It’s a Saturday night in LA and the city is alive with art-goers hopping between gallery openings. Throughout the night I have heard rumors of a late night barbeque that seems to be intertwined with the art world. Next thing I know I am in an Uber on my way to this mysterious meat party.
We drive through a dark warehouse district on the outskirts of downtown LA, and arrive finally at a lit space on a roughly paved side street. Music flows into the street and people mill around inside and out. I walk in to see carnage-filled tables, remnants of a meat feast that I clearly missed. This was no hotdog and hamburger affair… there are rib cages and what looks like a fish vertebra. Further back is a dessert table—or perhaps a dessert installation? And finally, a small white room hung with art and BBQLA emblazed in gothic font on the entryway doorframe. This is the opening night of Oily Doily, the ninth show put on by what I am about to find out is a very unique artist-run space.
The guys who run BBQLA: Timo Fahler, Adam Beris, Thomas Linder and their admin assisstant Patrick Kellycooper
BBQLA began in Thomas Linder and Adam Beris’s backyard in Silverlake. As their name suggests, these guys throw art shows and barbeques together. While this could sound like a clever way to beef up attendance at openings, they tell me that the barbequeing actually came before the art. These guys were hosting regular Sunday barbeques with friends when artist and friend Timo Fahler suggested they show art at the barbeques. The three guys put up their first show in July of 2015, hung in the backyard shed that was Adam and Thomas’s shared studio. What ensued was a natural metamorphosis into their larger space outside of downtown that stands as a hallmark artist-run venue in LA.
Free food and beer has long been a practice for art openings. However Thomas, Timo and Adam approach feeding their visitors in a way that dishes up community as well. They are each from the Midwest and went to school at Kansas City Art Institute. This background might explain their laid back attitude towards art world formalities, and certainly means that they take their barbequing seriously. BBQLA openings are a place you come to hang out with an art crowd, taste some unforgettable barbeque sauce, see work from both emerging and established LA artists, and perhaps talk to someone new over some meat and a beer.
A pig was roasted and carved for their last opening Slightly Undercooked
Apart from running a cool art space in LA these guys are serious about their own practices. This was the first thing they made clear to me: being an artist comes first. BBQLA exists in Thomas’s studio, which transforms into a wood shop when he isn’t hosting openings. The work he makes now is of delicate wooden frames with majestic resin pours and sculptural fiberglass walls. He uses dyes to render colors that meld in and out of each other. Their mass and the weight they carry in size is balanced by a playfulness in the way in which light bounces through them and shimmers off their surfaces. His work, he says, is inspired from the greenhouse business his family ran growing up.
Thomas Linder’s work hanging at IBID Gallery
BBQLA administrator Patrick Kellycooper stands in front of one of Thomas’s pieces at IBID Gallery
Adam is a painter, and tells me he came from a formal training of the field and used to paint from life. He is now however squeezing straight from the tube to create series of symbols that interact as isolated archetypes across his canvases. Clever titles such as “Jackpot” and “California Death Certificate” play further into the tongue-in-cheek communication he has with viewers. Adam smiles at me as he talks about his process of squeezing to be a simplified version of painting and a bastardization of the material. He admits that politics seeps into his work, but maintains that there is still an element of stupidity to it all. This work isn’t heavy handed, perhaps running closer to the spirit of political comedy.
Timo talks to me about the importance of process-based work and being a maker. In a time when concept often usurps craftsmanship these guys show artists who are invested in their studio practice. Timo tells me everything he has ever experienced is in his work, and that in itself stands as a cultural commentary. He recently collaborated on a show at Club Pro LA with Rafa Esparza. Together they created a snake made of rebar that coiled throughout the gallery, enticing visitors to experience its many angles and view the individual pieces it cross-sectioned. My favorite was what appeared to be a mold of Timo made by Rafa that hung through the snake’s interior. Rafa’s adobe stood side-by-side to Timo’s plaster, juxtaposing and perhaps consolidating their ideas, conversations and friendship.
An installation shot from Rafa Esparza and Timo Fahler’s show IN at Club Pro LA
When I ask Thomas, Adam and Timo what their plans are for the future of BBQLA they look at each other and smile. They haven’t talked about it much. Adam suggests they’ll stop when the free food goes uneaten. However it’s much more than the shows that these guys are creating. They’re building a community for themselves and other artists. Timo says one of the great parts of running this space is the studio visits they go on. They get to see work being made around LA, and are able to introduce artists of similar mindset. It can be a lonely art world out there for an artist, and these guys are interested in building networks.
BBQLA’s most recent show Slightly Undercooked featured a performance by Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack. He carried a sculpture out of the gallery and undertook a series of ceremonious and wild actions with it as a curious audience crouded around. Daniel later explained to me that the piece, like much of his work, was driven by personal situation and the instinct of emotion. His passion captures perfectly what it is to be young and excited about art—something that transcends through much of the work shown at BBQLA.
Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack stands in his Downtown Los Angeles studio
Timo, Adam and Thomas say they have done well because they work well together. They didn’t have to tell me that though, as I experienced it in our conversation. One picks up where the other leaves off, and they are quick to agree on subjects they say they haven’t discussed. As transplants to LA they have become each other’s local family.
BBQLA’s next barbeque and Opening is December 10th, 8pm-12am at 2315 Jesse Street in Los Angeles
Adam Beris currently has work up at Guerrero Gallery in San Francisco.
Thomas Linder will have his first solo show at IBID Gallery Los Angeles in January 2017.
Timo Fahler’s work appeared at the recent inaugural show of Dread Lounge. He is now working on another collaboration with Rafa Esparza for the Los Angeles Art Fair ALAC in January 2017.
By: Lara Salmon