Various Small Fires’ new Hollywood location [photo by Esther Kim Varet]
Various Small Fires re-opens tonight in its new location on North Highland, making it the latest addition to Hollywood’s growing gallery cluster. The newly remodeled 5000 square foot complex will feature a main gallery space, outdoor sculpture court, and a sound corridor designed specifically for presentations of sound art. We spoke with gallery founder Esther Kim Varet about the new space, why she chose to relocate from Venice to Hollywood, and the origin of the gallery name.
“I moved from NY to LA four years ago. We landed on Abbot Kinney in Venice. The name of the gallery came out of Ed Ruscha’s 1964 conceptual art book. The art community then was very much centered around Venice, and in homage to that legacy, I named it Very Small Fires,” explains Kim Varet. “We realized over the past four years that the traffic in LA had gotten so bad. We were always able to get artists, curators, collectors out there, but I felt that going forward it was going to be very difficult to get people to come back over and over again to Venice, especially with these traffic issues. I figured out that it was not a sustainable place to be for a commercial gallery.”
Kim Varet opened her last Venice show in late 2013, and began looking for a new location. “I considered Culver City, but a lot of people are decompressing from Culver and moving away. Downtown was very attractive because it’s so cheap there, but I felt like that wasn’t right for me either coming from a smaller space and working with emerging artists, and I didn’t want to all of a sudden go into a warehouse situation where the cavernous space would just eat up the art. Hollywood was always on top of my list for where I wanted to be. A lot of galleries who I respected were already moving in this direction: David Kordansky, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Michael Kohn, Overduin & Co. There was a lot of positive energy here.”
Kim Varet found a building in Hollywood, and after winning a frenzied bidding war, she began a ten-month remodel with local architects Johnston Marklee. “I really wanted to have the ultimate solo presentation space a gallery could offer. I didn’t want it too big for one artist or too small. Sizewise it was perfect,” she says.
Visitors will enter the new space through a long alley which has been outfitted with a hidden speaker system. Kim Varet plans to host year-round audio programming, focusing on both historical sound art from the DADA, Surrealist and Fluxus movements, as well as commissioning younger artists to create work specifically for the space. “Building a sound corridor is reflective of the spirit of what I hope VSF stands for,” Kim Varet says, “which is a spirit dedicated to pushing the boundaries of visual art production, representation and conception, thinking of art in expanded fields, not just things that hang on a wall.”
The gallery will open with solo exhibitions from Amir Nikravan and Scott Benzel. Nikravan’s abstract paintings are created from a labored process of construction, erasure, and representation. The end result is an illusionistic “painting of a painting about painting” that definitely needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Nikravan uses paints that were originally designed for use on animation cells, providing a link to the history of the film industry in Hollywood.
Scott Benzel will inaugurate the sound corridor with a piece that mixes abstracted segments from a Beach Boys song with LA street recordings. He will also present a series of architectural models based on the spire atop the Capital Records Building, which is itself a replica of a record needle. As with the actual spire, Benzel’s models will featuring a blinking light that spells out “Hollywood” in morse code – a fitting tribute to the gallery’s new home.