Patti Astor — indie actress, ground-breaking curator, Manhattan party girl and current SoCal resident — is stirring things up again, this time here in Echo Park. Patti's headline-grabbing FUN Gallery in NYC (1981-1984) was the very first to give solo shows to street artists Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf and was the blasting off point for young graf talents Lee Quinones, Futura and Fab Five Freddy.
Patti, crowned the original “Queen of the Downtown Scene” for all her independent film roles, has called on her old friends for “3 Kings” a new show for Shepard Fairey's Subliminal Projects Gallery.
The exhibit, opening Saturday night, concentrates on contemporary work from these OG east coast legends, who savvy art fans will recognize from Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style movie, and with some of their monumental work recorded in Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff's Spray Can Art. LA Weekly caught Patti for a few minutes and got the low down.
How have you seen Lee's, Futura's and Fab's work evolve?
Unbelievably it's been 30 years! All of these artists are naturals so there is a real flow to their work. Plus, the excitement of everyone getting together and the tremendous response to the return of the FUN Gallery at MOCA's “Art in the Streets” made this show, “3 Kings” a natural next move. I thought it was important to focus on the new work that all of us are still creating. Lee, Futura and Fab are not just nostalgia acts.
Who are the “3 Kings” of L.A.?
I plead the fifth on this question, but I did meet a number of LA artists during the installation of “Art In The Streets.” I think Saber, Mr. Cartoon, Estevan Oriol, Mear One, Chaz Bojorquez and others have had a lasting effect on the LA art scene.
What did MOCA's “Art in the Streets” show mean for you?
It was a wonderful opportunity to showcase art and artists who are still in my opinion under-appreciated. It validated the years of struggle I shared with my partner Bill Stelling to make the FUN Gallery in New York what it was. There were moments when the veteran artists arrived from New York City and got emotional when they saw the recreation of their old “home.” One of the biggest thrills for me was to have my Jean-Michel Basquiat St. Joe Louis Surrounded By Snakes back in FUN's front window.
Was it important to work with Shepard's Subliminal Gallery?
I met Shepard a couple of years ago while he was DJ'ing. He grilled me for at least 45 minutes on Keith [Haring] and Fab and the FUN. It is very gratifying to see the next generation of artists who were influenced by what we pioneered — it makes the garbage cans through the window, hauling the junkies out of the doorway and the knives in our faces all worth while.
What's next for Patti Astor?
As you know there is a trailer up on YouTube, “Patti Astor's Fun Gallery,” for the documentary, and my dream is to do the feature, but right now I have gone back to my memoir. I am never at a loss for projects! I have a responsibility to keep alive the memory of all the great artists and personalities who are no longer with us.
3 KINGS at Subliminal Projects Gallery runs through October 8, with an opening reception this Saturday, Sept. 17, from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., at 1331 W. Sunset Blvd.
The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
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