The Art Assassin 2

a nonfiction novel by Albert Wang, or a portrait of the artist as a young failure…

ASSASSINATION: Paige Wery, Publisher and Advertising Director at Artillery Magazine and Artist

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Photograph of Paige Wery. Courtesy of Facebook.
Cover of Volume 2, Issue 4 of Artillery Magazine in 2008. Courtesy of Artillery Magazine and MySpace.

Artillery Magazine, a raw art magazine based out of Los Angeles, is nearing its fourth anniversary and I had a chance to pop out in the sunny city to chat up a storm with Paige Wery, who is the magazine’s publisher and advertising director. Last year, I had found this free magazine lying around various galleries in Brooklyn like Parker’s Box and not in Chelsea where those spaces tended to erase any art brochures in their windows. The delicious magazine was full of various perspectives lacking a ton of censorship while being full of intellectual bantering as well as glamorous shots of the social life of the art world, which is a segment that I had wanted to capture in my interview portraits.

The magazine which is rather slim and to the point, has a variety of articles ranging from accounts of studio visits with artists to humorous advertisements for a naked slave conceptual artist to some rather punchy reviews of great shows on both the West and East Coasts with a few places in between. The eye-catching design masks its rather profound and alternative view of the art world that isn’t caught up in academic language or terribly bad articles that focus on the artist’s selling points. Instead, the reader is treated to a sharp and thoughtful look at the action-filled craziness that comprise the contemporary art world with its drunken parties and sexy parades. Scenes from a Dreiser novel crossbred with Andy Warhol that you wouldn’t get too much from reading the formalist Art in America or even Juxtapoz Magazine. Artillery Magazine doesn’t mind the scandal and controversy that graces each tastefully sinful issue to welcoming eyes. As they say, bring it on!

Wery also is quite a fascinating painter who executes paintings and installations created from her paintings about subjects like coloring books and diamond-laced limbs in the style of outsider art on speed mixed with a dose of neo-expressionism. Great stuff, I must admit and well worth a strong look.

If you have any questions about Artillery Magazine, feel free to contact the editorial or advertising offices at (213) 250-7081 for the editor or (323) 243-0658 for the advertising director who is Paige Wery or at artillerypublisher@gmail.com. If you happen to be excited about Wery’s artwork, you can contact her at paige@artpaige.com.

Okay, so now to the show and here are THE ART ASSASSIN’s latest details of this fanciful “assassination”:

qi peng: How are you doing over there at Artillery Magazine? As the publisher and advertising director for one of the leading independent art magazines in Los Angeles, what are your primary responsibilities for the magazine and its distribution into the various art markets such as New York and Los Angeles? What is the story of the founding and growth of Artillery Magazine into a major venue for the contemporary art world? Also how was the name of “Artillery” created?

Paige Wery: Thanks for asking.  Artillery is doing well, all things considering.  Since you brought it up, let’s get the obvious over with; we are living in a world recession.  For those who don’t know Artillery magazine, we cover the contemporary art world with a home base in LA, distribution throughout CA & NY, with writers across the globe.  As the publisher, I focus on the business side of things.  Artillery survives on ad sales, which has been cut back drastically but at the same time we are growing in popularity.  We’re distributed for free through galleries, museums, art fairs, schools and (when we can get in) VIP parties.  Our popularity mixed with less money is a conundrum that we will ride out and I’m confident come out a stronger voice on the other side.  I am responsible for bringing in the bulk of ad sales, getting us in art fairs, organizing events, some of artillerymag.com, half of LA distribution, accounting and oh so so so much more.  Tulsa Kinney is the founder and editor of Artillery.  I love the story of when Tulsa and I first talked about me signing on, Tulsa’s husband (the publisher before me) said “It’s a part time job…about three days a week. Tops.”  ha HA!  But truly, with all the work and not much pay, I love my job.  Don’t get me wrong; healthcare, salary and days off is a personal goal but for some crazy reason, I really believe Artillery will provide (my optimism is probably a combination of thinking Artillery is my little bitch and “Yes We Can!“).

Anyway, one day I’m dressed up having lunch with a museum director trying to sell an ad and the next I’m in shorts, sweaty and slugging magazines around town.

Tulsa started the magazine in response to Artforum’s dry editorial content.  As a graduate student from USC fine arts program, she doesn’t think the premier art magazines are doing a good job reflecting the current art world.  We think art can be discussed intelligently through an accessible language (especially since more people make art, buy art and visit gallery openings than ever before) and why can’t we have serious reviews mixed in with the gossip?

Artillery is a great title but the story behind it isn’t that unusual.  Tulsa was brainstorming with a friend on the phone and the word, Artery came up, which led to Artillery.  Ta Da!

And I love our sub text “killer text on art”.  I think that explains us pretty well.

qi peng: The magazine is described on the website as a “fresh, smart magazine that captures the verve and vitality of the contemporary art world.” How does your approach differ from the mainstream publications such as Art in America, Artforum, or ARTnews? What subjects and themes allow your writers and features to remain provocative? Have there been any incidents where controversy brewed from the magazine?

Paige Wery: We differ from the mainstream art magazines with our honesty, sense of humor and touch of gossip.  Artillery reflects the art world genuinely with no fear of sex, drugs and bad reviews.  We have a society page, poetry, comics and a new column called WTF.  All that said, we get exclusive interviews with great artists, print serious reviews and our guest lecture section has had such big names as Mike Kelley, Louise Bourgeois, Frank Stella, Barbara Kruger, Raymond Pettibon and Ed Ruscha .  (We ask the guest lecture to curate the centerfold.)

Controversy?  Well we’ve printed some really nasty letters and gotten way too drunk and stoned at parties.  Maybe this will satisfy:  Our gossip columnist “outed” several artist that belong to The Church of Scientology….I was scared for my life….but really just a couple of gallery owners got pissed:  The controversy that barely happened.

qi peng: What are ways that you, as the publisher, are able to ensure that the magazine is “fun to read?” In what ways do you and your writers try to inject humor and levity into the articles themselves?

Paige Wery: This seems like a question for Tulsa, the editor who is responsible for what we cover and how. I don’t tell my clients “make your advertisement funny or I won’t run it”. But seriously folks, humor is attractive, important and a part of the art world.  Tulsa invites our writers to go there.  Also, “fun to read” means not a struggle and snore for the reader, like a lot of other art magazines, who will remain nameless.

qi peng: With the recent downturn in the American economy, have you seen any changes in how the galleries, particularly in the Los Angeles scene, been able to interact with their audience? Can galleries afford to take a risk in curating riskier exhibitions during this period? Are you seeing collectors’ habits change within the physical art market as the national banking and other financial sectors are suffering from various problems such as foreclosures?

Paige Wery: Yes, of course the economy is taking its toll on the art market just like any global business today.  Each venue is trying to figure out how best to survive with less money.  The newspapers report about the job cuts in the museums but this is happening in creative venues across the board. Swarm Gallery in Oakland, CA told me they’re encouraging their artist to go wild because nothing is selling anyway.  That to me is an ideal attitude but Swarm is a non-profit and doesn’t rely on gallery sales to pay the rent.

I’ve noticed some galleries showing more conservative work than usual and also noticed that doesn’t mean more red dots.

People can’t buy as much art right now but I don’t see that as an excuse to show nice photos of mountain tops when 3 months ago you had an amazing art install that blew me away.

qi peng: How do your contributors in New York, San Francisco, Dallas, and Berlin help to cover the contemporary art scene over there and manifest the international networking that holds together the community? With the recession in effect, do you feel that the smaller art markets are able to show their strength through an experimental slant during this period?

Paige Wery: Artist, galleries, museums and collectors can’t expect to be fully informed when ALL they know is what happens in their neighborhood.  Art is made, viewed and sold across the globe and Artillery considers itself a humble part of that education.  We actually got a nasty response from an LA gallery director about our Berlin issue.  He said, “you’re based in LA.  What are you doing covering Berlin?”  In my opinion that is ridiculous and naive.  On the other hand, Wayne Blank, owner of Bergamot Station, the home of 50 galleries in Santa Monica, CA., told me there is no way to run a gallery without reaching NY and beyond.

I want to know what’s happening on the international scene and I think it’s a safe assumption that most art enthusiast do as well.

As far as small art markets and experimental slants…unless they go gorilla, it’s really tough.  I read about more experiments happening at places like Deitch Projects:  they have the money and they get the press.  It’s true, there experimental art shows, follow a Keith Haring retrospect but someone has to pay.

qi peng: Do you have any advice for up and coming BFA and MFA graduates who are graduating from art school and are starting to hunt for galleries to show their artwork? Do you think that there are too many talented artists within the system than what the top galleries especially in Los Angeles can handle? With the recent closures of so many galleries within the New York art world such as Rivington Arms and Roebling Hall and the Anna Helwing Gallery in Los Angeles, what trends are you seeing within the galleries and how they are presenting their work to the public? Do you see any trends within the established museums, especially in Los Angeles, such as The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in how they are dealing with the recession?

Paige Wery: My advice to art students is GET A JOB.  We are living in a sh-t storm economy and the idea that you will graduate from art school and make a living from only selling your art is mostly a fantasy.  (Of course the private art schools don’t want to say that because then the kids won’t pay for a school that doesn’t prepare them for the realities of a fine art career).  There are creative jobs that can help an artist keep moving forward.  Teaching jobs are ideal because of the benefits and who you meet BUT those jobs have been hard to find for a while.  I worked in a high-end frame store chopping, sanding, staining and in the mean time met lots of artist, collectors and gallery directors.  Before  that, while waiting tables and going to art school in SF I curated shows in local coffee shops, rented spaces and held art shows in my living room.

Do I think there are too many talented artists for the system?  NO WAY!  I think there is too much crap being shown on the walls of galleries.  There is always room for new good art but the new and good isn’t easy to find.  My biggest peeve is to walk into a contemporary gallery and see work that looks like what a famous artist did 10, 30, 100 years ago.  This is what separates the galleries.  It’s up to the curators to be savvy and show things that break the past mold.  I realize this is easier said than done when you are a gallery trying to keep your doors open but you signed up for this job. Do it well.

I just read an article in the NY Times about museums having yoga classes and bike rides and MOCA just had a team of artist build a one night mini golf course through the museum.  I think it’s great to see the museums reaching beyond the walls to bring out the community.  This is a great way to fight the recession.  Now’s the worst time to be exclusive and the perfect time to stretch your arms, think new and reach out to your community and beyond.

qi peng: What is your opinion about online curated galleries such as Collegeartonline (CAO) or Ugallery? In what ways is their exhibition style different than that of a gallery like Claire Oliver? Any opinion on online artists registries such as White Columns or the Drawing Center? Any opinion on juried competitions such as New American Paintings? Which method is most important for a starting artist to get validation for the work that they execute?

Paige Wery: The comparison you gave me seems odd (am I missing something?).  The quality and originality of work is far outstanding at Claire Oliver compared to CAO and Ugallery.  That said, I don’t have any problem with the online art galleries or competitions but I don’t think they typically showcase groundbreaking work.  Posting online won’t hurt your career (chances are you don’t have one) and you never know who’s looking.  A more gratifying start is looking for local open call group shows (in LA: Cannibal Flower, Create Fixate and others).  These look better on a resume, you meet other artist, get emails of people that like your work and in general, gain experience you probably won’t get online.  For each artist, it’s different and it takes a lot of trial and error to see what works best for you.  My friend Christopher Russell, (who just had a solo show at the Hammer Museum) started out, after getting his MFA, by dropping off a handmade box filled with his photo based work and writings.  Most galleries would have kicked him out but his work was good, caught their eye and he gained representation at an established LA gallery.

I’m sure this has been said before but if you’re an artist, it helps your career to be creative outside of your studio as well as inside.

qi peng: On a lighter note, do you have any favorite restaurants, hangouts, or cool places around Los Angeles that you would like to recommend to fans of Artillery Magazine? What do you like best about the places that you have chosen?

Paige Wery: I’m obsessed right now with a food spot in Los Angeles on Beverly near Fairfax called Terroni’s.  Its Italian food at it’s best.  Minimal ingredients, super fresh and very tasty.  Entrees cost around $10-20 and they don’t take reservations, which provides a good excuse to start with a martini at the bar.  I spend most of my “out of the house” time at art openings.  In Los Angeles, I find the best and most diverse museum program to be at the Hammer.  They seem more willing to show a fabulous young artist as well as historically proven artist and their lecture series is top notch.  I also have a soft spot for MOCA and their programming.  I volunteer on one of their fundraising boards called MOCA Contemporaries.

qi peng: How do you think that the new media, ranging from video art to Internet-based projects, will impact people’s appreciation of painting and photography and sculpture, more traditional and established media, which are interacting with each other in terms of visual motifs and archetypes? Do you feel that as people interact with new media, they will be able to critique the cliches of mainstream media and have a profound understanding of what it means to be human?

Paige Wery: I’m guessing, everyone reading this knows what it’s like to be human.  But does anyone know what my cat is thinking?

New media only adds to the art world and I enjoy seeing things pushed out of comfortable boundaries.  Just like any other art form, new media gets me excited, when it’s good.  In no way does it take away from good painting or sculpture.  The more traditional art forms are not dead and they will be around as long as humans (and cats).

qi peng: For example, within a recent article entitled “feature: NY Studio Visit Katherine Bernhardt” written by Carole Nicksin, the feature includes vibrant details about the working processes behind this brilliant neo-expressionist artist represented by CANADA. The article details Bernhardt’s work in her studio in Flatbush as she works on her stylized paintings of celebrities such as Kate Moss. What is the process behind the research of the subject into the final article appearing within the publication? How does the writer choose to edit their notes to create a cohesive piece of text?

Paige Wery: In this case the writer pitched the idea to the editor. It ran in our regularly featured column, LA and/or NY Studio. The writer interviewed the artist at her studio, wrote the piece, Tulsa makes final edit, we print it, and writer gets paid.

Artillery works in two ways:  Tulsa assigns articles to particular writers and she also takes pitches.  Not all pitches are approved.

qi peng: What is your opinion on art fairs and its seemingly more commercial and less conceptual presentation of artwork as compared to that of more traditional exhibitions? Is it possible to present artwork in a challenging way within the Miami and Los Angeles warehouse spaces? What elements of playfulness can enter into the Miami or Los Angeles art fairs? Do you think that dynamics of art fairs will change as the recession is underway?

Paige Wery: I enjoy the art fairs for the opportunity to see so much art and so many galleries in one area.  Yes, several types of conservatism may or may not be in play due to making back your booth cost and the space restrictions but I really enjoy the atmosphere.  If you get sick of the convention sites, take the time to visit some of the satellite spaces.  For example, Pierogi at the 2009 Miami fairs was awesome.  Each year they rent a building in the Wynwood district, near some big fairs and they curate an amazing show without the obvious fair restrictions.  But I also like seeing the big fairs.  At Scope Miami ’09 they included an arts collective, Friends With You, that created a Fun Room in the lounge that included a bounce house, balloons, structures to crawl through. I appreciated the child-like atmosphere in the middle of a huge art fair that can sometimes numb even the biggest art appreciator.  A large part of the fairs are the parties and I love talking about art and drinking.  It’s not a bad combo.  Right now there are too many fairs for the market to maintain.  Red Dot NY ’09 got canceled even after the ads were run and paid for.  LA in NY was a great fair for the past 2 years and that got canceled.   If the commercialism of the fairs grosses you out and you want to see a bunch of great international art in three days, head to the biennials.  In some ways, I think of the biennials as a rare chance to see the best artwork and the fairs as a chance for galleries to make sales and meet new collectors.  I’m all for both.

qi peng: What are some of your future articles and upcoming features that Artillery Magazine will be publishing? What are some potential challenges or past hardships that your magazine have overcome since its inception and that you are proud of?

Paige Wery: I’m proud this Sept. Issue will launch Artillery’s 4th year.  Topics include:  Fallen Fruit, Biennale coverage, new season previews, contemporary Indian art, David Lynch photos and Susan Anderson’s: The Surreal Nature of Child Beauty Pageants.

I struggle most with our competition and bringing in enough income for the magazine. Since we have a strict policy of not “selling” our editorial (in exchange for an ad), sometimes it’s an uphill battle. Sometimes our content can be controversial, which limits a lot of potential advertisers. But we’re determined to stay true to our mission, and print what’s important.  When I brought up the topic of publications selling editorial at a recent Los Angeles art writer’s panel, it was blown off by the shear fact that it’s been happening for so long.  At that point I realized my naiveté and somewhere in my brain screamed “you guys are lame!” And then I went back to work.

qi peng: As the advertising director, what do you feel is the purpose of gallery or exhibition advertisements? How do you maintain a consistent tenor among the articles and the advertisements? Is it possible to keep an underground vibe even with the commercial aspects of the magazine? How do you keep Artillery Magazine fresh for the reader without being bogged down with weighty advertisements like in Artforum?

Paige Wery: Advertising can have many purposes; bring attention to a particular opening or artist, get your name seen by the arts community, support of a publication or all of the above.  I don’t consider Artillery to be underground since we are distributed for free in the most popular of art venues:  galleries and museums.  We do have some great artist advertising through us like Science Holiday for the Museum of Fun (which I’m still not sure what’s going on there) and Johnny Naked, who is selling himself as a naked art slave for almost 2 million dollars.  I love those ads and they do keep us in touch with what some might call the underground.  I wish Artillery had the “weighty” ads of Adforum….I mean Artforum.  Ultimately, Artillery would love to have that many ads and keep our editorial as accessible and edgy as it is today.  For the Artillery in-house ad campaigns, we compare ourselves to Artforum:  “80% cheaper and 100% cooler” but we also say, “your ad will stand out” because we don’t have near the ads they have.  I don’t want that last point to be on my ad campaign forever.

qi peng: I noted that you also work as an artist. Your artwork comprise mixed media paintings that feature zany-looking, semi-abstract figures that contain a heavy dose of pinks, oranges, and other vibrant colors. What is the ultimate meaning or anti-meaning of your artwork? What are some of your future artistic projects that you will be pursuing soon? Will these new pieces be an extension of the themes and ideas that you are examining now or a different direction instead?

Paige Wery: Zany you should ask, I just found out I have an upcoming solo show (Fall 2010) at a gallery called HAUS in Pasadena, CA.  I haven’t been spending as much time making art since becoming a publisher but I still work in my studio almost every day.  It feels great to have a deadline for something other than Artillery.

qi peng: Are there any plans for Artillery Magazine to expand into news stands such as Barnes and Noble or Borders so that there is increased access to the information that the publication contains? Also is there anything else that you wish to share with the readers here or your fans of your artwork or Artillery Magazine?

Paige Wery: Personally, I’m torn between the accessibility of a free magazine and the stature of being on sale in bookstores.  (Artillery actually reaches more people in Los Angeles than Artforum because we’re free.)  Right now, Barnes and Noble is out of the question because we don’t have the budget for what that entails but it’s a possibility for the future.  Today, I’m focused on thinking of creative ways to keep Artillery growing within the budget we have right now.

Something to share with the readers and fans of Artillery, “THANKS for reading! And check us out at www.artillerymag.com.

xo Paige

For more gossip or dishing me the art scoop: E-mail me at qipengart@gmail.com
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Written by qi peng

July 27, 2009 at 4:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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