in Frieze Week Magazine | 15 FEB 19
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Frieze Los Angeles 2019

Tom Pope and Victoria Fu Play with Light and Space at Frieze Los Angeles 2019

At Frieze Los Angeles 2019, discover the smallest and most exclusive private members club in the world by Tom Pope and a digital installation by Victoria Fu, commissioned by Deutsche Bank

in Frieze Week Magazine | 15 FEB 19

There’s something special about the light.

It could be Los Angeles’s exact latitude or the closeness to the Pacific that make sunrise as well as sunset, and of course, golden hour something to behold. Filmmakers, photographers, poets and visual artists have all have heralded a physical quality that the city uniquely possesses.

The fact is no more lost on artists who move to Los Angeles and make the city their creative home than those with roots here. As Frieze celebrates its first fair based in LA in 2019, two artist commissions at Frieze Los Angeles see these strong themes of light, space and place come into play with strongly contemporary ideas about screen time and our digital lives.

Artist Victoria Fu, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, presents work primarily in a digital format, but which comprises layers of natural light, artificial light, sound, original 16mm film and stock images. Fu, who earned her MFA from Cal Arts and is now Associate Professor of Film/Video Art at the University of San Diego, seemingly gathers up all the mediums through which we experience our lives, pushing them, as it were, through a unique prism.

The resulting installations offer audiences immersive experiences. At Frieze Los Angeles, which takes place at Paramount Studios, her work will be installed in the rotunda of the lavish Paramount Theater, which will house the Deutsche Bank Wealth Management Lounge. Here, Fu will be projecting what she calls ‘a round video’ onto the dome, which viewers will look up to see. Gazing upwards, the rotunda will be filled with a video rendering of the sky, in a palette reflecting Los Angeles itself.

The looping video which is projected will unfold narratively, but will be punctuated with surprises in imagery and perspective, referencing a mix of the physical and virtual worlds. ‘The equation I’m getting at is that of the cinematic “big screen” and the virtual screen’, Fu explains. ‘ brings a completely different experience that we have with screens — how we are both a user and a viewer at the same time.’

While she considers much of her work cinematic in feel — fitting, then, for this movie studio setting — Fu reflects on how the more recent explosion of screens (phones, devices, computers, et al) have changed our lives. ‘I think about how enmeshed we are in our screens and how there’s really no such thing as “offline”,’ she says. ‘The online world influences and shapes our physical and material surroundings.’

The second commission by Deutsche Bank, which all fair visitors will be able to access, sees London-based artist Tom Pope play with a different but related facet of LA’s terrain. The city is known by many as an urban sprawl — for its breadth, de-centralized character and occasional wide open spaces. Pope inverts this image, playing with the idea of what’s possible in almost no space at all. Specifically, in his work called One Square Club (2018), Pope presents ‘the smallest and most exclusive private members’ club in the world.’ 

Tom Pope, One Square Club, 2018, installion view. Courtesy: The artis
Tom Pope, One Square Club, 2018, installation view. Courtesy: The artist

At Paramount’s Backlot — the set where urban street scenes are filmed — the physical installation of One Square Club will invite participants into a space measuring one square meter. Upon entry, guests are hosted by Pope, who stands behind the bar to greet his audience: they are offered a drink (champagne, a soft drink, or water), a choice of music selection, and asked what topics they’d like the discuss. Up to three can be in the club with the artist at one time.

The idea for One Square Club started with a newspaper article Pope read about the extreme nature of the housing market, which compared the average cost of a single square meter in different areas — and the extreme cost of a single meter of central urban real estate in London, Los Angeles and other global cities. ‘The absurdity of the housing market and money was the background for this piece,’ the artist explains. ‘The commodity of space is such a wild thing now’.

The model of old school British members’ clubs, and the way they employ self-important norms and ideals, as well as the symbolism of closed spaces, enter into the work. While in One Square Club, he says, ‘you’re forced to face the fact that you’re just that little bit closer to others than you might otherwise choose to be.’

While Pope says there’s often ‘an underlying political comment or idea’ in his works, One Square Club also explores time and place in an almost conceptual way. Since one square meter of real estate costs much more in LA than it would in Iowa, Pope wonders, ‘could the work change locales and thus its value - depending on where you put it?’ There’s also delight and joviality in the piece. Pope earned a BA and

MA in Photography, but took the leap into multimedia and installation art following his realization that ‘the act of making a photograph is a performance.’ ‘A lot of my practice has to do with performance, participation and play’, he continues ‘I can make art accessible through being a lot of fun.’

The accessibility of art is a key priority for Deutsche Bank, a long-time partner of Frieze since 2004. As part of the bank’s Art, Culture & Sports Program, it manages, loans and displays a staggering collection of contemporary art, as well as fostering engagement and participation and supporting emerging talent, not least by purchasing contemporary works directly from galleries (including at Frieze fairs).

‘We’ve been collecting works for nearly 40 years, starting in the late 1970s’, says Britta Färber, Deputy Global Head of Art and Chief Curator for the Deutsche Bank Collection. ‘Beginning as a German collection and growing with the bank’s business into a global collection, we aren’t keeping these works in the archives — 95% of the works are visible and on the wall; we show the works in more than 700 Deutsche Bank locations in 40 countries worldwide.’ The efforts are rooted in a belief that art works ‘bring new perspective’, Färber says. ‘We’re giving this fresh perspective to our clients, partners, employees, and the public. We believe contemporary art is a think tank for the future.’

This article appeared in Frieze Week, Los Angeles 2019

Main image: Victoria Fu, Belle Captive, 2014, installation view. Courtesy: Simon Preston, New York and Honor Fraser, Los Angeles