L.A.’s Ichiro Irie creates the ultimate work of art independence:
An art fair for artist-run initiatives in the spiritual heart of the Americas
QiPO Fair, Mexico City
Written by Dani Dodge
Ichiro Irie has long been a force in the Los Angeles art world. He has exhibited in regional galleries and museums such as DENK, University Art Museum, Long Beach, Torrance Art Museum and Japanese American National Museum as part of Pacific Standard Time LA/LA. He also founded the artist-run space JAUS in West L.A. known for showcasing a diverse group of local and international artists.
This year he, along with partner Laura Reséndiz, embarked on the second year of one his greatest endeavors of all: creating the QiPO Fair, an art fair for artist initiatives. QiPO is being held from Feb. 6 to 9 in Mexico City, the same week as the ZONAMACO Art Fair during Mexico City’s world-renowned Art Fair Week.
Today, the list of exhibitors is being revealed for the first time in Art and Cake.
The 2020 edition includes initiatives from Mexico, Europe and the United States, and features a strong showing of Los Angeles-area artist-run spaces including Durden and Ray, Museum Adjacent, and DXIX. (See final list at the end of the story.)
“QIPO Fair grew out of a collaboration between the co-director Laura Reséndiz and I, and our desire to do something that took a more expansive view than simply inviting artists and showing their work,” Irie said. “With Los Angeles, having the largest Mexican and Mexican-American populations outside of Mexico, I think it’s quite natural that we have such a prominent L.A. presence this time around. It’s a dialogue and relationship I’d like to continue to support and nurture while also expanding to different regions of the world.”
Irie’s story, though, didn’t begin by trying to rock the art world with new ideas. Born 1969 in Tokyo, Japan, Irie immigrated to Los Angeles with his parents at the age of two. He went to Santa Monica High School and did his undergraduate education in Film Studies and Communication Studies at University of California, Santa Barbara. After several years working in the television and film industries, he decided he wanted to pursue his “true calling” and attend art school. In 1999, he was accepted to into the Claremont Graduate University MFA program. Even while he was a student, Irie organized small exhibitions in now defunct artist-run spaces such as The Hatch in L.A. and Crazyspace in Santa Monica.
“The Los Angeles art scene has been greatly impacted by the activities of Ichiro Irie for nearly 20 years, through his work both as an artist, and as an organizer and curator,” said Max Presneill, Director/Curator of the Torrance Art Museum, and founding member of the Durden and Ray collective. “His projects at JAUS and QiPO as well as other independent sites, particularly in Mexico and Japan, have encouraged an international outlook amongst his peers and allowed many artists their first showing abroad. He has done this in a truly altruistic and generous spirit, which places him in high esteem amongst those who know and have worked with him.”
After graduate school he went to Mexico City on a Fulbright Fellowship, and ended up spending five years there, building a strong support group, and founding and editing the contemporary art publication RiM magazine. Through RiM magazine he met and collaborated with Laura Reséndiz, his current QiPO Fair partner.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to partner with Ichiro, whom I admire as an artist, respect for his knowledge and clarity on contemporary art market, and constantly learn from his vast experience,” Reséndiz said. “His understanding about the importance on giving exposure and maintain independent projects, gifts QiPO with a mission that benefits a larger range of the public, provoking different personal and artistic motivations that I´m sure will positively reflect in the fair.”
QiPO began as a collective with a team of curators and artists from L.A., Finland, Germany and Mexico whose plan was to organize and present art exhibitions in different parts of the world.
In 2019, a Mexico City-based organization that renovates neighborhoods called Reurbano invited Reséndiz and Irie to create the first edition of QiPO Fair at the “Gaona” building, an exquisite Neocolonial structure in Mexico City’s historic city center, located within walking distance from other major events happening simultaneously such as Material Art Fair and Salon Acme.
Reséndiz added that Mexico City itself was perfect for the project.
“Mexico city is rapidly growing and specializing in the world art system,” she said. “New galleries opening constantly, young artists collaborating virtually, independent spaces and the international legitimation of the contemporary art market through it´s fairs: Material, MACO and ACME. It makes perfect sense and timing to add and nurture this scenario with a proposal by independent curators instead of commercial galleries.”
But Reséndiz and Irie had only six weeks to plan, invite projects, build, find sponsors and promote.
Irie said: “It was a little insane, but it turned out remarkably well with great attendance, a lot of local press, top 5 and 10 lists, television features, and I think a lot of happy exhibitors and visitors.”
As the director of JAUS, Irie said he had always felt somewhat at odds with participating in art fairs geared more toward commercial galleries, and felt a need for projects that put artist-run initiatives in the forefront. In 2015, he participated in the first iteration of Satellite Art Show and got a glimpse of how an art fair with artist initiatives could contribute to the overall dialogue if the booths were more affordable and encouraged more risk-taking instead of “bottom-lines and sales.”
He thought Mexico City was the perfect spot to create something new.
“Strategically, it is an attractive city for creatives with a vibrant art scene in terms of artists, institutions, curators, collectors and critics that is considerably less stratified than New York or Los Angeles,” Irie said. “I think that’s what helped with the first edition, because we were the new kids on the block, and we were approaching this event so differently than what everyone had become accustomed with the more official fairs, exhibitions and events.”
The first edition was more of a curated exhibition of artist-run initiatives from different parts of the world. The upcoming version, though, featured an open call, and the format of a fair.
“We’re still a fledgling event,” Irie said, “but I hope to see QiPO Fair one day become the go-to event for artist-run initiatives all over the world. For this, there is no better place or nexus than Mexico City being at the physical and in many ways spiritual heart of the Americas.”
Presneill said QiPO is an excellent example of the “DIY approach” from artist/curators, independent spaces and the alternative scene that has created a global community of support, interaction and exchange.
“For artists and artist-run groups here in L.A. it is perfect – international but close-by, costs are low,” Presneill said. “Mexico City is fun and the people involved are great to work with – organizers and participants alike.”
In his personal art practice, Irie describes himself as a “multi-disciplinary artist that looks at the history of modernity and Modernism in both awe and remorse.” For example, a recurring motif in his work is the automobile, and in particular wrecked sports cars. He sees the speed, freedom, status and comfort the car provides as being linked to the fulfillment of our basic erotic needs, while high speed collisions, environmental destruction, and societal disparities enhanced by global industry alluding to an unconscious drive towards death.
He noted: “It might or might not be related to my own desire to make a more artist-driven (no pun intended), less top-down model for viewing and sharing art within the context of a blue chip gallery/mega fair centered art world.”
While QiPO takes time away from making art, he said, “I also think it’s the most serious and meaningful thing I can do with my time and skill set right now.”
Despite his work reaching international audiences, Irie, said Los Angeles is definitely his home.
“I love having a halfway decent ramen house and taqueria within 5 minutes of my house,” Irie said. “In Mexico City, the taquerias are much better, but the ramen isn’t as good and few and far between. In Tokyo, the ramen shops are better, but the tacos aren’t quite authentic. It’s a good cross-section of cultures I’ve grown up with, and I think that’s a good metaphor for what I like about L.A.”
Exhibitors that will show at QiPO:
CACtTUS International (Tijuana, MX / Long Beach, CA)
CICLO (Mexico City)
Claudia Huiza Presents (Culver City, CA)
DXIX Projects (Venice, CA)
Durden & Ray (Los Angeles, CA)
Espacio Arriba (Mexico City)
Espinoza Curatorial Projects (Los Angeles, CA)
The Farm & Distillery (Lentzke, Germany)
Unión Unión (Mexico City)
Hector (Mexico City)
JAUS / GL Mutante (Los Angeles, CA / Mexico City)
Libertine (Los Angeles, CA)
Meta Projects (Monte-Carlo, Monaco)
Museum Adjacent (Los Angeles, CA)
OJO (Mexico City)
Proyectos Raúl Zamudio / Empty Circle Space (Brooklyn, NY)
Quiñonera (Mexico City)
RainArtStudio (Chihuahua, Mexico)
Unibrow Collective (Sacramento, CA)
USSR (Mexico City)