Focus LA: Various Small Fires

We talk to Esther Kim Varet, founder of VSF, ahead of the gallery's first-time participation in Frieze Los Angeles

Can you tell us more about the program of your gallery?

We focus primarily on emerging and established American artists, in particular those with practices relating to social justice, climate activism, identity politics, and alternative modalities of visual art production and consumption. 

Where in Los Angeles are you based?
The gallery is located in Hollywood, on Highland Avenue that has the most vibrant concentration of contemporary galleries in Los Angeles (walking distance to Regen Projects, Jeffrey Deitch, and several others). Our indoor/outdoor gallery, which includes a dedicated courtyard for sculpture, installations, and performances, was designed for VSF by LA architect Johnston Marklee, whose other projects include the Menil Collection Drawing Institute. The gallery is one of the small handful featured in the latest Wallpaper guide to Los Angeles for architecture.

Calida Rawles, Transcend, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 121.92 x 152.40 cm. Courtesy of VSF, Los Angeles

Calida Rawles, Transcend, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 121.92 x 152.40 cm. Courtesy of VSF, Los Angeles


You also recently opened a space in Seoul, why did you choose to expand to East Asia?
I'm Korean-American and bilingual. From our vantage point in Los Angeles, we believe VSF’s relationship with Asia will be essential to our impact as a gallery and to the opportunities we can give to our artists. Seoul is considered a cultural capital in Asia, and Korea's infrastructure and audience for contemporary art are unrivalled. Just after the first six months, our expansion to Asia has already transformed our reach and ambitions.

You participated at Frieze in both London and New York, what excites you about doing the fair in Los Angeles?
We have had wonderful experiences at each editions of Frieze in London and New York, twice winning the booth prize! Los Angeles is our hometown, so it feels natural and essential to be part of the fair and represent LA’s art landscape; also, a large part of our program and network is here. Even if LA continues to develop as a center of gravity for emerging artists, we still feel that we have something to prove, versus New York and London. For us, it means a lot that Frieze has expanded here and we are excited about the opportunity to exhibit a powerful presentation by a local artist, who is not yet widely known, but we hope to bring more spotlight on her with this debut at Frieze Los Angeles.

Calida Rawles, Island, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 121.92 x 91.44 cm. Courtesy of VSF, Los Angeles

Calida Rawles, Island, 2018, Acrylic on canvas, 121.92 x 91.44 cm. Courtesy of VSF, Los Angeles


What will you be presenting for Focus LA, the fair's new section showcasing LA-based galleries?
We will be showing a solo presentation of new works by LA-based photorealistic painter Calida Rawles, coinciding with her first solo exhibition at VSF Los Angeles. Calida's work is featured on front cover of Ta-Nehisi Coats’ best-selling new novel, The Water Dancer. Seeing her paintings in person is going to be new and impactful for all fair visitors. 

What will you be showing for Frieze Week?
In addition to Calida's debut solo exhibition in both of our indoor gallery spaces, our courtyard gallery will feature a new body of inflatable sculptures by LA-based artist Jaqueline Kiyomi Gordon. 

Focus LA is a new section at Frieze Los Angeles 2020, showcasing LA-based galleries aged 15 years or younger. Learn more here. Frieze Los Angeles returns to Paramount Pictures Studios, February 14-16, 2020. 

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