think in that situation, the vinyl works the best. But as far as museums and galleries, it’s just the same stuff over and over.

LPZ: Yeah so it’s not as exciting as collaborating with an artist and kind of carrying out a vision which it really seems like that’s your thing.

NL: When I was 40, the midlife crisis thing was going on a little bit…

ARH: Oh, is that what happens?

NL: Maybe a lot! [laughs] And I decided to stop doing MOCA, and other galleries because I was so sick of it, and specialize and for artists. But of course I had to take about a 50% pay cut when I did that. So I was taking a risk because more than half my business was doing museum and gallery work.

LPZ: Which is much more straightforward vinyl….

NL: Right, although you’re working with crazy museum and gallery people with crazy deadlines.

ARH: But it’s also predictable’s going to happen every month or two.

NL: Yeah, every show they would call in. “We need you again, we need you.”

LPZ: So let’s go back to this transition. So you took a pay cut you’re saying. To privilege artists over institutions or galleries.

NL: Right and I had to work my way back up to…I don’t know if I did make it back all the way. But it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m paying the bills.

LPZ: Yeah right. Yeah I think Matt and I talked about this a little bit—and he writes in his article—that when you’re asked about it, like I’m asking you now, you’re just like “well I’m good. I’m paying my bills.” Like it’s not about money.

NL: Well, L.A.’s not cheap. So you have to make your money. [laughs] But, to me. I guess I was a training as an artist going through art school in the ‘70s, it was more anti-precious objects, more process oriented. I sort of got that idea in my head that most artists are never going to make…you know like it’s like the one percent are the people that actually make enough money. You know a lot of money. So why even worry about it? Just enjoy doing the art, which is worth a lot in itself. So, as opposed to working in the office 9:00 to 5:00. There’s definitely way more freedom in this field. And you know to have control of your what you want to do, and not have some boss yelling at you.

LPZ: Right.

ARH: Fuck the man. We don’t want the man.

LPZ: Get him out. (or her). [laughs]

NL: But especially in Hollywood. You know it’s so obvious that there’s only a few people that you know make really big money. I think just people get hung up on that.

ARH: I think ultimately you have this really healthy relationship to all of this stuff, right. Like you’re not someone who’s like you know abstaining from these market mechanisms, or not participating or whatever. But then you also have this kind of a healthy perspective about those things can actually be feed the soul or not. Or like which things are bullshit. And so there’s like a total lack of pretension in the way that you kind of approach this stuff and I think that’s really rare, and hard to hard to maintain without becoming bitter. So yeah especially for how many artists that you’ve worked with, who you know, had a ton of glory and financial success and all these other things. You’ve never gotten bitter. And I just think that’s remarkable.

LPZ: It really is.

ARH: He just loves art. He loves it. And, you can’t unseat that.

LPZ: Yeah, but do you feel like for you Norm that was like a palpable choice you made: to kind of pursue your own happiness in a way and just do projects you like? And to have to divorce yourself from that kind of market conversation in your own brain?

NL: Well, it isn’t like I never tried to have shows. I was always making work. But for some reason I could never break through to the commercial gallery system. I’ve always shows with artist run spaces. But, you know it’s like Amanda was saying earlier, that time just flies by. And faster and faster the older you get. And it’s like, you start wondering you know like, well you know, what’s important and what’s not? And you know you realize that chances are you’re not going to be selling paintings for a billion dollars each. It’s like well why get hung up about that?

LPZ: Sure.

NL: You know. Just be happy to be able to be making art and not having to dig ditches. When I was going to art school—I went to like three different schools one in Detroit and two in Toronto—and like I was like as broke as you can get. [Amanda laughs] You should see pictures of me. I was like thin..very thin. All the people that you go to art school with, they were all really broke too.

ARH: Makes you resourceful.

NL: Well it makes you bond better. Like we’re all in this together.

ARH: Mutual poverty.

NL: It’s probably some of the best years in my life was just hanging out with this group of people that were on the same boat. Like it didn’t stop us from partying, just because we were broke.

LPZ: You find a way. If anything partying gets you through it.

ARH: Or it just is it. It is it.

NL: Yeah because when school is done that everybody disperses the four corners of the earth right.

LPZ: Well I think, we all as artists get into art because we like these kind of early experiences of it being fun. It’s just, you know, putting pencil to paper, the kind of amazing feelings you get from creating in the early days right. But then like you get into it more. And, Amanda, I’m sure you’ve experienced this a lot in your career, as you get more noticed, and you show more, and you sell more, and it changes that relationship. There are other factors to consider. And it’s so so refreshing Norm that you’re just like “well you’ve got to enjoy life.” Enjoy your relationships, enjoy what you’re making. Because, I think a lot of us as artists get kind of swampy thoughts because we’re…we have these market ideas always biting at our heels.

ARH: Or not or even market necessarily, but in terms of like human achievement. You know, to think about success in a particular way. And it’s very hard to sort of not…

LPZ: Well it’s hard to unseat success with market success. I think that’s how a lot of us think about it, and I love your kind of flipping that on its head and saying like no success is actually just sustaining what you do. And I think that’s a really beautiful idea that I would love to talk about more openly. You know, just like sustaining over the long run.

ARH: You know in whatever kind of like assessment, your career has been less of a commercial career but you haven’t gone a day not making art. You know what I mean? That impulse never is hampered for you.

NL: Another aspect is, when you’re part of the art community, even if you’re not selling work in a commercial gallery, you have friends that are pretty much equal to you. You know it’s But you can trade work with each other. I always tell that to people. It’s interesting like how I’ve had these paintings that people wake up to in the morning.


LPZ: That’s a very intimate space

ARH: That could be its own show. Like the paitings people wake up to.

LPZ: Bedroom paintings. I love that.

NL: There’s an artist, Karen Carson in the show. And so she has one of my paintings in her bedroom and her husband and her wake up to it every day. It’s a painting of an abandoned hotel that’s very rough, maybe not abandoned, there are cars parked out from a crummy roadside hotel motel, right. And then the text reads along the top and bottom reads, “wake up in the morning and find yourself dead.”


NL: Which is an old Jimi Hendrix blues song but Jimi Hendrix did a version of that.

LPZ: Oh my god that’s great.

NL: But they see that every morning when they wake up.

LPZ: This is sort of a side note/ departure, but you looked to James Rosenquist and he’s a billboard painter, or he was when he got started, and that’s kind of how he supported himself as a young artist. But I think now that we’re talking about your work there’s a lot of connections between his work and yours. As far as sourcing imagery from ads. His was less text based I guess.

NL: He would have fragments of text that would float around in his. But, his technique was to take billboard imagery and make it more like a surrealistic collage in a pop way. So you that pop, surrealist, advertising imagery in a mix. That was pretty unique when he came out right. That’s why artists complain about. People put a label on it. Oh that’s just pop. But his work does have more layers than just pop.

LPZ: Oh yeah I actually just saw a retrospective of his. Yeah a lot of those works I had never seen before. You know you see kind of like the major hallmark pieces by him, but some of the works in that show were so surreal start to get really trippy.

NL: Yeah. So in the time I discovered him, that was during the trippy time.. late 60s early 70s psychedelia. So it fit in with that kind of scene that was going on. I was talking about him because I was looking for a way or thinking when I was in high school, how was I was going to make money. And I saw that work by Rosenquist and I thought, hey I really like that. Maybe that’s a way to go to be my side job to earn money. So, to be a sign painter. I started working for a company in Detroit that was actually painting billboards on the freeways in Detroit. And like I was saying, using the same process for those as we did in the Mike Kelley piece.

ARH: Also from Detroit.

NL: So, Detroit Detroit Detroit. [laughs] Even I didn’t like Detroit.

LPZ: You didn’t?

NL: Yeah, I wanted to move.

LPZ: Well now the truth comes out. You had all these horrible names for all the suburbs. Norm was telling us…Anal Ville, Stinky Town…

NL: Stinkser, Garbage City, Wasteland…

LPZ: So what about Detroit?

NL: I mean, should I get into a Detroit bashing thing? I mean it was a very contemporary art oriented city. There was like the Detroit Institute of Art, that was the art I grew up with. And there was some great stuff there…especially the Diego Rivera murals, just a masterpiece. But there wasn’t a gallery scene to speak of. There was one alternative space in Greektown downtown. I must have been like about 20 shows. One alternative space and they would always have these you know juried shows and I’d be in them. It’s funny because most of the paintings I was doing, they were cowboys and I ended up out in the West. I didn’t even know, I just had this thing in my head of painting cowboys.

ARH: You have a long history of cowboy usage.

NL: So I felt isolated especially after I moved from Toronto which is more cosmopolitan city. So I felt isolated in Detroit. So I graduated from Eastern Michigan University and it was basically like, I gotta move to New York or L.A…and I chose L.A.


Lindsay Preston Zappas: Welcome to Dear Carla. The segment where we answer a listener-submitted question about the art world. You can submit your question on Instagram or write to us at podcast@contemporaryartreview.LA. We’ve asked Amanda Ross Ho to stay on to answer this listener submitted question and here to read the question is Carla intern, Charlotte Renner:

Charlotte Renner: Dear Carla, I’ve heard from professors that I shouldn’t share my work on Instagram or social media. Is this really true? Should artists be careful about sharing work for fear of being copied or ripped off? Or do the benefits of sharing work on Instagram outweigh these concerns. Is Instagram a viable way to reach a new audience or a potential gallery?

LPZ: And here’s Amanda:

Amanda Ross-Ho: I think that the most important way to unpack this question is to kind of think about what its implication is, and I think the thing that strikes me right away is that the nature of the question proposes that there is one way to do this right, and one way to respond to that. From my perspective as a professor, one of the things that I think comes into play when talking about professional practice that gets very murky is—that I ask of my students and ask of the artists that I care about and love and collaborate with—to invent the way that you participate in all these mechanisms. So for me to even say what is true or not true is flawed just right off the top. That said, I think that also one of your jobs as an artist is to take the tools that are available to you and figure out a provocative way to misuse them, and also to think about what they can afford and what they can open up. I am not saying I’m for the absence of social media. No, I use it. But am I interested in kind of the problems that it brings up and what you can then exploit in a good way from it? Yeah. So I think that like the question is a tricky one because I think that it introduces a problematic. Like what visibility is versus a world in which perhaps this person’s professors are a different generation who lived in a world as a young artists kind of coming up where that inherent widespread visibility was not necessarily available or desired.

LPZ: Right.

ARH: So I think one of the things about social media that’s really complicated is that it creates a condition for things to be opaque…or opacity is now rare. So like being able to discover something is less and less possible except via this kind of like mechanism of a sharing kind of culture. So I think that it’s like using it responsibly and using it carefully.

Also social media has the problematic of creating a false sense of nutrition that we see having or that we’ve experienced something. And then I think as young people who are you know working in visual culture, I think it’s really important to think about like what is it truly engendering…what is it truly transmitting becomes this sort of false sense of transaction I think. I mean yes it’s a transaction. It’s a real transaction but it has a different kind of currency than the transaction of direct engagement, and I worry—I’m just being honest..and I I’m on all the stuff, sorta. You know, I’m not abstaining, I’m not advocating that. But I’m saying you know like if you look at that kind of landscape (look at your feed so to speak), you can see that some people and their existing human anxieties are amplified and distorted through this medium and that can get very dark and get very problematic.

Can you find a gallery on Instagram? Sure.  It happens all the time. Can you find people that you are aligned with? Yeah. It has a lot of benefits because you can you can find things very easily…but in that mire there’s a lot of room for distortion, and there’s a lot of room for misunderstanding, and there’s a lot of room for kind of the sensation of exchange that I think actually isn’t necessarily substantiated. So I would say to use it in such a way that you do other tools. Take advantage of what it kind of provides, but also being cautious to capitulate to the way that capital or the market is using it. Because that’s become kind of like a foregone conclusion in terms of how things are sold to us now, how our profiles are built and all of that etc. stuff that other people have talked about more articulately than me, and studied more deeply than me.

But yeah I think as an artist…it has you know it has an implication for everyone (culture obviously). But for an artist it has a very specific kind of implication. I think we need to be careful. But I think we also need to think there’s ways and I’ve seen people use it in such a way that actually kind of considers the apparatus in a way that’s really interesting. And you can still—I hate this word—but you can still innovate within that harsh structure if you’re if you’re looking closely and you’re using it properly. Like any tool. So, it’s not that it’s like inherently an evil tool. It’s is proposing a much harder landscape to actually be creative in. That’s where I sit with that.

So, in terms of visibility, I mean this goes back to this thing you were saying earlier in my conversation with Norm about success. What is the goal? Is the goal absolute visibility or is the goal kind of like the evolution of a practice? And then does that visibility come as like a…can you cultivated other ways? Or it is that engineered into the practice that this ultimate… Like you know, some people have used that platform in a very particular way that it’s like suited and it fits. The work is kind of like almost sculpted to that space.

LPZ: Well yeah that’s something that’s really I think about a lot. Well on either side of it. The one side that certain work just looks better in that format. So privileges work that’s flat it privileges painting I would say. You know sculpture’s a little harder. But then also on the other side where someone posts something and get reaffirmed via the likes. So that becomes a new mode of acceptance or like…(and I’ve done this too). You know I post something I’m working on I’m like OK…what did people think about it based on the likes. And that I think is a really problematic..

ARH: That’s a human chemical impulse. Of course we do that.

LPZ: Yeah but I think that’s again like talking about looking at kind of success what is success and market success. But I think Instagram is kind of becoming another barometer for people of feedback loops.

ARH: Totally. And of all people on earth to like hold something recursive up the fire is like ridiculous…I’m like, you know a traffic in that. But I worry about like a certain kind of experience that is directed and about kind of looking. And finding being outmoded or becoming extinct. Like the idea that like you have to look harder to find the people that you wanted to… You know if we’re trafficking in some kind of like subculture, it’s like a problematic for them to be in the same plane. Like how do you like how do you do that?

And so I think that like just as like a general thing, it would be interesting to think about opacity again. About visibility again. But of course that goes against what we think about as promotion promoting ourselves. So I think it’s about like what are the bigger goals? So can it accelerate certain things. Absolutely it can. Jet fuel all sorts of things because of its pure science. How many eyeballs. Whatever. Does it can it connect you to someone? Yeah. Can it ultimately satisfy that thing that you wake up every morning to do? I don’t know. I don’t the answer to that part. But I would say that there is no one answer. It’s to be aware of like all of the pitfalls and all of the ways that these tools work.

You have to also think about like how can you make something interesting within that space. I mean that in and of itself you know has a lot of potential. And as it evolves (because it changes you everyday)…I mean the Facebook of now versus whatever 2004 is like a totally different place obviously. Right. And then like the way it’s functioned in our larger culture has nothing to do with art. Like politics and all that stuff. But as artists specifically like just I would just advise the question asker to just not take those tools for granted, and to realize that every tool, Instagram or not (I didn’t care about Instagram) but like your camera, your paper. Every tool has parameters that can be used for what they are intended to be used for. And they also have this other possibility of being misused in a way that can be super interesting.

And within that space you have so many choices you have to pick how you want to have the ethic that accompanies your work. And that includes how you exist in social media space. Now that’s just part of the question that you have to answer. Am I going to participate in that? Am I going to capitulate to that? How am I going to present in those delivery systems? Or do you abstain? And that’s an option too. But I worry we forget what it means is in front of an object. And you know, so yeah that’s kind of a fraught answer. It’s a fraught question and there’s no one answer. As far as the stealing ideas thing…

LPZ: Yeah I was going to ask you. So yeah, the sort of copyright aspect of the question…

ARH: You know, certainly there’s like some really like nefarious shit that’s going on with people who are like putting the work into the world, and then like corporate structures stealing them putting them on you know dresses or clothing or whatever. Yeah but you know and that’s real. And that’s always going to happen. People are always going to steal ideas. I mean, Urban Outfitters is taking ideas from artists a fucking million years ago.

LPZ: Yeah but if it’s not on Instagram it’s a gallery…There are other pathways to rip people off. [laughs]

ARH: Yeah I mean I guess I think that’s a slippery slope. Certainly people steal ideas all the time and it’s frustrating, but at the same time I think like I’m sort of a romantic. A really iron clad idea can’t really be stolen. Or, it’s like especially given the tools. So like that’s like it’s an impossible slippery slope. I don’t know. That’s like, I get annoyed here and there like seeing things and I feel like…but also that’s what influence is. Not to pat myself on the back to say look I’m an influencer. I’m just saying… or I’ll see others influence, like that person is looking at this work. Not even my own. I’m just saying if you’re paying attention to a contemporary conversation…if there’s a conversation that’s being made contemporary, people are going to be influenced. Whether that’s stealing or not. I don’t know. I mean that gets very tricky. I don’t know how to answer it.

LPZ: Is it stealing or is it dialogue? You know, you can look at it many different ways.

ARH: Sure. It’s made way more complicated and distorting. I think the false sort of false promise of it is the thing that kind of freaks me out. And only recently I’ve sort of backed off just because I just literally don’t have time to deal with it. I have thumb fatigue. I’m just like I can’t. You know, there are times when I go hard on it, and I use it I use it in a way that has a particular kind of time signature. I try to think about I like use it in a way that makes sense. Or I try to use it in a way that makes sense You know it’s not art. It’s a different form. You know for me I’m like not a food [poster]…sometimes I do cats.

LPZ: Oh. Mine is just so many dogs.

ARH: There’s a lot of cats. But I’m not like a kitten poster. But anyway I don’t know. I hope that doesn’t feel like a bleak answer. Like that it’s hopeless and you’re just like good luck. But I feel like you know oftentimes students will ask about professional practice and I I find it a tricky thing. I feel like, you know it’s important to talk about the tools that are available and the ways that…the precedents that people have used to do things like promote. But I also think it’s important to sort of talk about is that even the goal. Like do you or I mean it’s an important question to have within that conversation. Why do we…why are we assuming that there is a singular goal?


Whose work is it anyways? — Norm Laich’s world as a brush for hire — The art of the collaboration — Is there a viable way to share your work on social media?