Getting Cozy at Felix, LA’s Art Fair Underdog

LOS ANGELES — It’s my fourth rodeo at Felix Art Fair, which sets up its booths inside the poolside cabanas at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It’s the second biggest event happening in the Los Angeles art world during so-called “Frieze Week,” and it stands out to me that Felix’s name gets left out of this informal title. Just last year, we were referring to “LA Art Week,” because Felix and the Spring/Break Art Show took place concurrently. But now, I barely heard anyone talk about Felix leading up to the event, and as I took the bus to Hollywood, I wondered just how packed the VIP preview would be.

Felix knows it’s one of the underdogs in the art fair battles, and they invite scrappy spaces among the 60-plus galleries that couldn’t — or just didn’t want to — muscle their way into the Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport where Frieze takes place. This year, there were impressive displays from the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, LA’s Tierra del Sol, and HAIRandNAILS in Minneapolis, proving that nonprofits and artist-run spaces can play the blue-chip game.

At Creative Growth Art Center, which exclusively shows artwork made by adults with developmental disabilities, handmade dolls by Lulu Sotelo and ceramic imaginary critters by Jorge Gomez took over the Cabana’s outdoor patio and daybed. To present their artists on equal footing as every other gallery, rather than in some kind of specialized diversity showcase, was a radical statement.

Outside the nonprofits, the gallery B-Team is still raging hard, and they’ve fully leaned into that reputation. Aesthetically, the trend overwhelmingly went toward lowbrow. Figurative, energetic, and folk-adjacent paintings greeted me at every turn — a world of Pop Surrealism without the Pop. Øleg&Kaśka, who works with colored pencils and acrylic on large canvases, filled Romania’s Suprainfinit with desaturated, fantastical figures, like a skeletally thin rat-rider in “The Golden Lion” (2023) and an eyeless, hooded femme fatale in “Passiflora” (2023). It’s not my cup of tea, but it must be somebody’s, because collectors were snatching them up.

Other artists towards natural materials, like sand and paper pulp, and non-figurative paintings held the essence of Abstract Expressionism. Animalistic sculptures also popped up frequently, but were modest in size, the perfect focal point for an empty shelf on a bookcase. 

In addition to the booths, a special poster exhibition, Women in Print: Expanding the LA Canon, curated by the Judith Center in LA in collaboration with the Center for Political Graphics, lined the Cabana hallways. The visuals, pulled from a wide range of the 20th century, emphasized the way women have shaped images in activism and commerce. The influence from Sister Corita Kent’s colorful screenprints showed up in Felix booths. Elizabeth Atterbury, represented by DOCUMENT, matches the nun’s style with her layered X’s, hand’s, and zigzags in her colorful chine collé and embossed works.  

See more highlights from the dizzying hallways of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel below.

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