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
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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
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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

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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
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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
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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.)
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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
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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
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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.)
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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.)
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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.)
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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
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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
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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
Ace Hotel DTLA
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Blum & Poe
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art
David Kordansky Gallery
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
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
Karma, Los Angeles
Lorin Gallery DTLA
Lorin Gallery La Brea
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
New Low
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
r d f a
Rele Gallery LA
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Shulamit Nazarian
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
Libraries/ Collections
Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
CalArts (Valencia, CA)
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
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, Research Library (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Emerging Leaders of Arts (Santa Barbara, CA)
Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, ID)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Scholes Library (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
Room Project (Detroit, MI)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
The Baltimore Museum of Art Library & Archives (Baltimore, MD)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

Interview with
Jamillah James

Photo: Paul Mpagi Sepuya.

Jamillah James had, by her own account, a late start to curating. Her mother was a musician, and so she grew up playing—impressively— the violin, tuba, drums, and bass, and became heavily involved in the music scene while living in Chicago in her early 20s. James and her roommate put together shows in the basement of their Southside loft, where she says they brought experimental noise acts, “not just for the weirdos like me, but also people that look like me who felt like they didn’t really have a place in the scene.”

Between her time in Chicago and her first institutional curating gig in New York in 2010, James worked a variety of odd-jobs: Whole Foods; a “weird theater in Chicago that did an insane revival of Rocky Horror”; at Scholastic Books; and even as a nanny—a detail that, as James notes, most people that know her find “hilarious.”

Yet, over time, James was pulled toward the art world as the opportunity to build sustained, meaningful relationships with curators, writers, and artists felt increasingly important. It was during her time working in Baltimore that she committed fully to curatorial work, finding newfound freedom in the city’s supportive arts community. She slowly gained confidence in her ideas and embraced her identity as a curator. In 2010, James moved back to New York in part out of necessity, overcoming a catastrophic illness just as her career in curating began to get legs.

As her health recovered, she began a fellowship at the Queens Museum that would mark the start of her work in institutions. Since then, James has held curatorial posts at top museums—the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Hammer, and now, at the ICA LA—in what she calls a “quick ascent.” I recently sat down with James to discuss her background, career, and her thoughts on the responsibility of the museum to be accessible, accountable, and willing to learn from its public. She discusses the contemporary as something that is “actively unfolding” and is cognizant of a curator’s responsibility to respond and adapt to the changing times alongside her community.

Lindsay Preston Zappas: You’ve said that you’re late to curating—did you feel like you had to play catch up? Can you tell me about those early moments with “gatekeepers,” and how you acquainted yourself with the art world’s specialty knowledge?

Jamillah James: For a long time, and maybe in some respects [this is] still lingering, I had a lot of sensitivities about being an “older person” In my mid-, late-twenties, being in entry level art history courses and graduating school at 25. I had to hustle. I saw that [my peers] were hitting benchmarks really early and I thought, “Oh, I should be where they are, but I don’t know how.” And to be honest, it was also this barrier that I had in my mind—which may not have been too inaccurate— being a black woman in this field, and not being sure if I would have opportunities. It took a really long time for me to feel confident in my ideas, to put myself out there to really go for things that suited me well. Or to feel that I could bring something to the table.

LPZ: Did it stand out to you as sort of a “moment” went you got the job at the Queens Museum, and later the Hammer Museum? Was that palpable?

JJ: Huge! Hugely, hugely important. It was a new lease on life. I had survived this catastrophic health event. I was able to come back to New York, the city that I loved, and then I landed with an institutional gig in the city of New York. I moved here [to L.A.] five years ago, after 3 years at the Studio Museum in Harlem—which was pivotal and further life- changing for me—to be assistant curator at the Hammer, which was an incredible opportunity. I had no designs on moving to Los Angeles. I was enrolled in a PhD program that I was going to be starting at the University of Rochester that fall.

LPZ: And then the Hammer called.

JJ: And then the Hammer called. I have no regrets whatsoever. It’s the best and smartest decision I’ve made, to be here. I wouldn’t be here with you right now if it hadn’t been for the Hammer hiring me.

LPZ: What was it like to go to the ICA after your experiences working on a team of curators at other museums? At the ICA, you are the entire curatorial team. Was it freeing or daunting?

JJ: It’s an amalgamation of those things. It is an interesting proposition to [come] out of a situation where there is a team dynamic, where I was a junior curator on a team of some of the best curators working today. It was a steep learning curve, I’m not gonna lie—to be the person that’s in a position of management is a whole different ball of wax. It’s the vote of confidence that I’ve been looking for. I have the capacity and the opportunity now to work on larger projects that have historical scope or are more complex, and [I’m] actually assembling a program: I’m thinking about how things relate to each other and [about] being really responsible to our public by virtue of the things that we’re putting on the schedule.

LPZ: How do you balance feeling beholden to Los Angeles as a region with also looking outward to a larger art conversation?

JJ: We’re a city that has a lot of contemporary art museums of varying scales. There are so many great places that are making really fine exhibitions. So how do you move to distinguish yourself and your program? And I think the one thing I know that we’re committed to is really giving a place to artists that are in this city—not just focusing on the local but contextualizing the local across the country, across the international landscape. We have this flexibility that our larger institutions in the city might not have because we’re just operating on a shorter timeline. So we can operate between these longer term projects and then these shorter term projects that can be responsive.

LPZ: I think that’s so important because a lot can go down—as we’ve seen— in two years. So to have shows that are on the books for longer that you can cook with and sort of flesh out, but also have shows that kind of respond to this moment.

JJ: I think the thing to keep in mind is that the contemporary is still something that’s actively unfolding and its history is still actively being written and produced. So having a show that you’re preparing for five, six years can become very untimely very quickly. And I don’t want to be in a position where the work, the scholarship, that I’m doing and putting so much effort into—and [putting] time, blood, sweat, and tears into in the form of an exhibition— has to play catch up with what the present is.

LPZ: I want to talk about 1717.

JJ: Yes! So, 1717 is our egalitarian version of a museum membership where it’s a fixed amount that people pay to have access. People might think that museums are very period after exclusive. And that’s not a good thing. To democratize the model of development in a museum and how we reach out to people—but also have people engage with, and support the museum, and start thinking philanthropically—is something that is really critically important. $40 seems like a pretty okay amount, and the goal ultimately—which is a very lofty, but an incredible goal—is to have the museum be 100 percent crowdfunded, essentially, by its members.

LPZ: Is that viable?

JJ: It’s a really intense, high number, but we’re on our way. A lot of people have joined 1717, which is really incredible. It’s the brainchild of our astute and wonderful deputy director and director of development, Samuel Vasquez, who came up with this idea because we as museum workers are really exhausted by the idea that it has to be these mega-funders that support everything that we do. How can we open up the walls of the museum and open up the process of philanthropy to average people who are interested in being a part of a community?

LPZ: Not to mention the nefarious side of museum donors and boards: the money again and again is where the art world gets dark really fast.

JJ: We’re in a real place of reckoning right now with not just how museums are funded and supported and who’s doing that funding and supporting, but also the content of what’s being shown at museums. I mean, we’ve seen it on several occasions in the last couple of years where the public is really holding institutions to account, and institutions need to be flexible and accommodate that discourse if they’re going to improve. The museum is an imperfect structure, and there are so many places that it can expand and improve itself— from staffing decisions, to how it gets its money, to how inclusive its program is. Museums just need to work on not perpetuating the status quo, and not just replicating the systems and structures of power that we see every day and are subject to and oppressed by every day. I mean, [the art world] is not really a safe haven. We’re all living in and working through these conditions, and the things that are happening that are much larger impact the work that we do every day. We’re in a microcosm within a grander scheme of things, but the boundaries are so tattered, so blurry, and porous. We can’t just pretend that we’re working in a vacuum anymore. None of us are immune to having to be held accountable for our decisions. I know people can get fatigued by trying to do the right thing, but if there’s anyone that can really do the right thing, or try to do the right thing, I would hope it’s people within the art world.

LPZ: Why? What gives you that hope? Because we’re weirder?

JJ: A lot of just thinking about how many people, voices, sensibilities, and subjectivities come together in this field. There’s always room for improvement. There is dire improvement needed in so many areas, but I hope because we are, at our very basic, creative people. I think it’s an imperative: we’re citizens first—curators, writers, artists, whatever second—and just having a mindfulness and wanting to think about the future and what this world will look like after all of us are dead and gone. Not to be morbid about it, but what is the legacy that we want to have? What is the history that we want to have? What is it that we want people that succeed us to think about the work that we’ve done?

LPZ: I’m curious how you bridge that desire with the larger population outside of our little art world. People can feel intimidated by the museum, like they’re not free to have their own interpretation of a piece of work. How do you address that at the ICA?

JJ: Something that is important to me is making sure that people feel welcome at the museum because [the institution of] the museum has a lot of baggage. It has a lot of associations with privilege and exclusivity. I know this from a personal place, being a person who never felt that comfortable going to museums or couldn’t afford to go to museums. Museums are hard. Not everyone wants to go to one as much as you want them to. I mean there are museums that charge $25, and that’s like a meal; that’s a whole lot of things to a lot of people, and it might not necessarily be a priority to go to a museum. We’re free at the ICA, which is really important. We have bilingual didactics, which is important to speak to the vastness of the audience that we hopefully serve. We write to a certain reading level with our didactics because, I mean, honestly, I don’t wanna read a bunch of blather when I go to museums. I’m not gonna drag anyone, but sometimes it’s really tedious and it doesn’t need to be. There are very direct ways that you can talk to people without talking over them or talking down to them. I want to work in a world where I can talk to a colleague about a show in the same language that I talk to anyone else in my life who’s not an active participant in this field.

LPZ: We talked earlier about gate-keepers, and now you kind of are one. [Jamillah sighs]. There are so many hierarchies in the art world and the curator at the contemporary art museum is a pretty esteemed position. Can you speak to those hierarchies— are they bullshit, are they important? What can you tell young artists?

JJ: You know, I’m glad that there are gatekeepers. I’ve learned a lot from the gatekeepers I’ve worked with over time, and I still rely quite heavily on their expertise, support, and mentoring. I like to keep a low profile. I know that sounds like total and utter BS, but I like to do my work and mind my business. But at the same time, I like to be avail-able, particularly to younger people who are trying to figure this all out. If I can come with some of my expertise and do a studio visit with a student and have a very frank conversation with them about what they’re doing and introduce other ideas or other artists for them to look at or think about, that’s the fun thing for me—to impart what is allegedly my expertise—just to help them navigate the world, because it’s hard out here. Artists sometimes don’t think of what they do as a profession, which is a shame.

LPZ: I love these conversations because we’re all people, we’re all learning, we’re all growing, we’re all human. Professions are in so many ways self-taught, and you find your way through it.

JJ: I wish when I was younger that I had people that wanted to be generous and reach out, and it took a long time to get to the point where I had those people in my life who were really committed to mentorship and wanting to help the next generation of people come up. I don’t know, it’s like, why not?

LPZ: I love it.

JJ: I’m not going to be around forever, you know? So why not be generous and engage on as many levels as you can?

This interview was adapted for print from The Carla Podcast, Episode 14. Listen to the full hour-long interview with Jamillah on our website or wherever you get your podcasts.

This version was originally published in Carla issue 18

Jamillah James is Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. She is co-curator of the 2021 New Museum Triennial at the New Museum, New York. She has held curatorial positions at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the Queens Museum, New York; and organized many exhibitions, performances, screenings, and public programs at alternative and artist-run spaces throughout the US and Canada since 2004. She has contributed texts to Artforum, The International Review of African American Art, and various institutional exhibition catalogues. James is a visiting critic in the graduate department at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena.

Hammer Projects: Simone Leigh (installation view) (2017). Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Hammer Projects: Simone Leigh (installation view) (2017). Image courtesy of the artist and the Hammer Museum. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Lucas Blalock, An Enormous Oar (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artist and ICA LA. Photo: Elon Schoenholz/ICA LA.

Lucas Blalock, An Enormous Oar (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artist and ICA LA. Photo: Elon Schoenholz/ICA LA.

B. Wurtz: This Has No Name (installation view) (2019). Image courtesy of the artist and ICA LA. Photo: Brian Forrest/ICA.

Alex Da Corte: A Season in He’ll (installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the artist and Art + Practice. Photo: Brian Forrest/Hammer Museum.

Alex Da Corte: A Season in He’ll (installation view) (2016). Image courtesy of the artist and Art + Practice. Photo: Brian Forrest/Hammer Museum.

Lindsay Preston Zappas is an L.A.-based artist, writer, and founder and editor-in-chief of Carla. She is an arts correspondent for KCRW. She received her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2013.

More by Lindsay Preston Zappas