Attendees of the CAA Annual Conference in Los Angeles are invited to meet the editors-in-chief of The Art Bulletin, Art Journal, and caa.reviews at the CAA booth in the Book and Trade Fair. Discuss the journals, present your ideas, learn how to submit material for consideration, and ask questions. Richard Powell of The Art Bulletin, Judith Rodenbeck of Art Journal, and Lucy Oakley of caa.reviews will be at the booth on Friday, February 27, 2008, 10:30–11:30 AM.
Los Angeles is home to several internationally distributed art magazines, including the triannual Afterall and the quarterly X-TRA, both nonprofit publications. In June 2008, CAA News talked via email with Elizabeth Pulsinelli, executive editor for X-TRA, and Stacey Allan, associate editor of Afterall, about their respective magazines.
Los Angeles is home to four internationally distributed art magazines: the triannual Afterall and the quarterly X-TRA, both nonprofit publications, and two commercial magazines, Art Ltd and the newly created The Magazine.
In June 2008, Christopher Howard, editor of CAA News, talked via email with editors from the first two publications, Elizabeth Pulsinelli from X-TRA and Stacey Allan from Afterall, about their respective magazines.
X-TRA and Afterall
Cover of the Winter 2007 issue of X-TRA, with Marnie Weber, The Spirit Bear, 2007, wood, foam, resin, surfacing veil, acrylic paint, sword, rope, and casters, 120 x 56 x 50 inches (artwork © Marnie Weber)
Christopher Howard: Can you tell me about your backgrounds and how you came to your respective publications?
Elizabeth Pulsinelli: I joined the X-TRA editorial board a few years after I graduated with an MFA from CalArts. I was a founding member of the Project X Foundation for Art and Criticism, the nonprofit formed to act as publisher of the magazine. Later, I stepped down from the foundation to become the managing editor of X-TRA. I left that position to become the executive editor earlier this year. Before moving to Los Angeles several years ago, I received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Stacey Allan: I began as associate editor of Afterall in September 2007. Before relocating to Los Angeles to work for Afterall, I spent the last five years in New York working at nonprofit exhibition spaces such as the Kitchen and apexart, writing and curating independently, and earning my MA in curatorial studies from Bard College. Prior to that, I commissioned public-art projects for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and, like Elizabeth, earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
CH: X-TRA was founded in 1997, and Afterall started a year later. What was happening in the mid-1990s in Los Angeles that led to the formation of both publications?
EP: In the mid-1990s, students were pouring out of exciting programs such as CalArts, Art Center College of Design, and UCLA and staying in Los Angeles. There was an abundance of intelligent, provocative art and many venues in which to see it, but not a lot of forums for critical dialogue outside of the classroom. Stephen Berens and Ellen Birrell started Project X as a collaborative curatorial venture. But they soon realized that the small publications they were producing in conjunction with the exhibitions were filling a more pressing need than the shows. So, X-TRA was born to address the dearth of quality art writing in LA’s vibrant art scene.
SA: Afterall was founded in London by a curator, Charles Esche, and an artist, Mark Lewis, as a research and publishing initiative started at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. I can imagine that the post-YBA years in London were not terribly different from the scenario in Los Angeles that Elizabeth describes, with an outpouring of MFA graduates and a boom in artistic production, as well as commercial growth that created a need for critical discourse and reflection. In their foreword to the pilot issue of the journal in 1998, Charles and Mark emphasized the wider social, political, and philosophical context in which artists can act as critical intellectuals. I think the journal was, in part, also an appeal to artists to consider and hold on to their role as such.
CH: Afterall is a joint publication between CalArts and University of the Arts London. What are the journal’s specific ties to Los Angeles, and also to London?
Elizabeth Pulsinelli, executive editor of X-TRA
SA: The Los Angeles office was formed when Thomas Lawson (artist, writer, and dean of the School of Art at CalArts) joined Charles and Mark as a coeditor in 2002. Though I think we’re still often thought of as a London-based publication, we’re invested in Los Angeles and in maintaining the dialogue between those two cities that is the publication’s strength. I’m a new arrival, having just moved here from New York, but Tom has been in Los Angeles for almost twenty years now and, as an educator, has been deeply involved in the arts community and the development of a generation of LA-based artists. So providing a critical voice that is rooted here, and doing so within the context of an “international” publication—not just international in terms of geographical coverage or distribution, but also as an editorial and academic collaboration that aims to put the two cities in dialogue—is really of key importance. We’re also actively trying to strengthen our ties to the city by using our website to publish more local exhibition reviews and interviews with LA-based artists.
CH: How does X-TRA balance the support of a regional art community while sustaining a national—even international—audience?
EP: The regional art community in Los Angeles is an international art community. Our mission, first and foremost, is to promote and provoke critical dialogue about contemporary art. In addition, we also strive to be a publication of record for the artwork produced and exhibited in and around Los Angeles, which is recognized around the world as a major center for the production of contemporary art.
CH: How has X-TRA grown during the present decade, when other art magazines, such as Art issues and the New Art Examiner, folded?
EP: X-TRA is sustainable, in large part, because it is collectively edited by a group of about eight artists and writers. We have a powerful group dynamic with lively, contentious discussions. The writing in the publication reflects our sense that the arena of art criticism encompasses a broad and contested territory. At the same time, the collaborative process shields individual editors from burnout.
On a pragmatic level, the publishers have steered our growth along a slow but steady course. We also accomplish a great deal with the generous volunteer efforts of the editorial board and a tiny, efficient paid staff.
Cover of the TK issue of Afterall, with artist information TK.
CH: Afterall is structured like an academic journal, yet its contributors come less from the academic world and more from the amorphous contemporary art scene. By contrast, X-TRA is a newsstand art magazine but often publishes the same kinds of texts as Afterall by the same kind of diverse group of curators, artists, critics, and hybrids of all three. What are the freedoms and constraints of the two formats?
EP: The publishers’ decision to put X-TRA on the newsstand was motivated by a desire to reach a broader audience and increase our subscription base. The editorial board doesn’t tailor the contents to a newsstand context but rather strives to print the most interesting writing on art that we can generate. We don’t consider ourselves to be an academic journal because the readership of X-TRA is not predominantly composed of academics. Our readership is diverse—including artists, writers, curators, and people who look at and buy contemporary art. This broad audience gives us freedom. The expansive structure of the magazine and the breadth of our readership accommodate a wide range of subjects and writing styles.
SA: Like X-TRA, Afterall is distributed on newsstands and seeks that diverse readership. Our formats are actually quite different, though, because we don’t publish reviews or commission artists’ projects. We focus on four to five artists per issue and commission two in-depth essays on each. We also publish broader contextual texts written by art historians, critics, curators, artists, or whoever we feel can contribute an interesting take—our writers often hold academic positions, but I suppose, as you’ve mentioned, they just as often don’t. It may be that the focus and the longer format of the writing, in addition to our sponsorship, make us more like an academic journal than an art magazine.
In terms of freedoms and constraints, I think they primarily have to do with our publishing schedule—because Afterall comes out only three times per year, it is a little more difficult to stay ahead of the curve. At the same time there is great freedom in that, too.
CH: How does X-TRA’s nonprofit status compare to the academic sponsorship of Afterall? And both magazines lack the ad count of larger art glossies. How does an independence from advertisers help (or hurt) your publications?
EP: As far as we can tell, there is no clear economic model for art publishing. We are funded by a combination of grants and donations from private and public institutions and individuals, by advertising, and by subscriptions. A smaller proportion of our budget comes from advertising than some other art magazines, but we aren’t entirely independent of advertisers. We strive to have as diverse a funding base as possible so that we aren’t dependent upon, or beholden to, any single source.
Stacey Allan, associate editor of Afterall
SA: We are also nonprofit. We do receive significant support from two academic institutions and also from a relatively new partnership with the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (MuHKA, the contemporary art museum in Antwerp, Belgium). Foundation grants help out too, most notably the one we received from the Warhol Foundation. But we also rely on the support of our advertisers, and they advertise with us, I believe, specifically to show support.
CH: Speaking of the Warhol Foundation, how have your recent grants from the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation program for writing on art had an impact on your publications?
SA: The Warhol grant is particularly great because in addition to fiscal support, the foundation brought Afterall together with the other Warhol-funded nonprofit publications—including X-TRA, Cabinet, Art Papers, Bomb Magazine, Esopus, Art Lies, the Brooklyn Rail, and Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art—for peer-learning sessions in New York. That has been especially valuable because we’ve all been able to share information and see where we are working through some of the same issues, what solutions different magazines have come up with, and so on.
Much of our focus has actually been going into technology and establishing better systems for data management, which isn’t exactly glamorous but relates directly to how we can better reach out to and serve our readers. This allows us to use staff time on more interesting projects like planning a summer film series or researching new artists and writers for the journal.
EP: The grant that we received from the Warhol Foundation has had a tremendous impact on X-TRA. The funds significantly improved our production values. As a result, the physical appearance of the magazine is now on par with the high quality of the writing. We also have been grateful for the opportunity to network with other publications.
CH: Let’s take a step back from the magazines and talk about the LA scene. What galleries, artists, and programs are exciting to you? Feel free to be totally opinionated here.
EP: In the last ten years or so, it feels as if Los Angeles has settled into its role as a major center for art production. For example, a sizable number of artists in the 2008 Whitney Biennial—twenty-six by my count—live in the Los Angeles area; several more were educated here. LA’s position on the art-world map no longer seems like a contestable, fleeting phenomenon. My colleague Shana Lutker was commenting that Los Angeles seems to have taken the momentum of the last few years to establish some institutional support for its burgeoning art scene. Local nonprofits such as LA><ART, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), and Telic Arts Exchange seem to have stepped up their programming and are putting a lot of energy in the community that is not market-based. Recent MFA graduates are fueling investment in all kinds of communal activities.
In my opinion, the major museums such as MoCA and the Hammer consistently offer engaging programming. The commercial galleries that cover swathes of Culver City, Chinatown, and Santa Monica, plus many more scattered in between, make for a lively “scene.” I like to keep an eye on organizations and venues such as Smockshop, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Institute for Figuring, Materials & Applications, Machine Project, and Outpost for Contemporary Art. Every month brings far more to do and see than I could possibly manage. It’s not such a bad problem to have!
SA: I completely agree with Elizabeth and have a similar list of favorites. I’ve been in Los Angeles for a little less than a year, so I’m still excited by the geography of LA and the way the art scene rests within it. There is so much happening here, but you have to keep your ear to the ground—things are spread far and wide and tend to bubble up quietly, at least compared to the rolling boil of New York where things rise quickly and pop. You have these fantastically odd places with big reputations, such as the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and Machine Project, that are able to remain vital and interesting and not burn out. I feel LA nurtures that. Studio and living space is less prohibitively expensive and the market doesn’t dominate, so MFA programs are really central. It seems to allow for a lot of experimentation without a high level of fear about financial or professional risks.
CH: Afterall publishes a series of books distributed by MIT Press and schedules frequent symposia and events. And last year it “swallowed up” the journal AS (also known as Andere Sinema, which was found in 1978 and published by MuHKA). Is this the start of an art-media empire?
SA: I don’t know—do you think we should ask Rupert Murdoch to join our board? No, actually you’re just describing partnerships, and no other journals have been consumed. In the same way that Afterall partnered with CalArts six years ago and brought on Tom as an editor, we were able to partner with MuHKA and bring on a new editor, Dieter Roelstraete, who had been editor of AS since 2000. Afterall is now published three times per year instead of two, and MuHKA continues the work it was doing with AS.
CH: X-TRA runs a program that provides free issues of the magazines for students if their schools or departments pay for shipping—what is this program about? And does Afterall offer something similar?
EP: The Academic Distribution Program provides copies of X-TRA to students in art programs around the country at the significantly reduced group rate of $1.50 per issue (including shipping). Making X-TRA’s thoughtful, provocative writing available to students has been a key component of our mission since 1997. We see it as a great way to contribute to the intellectual development of artists and art historians while building future readership for the magazine.
SA: Thanks for not ending us on that note of empire building! Yes, we do offer half-price subscriptions to students, as well as discounts on subscriptions and back issues to CalArts alumni. We also donate annually to the Distribution to Underserved Communities Library Program, which distributes books on contemporary art and culture to rural and inner-city libraries and schools nationwide.
Both art magazines operate thriving websites containing full articles, special online content, subscription information, and more. For more details on X-TRA, visit www.x-traonline.org. Afterall’s website can be found at www.afterall.org.
Elizabeth Pulsinelli would like to thank her colleague, Stephen Berens, for his help in responding.
Nominations and self-nominations are sought for individuals interested in shaping the future of CAA by serving on CAA’s Board of Directors for the 2010–14 term.
The board is responsible for all financial and policy matters related to the organization. It promotes excellence in scholarship and teaching in the history and criticism of the visual arts, and it encourages creativity and technical skill in the teaching and practice of art. CAA’s board is also charged with representing the membership on issues affecting the visual arts and humanities.
Nominations and self-nominations should include the following information: the nominee’s name, affiliation, address, email address, and telephone number, as well as the name, affiliation, and email address of the nominator, if different from the nominee. Please forward all to: Vanessa Jalet, CAA Executive Assistant, CAA, 275 Seventh Ave., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10001. Deadline: April 3, 2009.
Los Angeles boasts a number of unusual art spaces and museums that are definitely worth checking out during the 2009 Annual Conference, taking place February 25–28, 2009. CAA News has profiled six: Farmlab/Under Spring, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, LAXART, Ooga Booga, the Wende Museum, and the Institute for Figuring. After reading the article, check out each space’s website for details on exhibitions, special events, and directions.
The sun sets behind a water tower located inside the Farmlab Agbin Garden (F.L.A.G.) (photograph © Joshua White and provided by Farmlab)
The seed of Farmlab/Under Spring was planted in the summer of 2005 when the artist Lauren Bon began transforming a thirty-two acre industrial brownfield in the historic center of Los Angeles into a cornfield. Over the course of one agricultural cycle, Bon cleared the industrial debris, brought in 1,500 truckloads of earth, planted one million seeds, and programmed community events throughout the growing and harvesting phases. After handing back the keys to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Bon and the “Not a Cornfield” team moved into a warehouse across the street to continue their investigation of the nature of public space, urban ecology, civic engagement, contemporary visual art, and proactive philanthropy.
In their current location, just north of Chinatown, Farmlab/Under Spring functions as think tank, art-production studio, and cultural-performance venue, hosting weekly salons, lectures, and discussions, as well as periodic exhibitions and art actions around the downtown area and beyond.
Visit http://farmlab.org for activities and projects and to join the Farmlab cause of sustainable cultural practices and community mobilization.
Museum of Jurassic Technology
“The Museum of Jurassic Technology,” says this organization’s website, “is an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic.” Rather than displaying dinosaur bones or leaf-imprinted fossils, this Culver City space showcases strange, diverse collections of objects that could be found in a cabinet of curiosities. Recent exhibitions have included incredibly tiny sculptures, called microminiatures, by the virtuoso musician Hagop Sandaldjian, and a collection of “Napoleana”—relics of the late French emperor (e.g., a piece of fabric, wood from a bookcase, rocks from the Invalides)—that the American civil engineer Charles Evans Fowler (1867–1937) amassed during his lifetime. Neither art nor cultural history, exhibitions at this space will make you rethink what museums are all about.
Lawrence Weschler profiled the Museum of Jurassic Technology in his book Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology (New York: Pantheon Books, 1995). Visit the museum’s quizzical website to learn more.
Lauri Firstenberg is a former curator at Artists Space in New York and pulls off her Culver City space, LAXART (or LA><ART), with the same savoir-faire as any venerable “alt space” in New York and beyond. Firstenberg pushes a program focusing on emerging artists and large-scale projects that bring out the art set and the glitterati for festive openings and events. LAXART has truly led the pack in making Culver City a place for art. Neighboring galleries like Blum and Poe and Anna Helwing lend market gravitas, while the funky and strange Museum of Jurassic Technology also makes a cozy neighbor. Billboard projects—apt for a city of freeway stop and go—are often part of the exhibition, so keep an eye out if you’re in the area. See www.laxart.org for the current schedule.
Located in Chinatown in the midst of Los Angeles’ leading contemporary art galleries, Ooga Booga displays and sells limited-edition multiples, artist’s books, and more (photograph provided by Ooga Booga)
Located in Chinatown, close to a handful of hip contemporary-art galleries, is Ooga Booga. Opened in 2004 by Lucy Yao, the space is a uniquely curated commercial enterprise that sells books on art and by artists, as well as prints, posters, and ephemera. You can find zines by Raymond Pettibon and Laura Owen and limited-edition artworks such as Mike Kelley’s talking Little Friend plush toy, Tauba Auerbach’s 50/50 buttons, and postcard sets by Ryan McGinley. Clothing by the avant-garde fashion designers and artist-designed totes are also available, in addition to hard-to-find DVDs, CDs, and records by musicians and noisemakers both in and outside the art world.
Ooga Booga also hosts gallery exhibitions and special events, including a recent show on the Zurich-based zine publisher Nieves, which was reviewed in caa.reviews earlier this year.
The Wende Museum acquires, preserves, and presents cultural and political objects, personal histories, and documentary materials of cold war–era Eastern Europe: household products, clothing, folk art, diaries and scrapbooks, political iconography, photograph albums, posters, films, textbooks, paintings, sports awards and certificates, and children’s toys. Items were salvaged after the end of Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a time when monuments were toppled, documents destroyed, and consumer products discontinued.
See a 2.6 ton piece of the Berlin Wall painted by the muralist Thierry Noir; the complete run of Neues Deutschland, the official East German daily newspaper; and artifacts from the recently demolished Palast der Republik in East Berlin. A recent donation from a former East German border guard includes official documentation that describes the construction and maintenance of the Berlin Wall, as well as the logbooks, stamps, and facial-recognition systems used on the eastern side of Checkpoint Charlie.
The Wende is host two events during the conference. An open house and tour take place on Friday, February 27, 12:30–2:00 PM and 5:30–7:00 PM, where participants can get a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum’s extensive collections and see the exhibition Facing the Wall: Living with the Berlin Wall. On Saturday night, attend Wende Flicks, a film screening and reception at the Los Angeles Museum of Art, where The Tango Player (1991) will be shown. For full details, visit the CAA conference website.
Institute for Figuring
The Institute for Figuring is the brainchild of Margaret and Christine Wertheim. Twin sisters hailing from Australia, the two offer staggeringly cerebral and stimulating programs and projects that meld their areas of expertise in science and art. Recent lecture series have included “On Seeing and Being: A discussion series about neuroscience and the perception of space” and presentations with Shea Zellweger, a former hotel switchboard operator who developed a “Logic Alphabet” that maps the underlying geometry of formal logic.
The Wertheim sisters and the IFF have gained attention with their traveling Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, a project that explores the intersection of higher geometry, feminine handicraft, and the effects of climate change on the marine world. As itinerant programmers, the IFF organizes collaborations with museums, galleries and spaces all over the world.
Strategic planning may sound bureaucratic, but it’s an essential step in making CAA the organization that meets your needs in the future. There is no more appropriate time to take stock and set goals for our future than the present, with a dramatically changing economy, a new presidential administration, and the prospect of the next hundred years of CAA beginning in 2011.
On October 25, 2008, the Board of Directors, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, and senior CAA staff held a Strategic Planning Retreat to set goals for 2010–15. Members of the Planning Steering Committee are: Michael Ann Holly, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute; Paul Jaskot, DePaul University and CAA President and CEO; Ken Gonzales-Day, Scripps College and CAA board; Jay Coogan, Rhode Island School of Design and CAA board; Anne Collins Goodyear, National Portrait Gallery and CAA Vice President for External Affairs; Mary-Ann Milford-Lutzker, Mills College and CAA Vice President for Committees; Barbara Nesin, Spelman College and CAA Secretary; and Linda Downs, CAA Executive Director.
James McNamara and Paul Melton, planning consultants from LaPlaca Cohen, a cultural arts marketing firm, have assisted CAA through the planning process, which will be completed with a final document at year-end 2009. Before the retreat, McNamara and Melton conducted interviews with board members, senior staff, and a selection of academic and association leaders outside the CAA membership to determine the key issues and implications that we must address in preparing for our future. Questions addressed the components of a mission, vision, and values statement, the future of CAA’s service to its members, and the visual-arts field.
In September 2008, over eight hundred members responded to an email survey on their most pressing professional concerns. The results also helped inform the planning process.
The planning retreat began with a presentation on digital publishing by Raym Crow, managing partner at the Chain Bridge Group. He presented the essential points of investigation needed to plan for digital publications. CAA staff presented current statistical information on programs and publications and presented comparative information for other national academic member associations. McNamara and Melton then presented the results of the interviews and members’ survey as a basis for the discussion of identifying goals for the future of CAA.
All CAA committees, including the Professional Interests, Practices and Standards Committees, the Publications Committee, the three journals’ editorial boards, and our affiliated societies, were requested to present their interests and concerns for CAA’s future. Their responses will be incorporated into the planning process.
I encourage you to attend an open forum for all members to discuss planning issues during the Annual Members’ Business Meeting at the Annual Conference in Los Angeles on Friday, February 27, 2009, at 5:00 PM in the West Hall Meeting Room, 502A Level 2, Los Angeles Convention Center. We would like to have your thoughts and ideas in order to make CAA responsive to all members’ needs. If you cannot attend the forum, please send your comments to email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you.
—Linda Downs, CAA executive director
CAA invites you to help shape our Board of Directors by serving on the 2009 Nominating Committee. Each year, the committee nominates and interviews candidates for the board and selects the final slate for the membership’s vote
The current Nominating Committee will select new members at its business meeting held at the 2009 Annual Conference in Los Angeles. All committee members nominate a minimum of five and a maximum of ten candidates for the board. Service on the committee also involves conducting telephone interviews with candidates during the summer and meeting at the CAA office in New York in September 2009 to select the final slate. Finally, all committee members must attend the Nominating Committee’s business meeting at the Annual Conference in Chicago to select the 2010 committee.
Nominations and self-nominations should include a brief statement of interest and a two-page CV. Please send all materials to: Mary-Ann Milford-Lutzker, Vice President for Committees c/o CAA Executive Assistant, CAA, 275 Seventh Ave., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10001. Materials may also be sent by email as Microsoft Word attachments to Vanessa Jalet, CAA executive assistant. Deadline: January 7, 2009.
The Career Services Guide is designed to inform job seekers and employers about career services that are available at the 2009 Annual Conference in Los Angeles. Examine this guide carefully so that you will know what to expect from conference interviewing and how best to prepare for a successful experience.
The Career Services Guide will also be published in the January 2009 issue of CAA News as a colored-paper insert; copies will also be available at Orientation and in the Candidate’s Center at the conference.
All Career Services will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California. For more information about job searching, visit the Career Services section of the conference website.
posted by Christopher Howard — December 18, 2008
Since the mid-1950s, Los Angeles has been a hotbed of new art and groundbreaking galleries, museums, and other art spaces and institutions. Throughout the greater Los Angeles area are many pockets of art-world panache, from Malibu to Culver City to Chinatown. With CAA’s 2009 Annual Conference headquartered at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown LA, CAA News features the robust gallery culture there and in its subdistricts.