Words by Apryl Fuentes and photography by Azha Luckman for Shade Magazine.
What does it mean to be in your 20s on the art scene, in 2016? This past weekend we took the Bay to LA for an unforgettable trip filled with art, Tecate, tacos, and the sounds of Too $hort. Our friends Adi and Teryn of Sunday Los Angeles partnered with Slow Culture Gallery for an incredible group show, What a Time to Be Alive, or #WATTBA for short. Our own Shade Magazine had a piece in the show, alongside 70 other artists including Kristofferson San Pablo, Coco Howard, Mars, Crystal Zapata, Ambar Navarro, Yung Jake, and Jay Howell.
It’s 8:30 p.m. on Friday night; we’re in line at Donut Friend, thinking we’ll just show up to the show fashionably late. SKRT! SKRT! (shout out to madeintyo) We get a phone call from a friend saying there’s a line around the block just to get into the gallery. Racing down Figueroa, we see the mass of people snaked around the gallery way past the corner liquor store. We still don’t know who yelled “SHADE MAGAZINE!”, from their car outside the venue. What a time to be alive!
It is said that the personal is political. In that spirit, WATTBA was all about inciting thought and change beyond four gallery walls and one opening night. In an interview with Dazed, artist and curator Adi Rakjovic so perfectly describes the meaning behind the exhibition’s name, shedding light on multiple realities, and the paradox of modern living:
“You can get famous off the back of a YouTube video when you are twelve and become Justin Bieber or you can fail to put your turn signal on and end up dead in jail like Sandra Bland. The two [experiences] are so drastically different from one another but will come one after the other on your newsfeed. There is such an extreme disparity between the good and the bad and so much information is able to surface now because of the internet. People are speaking out more than ever. It’s a powerful feeling to be alive right now.”
One thousand people, one thousand perspectives, one thousand experiences, one mission, one night. WATTBA appeals to the modern age serving both as a “critique and celebration” of everything that surrounds us. The artists involved produced work that centered around conversations on everything from technology, to social justice, to surveillance, to feminist thought.
In a time when art shows are often misinterpreted as opportunities for free beer and “just something to do”, this show was a breath of fresh air. Sunday LA and Slow Culture are making waves by teaming together to make contemporary art accessible. There’s no air of exclusivity here.
WATTBA was sparked, in part, by Adi’s passionate solidarity with anti-mass incarceration work. That solidarity goes hand in hand with Slow Culture Gallery’s commitment to community and art accessibility, as gallery owner Fred Guerrero found himself inspired by Adi’s initial dialogue surrounding the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.
Both galleries worked incredibly hard to create this reality, bringing together their audiences for an impactful moment. Though the moment might be fleeting, the memory is forever. Messages and dialogues that will follow this work are creating historic change. This is our time to be alive.
A portion of proceeds from WATTBA will be donated to Inner City Arts & Critical Resistance. Inner City Arts is an arts education program for low-income elementary through high school students. Critical Resistance, founded by the revolutionary Angela Davis, is dedicated to ending the prison industrial complex through education and partnerships with other organizations. This show was made possible through the generous support of the following: UNIF, HUF, Vans, Altamont Apparel, OBEY Clothing, THE HUNDREDS, & The Quiet Life.
Support the cause and cop a WATTBA tee designed by UNIF for Slow Culture & Sunday LA.
Shade Magazine is a digital and physical multimedia platform founded by artists Apryl Fuentes and Azha Luckman. Keep up with the latest from them, including shots from their recent interview in Nylon Mag, here.