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Personalities

NYC vs. LA

The exodus to Los Angeles is growing. Our writer goes for a drive with public speaker and gallery curator Brendan Fowler, discussing life and art in the apple vs. the crapple.

Casey Brown: What’s your full name and how old are you?

Brendan Fowler: My name is Brendan James Fowler and I was born in 1978 and I’m 24.

CB: Where you born?

BF: I was born in Berkeley, California. When I was about nine I moved to Maryland right outside of Baltimore. When I was 19 I moved to New York to go to college and fuck around and be in New York and then in February of this year [2002] I moved to Los Angeles.

CB: What college did you go to?

BF: I went to Sarah Lawrence and I lived in New York for…from September of 1997 until February of 2002. Then I moved to LA.

CB: Cool. Where in New York did you live?

BF: I lived in Yonkers for three years then I lived in Brooklyn for a year and a half—almost two years.

CB: Where in Brooklyn?

BF: In Park Slope, which was nice and neighborhoody, then I lived in Bushwick, which was really industrial and strange and pretty desolate and creepy and weird. And kinda nicer in a way because you had space sort of but it was pretty gnarly. There was bad crime and pretty crazy grizzly murders.

CB: What did you study at Sarah Lawrence?

BF: I studied scamming and avoiding taking classes and cheating and trying to cheat…pretty much cheating, which I became pretty proficient at but I also studied percussion and drumming for a couple of years. My major was free jazz for a little bit [laughter] and then I studied silkscreen pretty hard too. Percussion and silk-screening were the two things I actively engaged in and didn’t cheat at. But I kinda cheated in drumming because I’m tone-deaf. But that’s okay. I wouldn’t have passed…actually I didn’t wind up passing anyway.

CB: You were in [rap group] Dogg and Pony in New York?

BF: Yeah, I was Pony. I was the DJ. Isaac (Ramos) was the Dogg and Ashley [Macomber] was Ashley Snow.

CB: How long did that go on?

BF: That went on for a long time. Dogg and Pony and Sex Sells Magazines are my two claims to fame. Dogg and Pony went on for two or three years.

CB: Didn’t you have a shoe sponsorship?

BF: Yeah, we got a shoe deal and had signature shoes made by Alife Rite Foot in New York. We put out one 12" and had a lot of highly sought-after boutique T-shirts.

CB: Cool.

BF: Did you know the shirts sold at Alife too?

CB: Really?

BF: This lady Alice Roy, this fashion designer wore our shirt at her fall collection show one year and it was on VH1…

CB: Hot.

BF: …with her wearing a Dogg and Pony T-shirt. It was a big deal and all the fashionatti kids were wearing them. They were really good shirts.

CB: Do you think the kids wearing the shirts knew what the fuck it was?

BF: The kids we knew who were fashiony were totally super into them. But I don’t think people really cared too much about what it was. Actually, it wasn’t that they didn’t care…they weren’t wearing them because they loved the band but they probably thought it was funny that they were wearing a fashiony thing that they aesthetically liked, but probably enjoyed the fact that it was a rap group. Because it was an art, white kids, rap group. Even though Isaac is Mexican.

CB: Anyway, you worked at the Alleged Gallery in New York, right?

BF: I worked with the Alleged out there…I got it through the book I put out, Sex Sells Magazines. I worked with Aaron Rose at Alleged from January 2000 until it closed in New York in May of 2001. I booked shows at the Cooler too for two seasons…

CB: Monday nights?

BF: I didn’t have a night. But I got some good shows in. One show that was real big was the first Avey Tare and Panda Bear show, it was them, The Rapture, Black Dice, and Dogg and Pony. That was a Monday night so it was free and the bar sold out of booze and so many people went that the bands got paid too! It was good.

CB: How did you get to LA?

BF: I got to L.A. because I hated New York. I knew I wouldn’t want to live there forever and knew the energy was really bad for me and it was really conducive to me getting over-extended and stressed out and…for me and especially for me…in New York I felt panicked all the time…you don’t have a lot of choices about how you get around so you’re really limited to your experience. ANYWAYS, I just didn’t wanna live there anymore.

I don’t feel like New York chewed me up and spat me out at all. I feel like I was doing really well there. I had a lot of friends…I was making New York work for me in terms of options and whatnot. And I do feel fully, truly, 100-percent blessed that I got to do the things I got to do there. Like, I got to fully live dreams of mine. If I would have known in high school what my life would have been like, ‘No way. I’m gonna be that guy? That’s so fucking rad.’ I didn’t become some famous rock star or anything, it was just like getting to interact with people that I really admired and getting to do things and getting to have my stuff carried in stores that I liked. Ya know? Stuff like that.

It got to the point where I was like, you know what, I’ve had a lot of really great experiences here. I feel fully satisfied. I fell fully, truly blessed and I don’t need to put myself through this sort of pace any longer and I’m gonna opt to leave at this point.

CB: Do you think L.A. is fucked?

BF: I always had this idea, growing up in Northern California, that L.A. was fucked. There is a huge, huge factional rivalry between NoCal and SoCal. It’s a full-on thing.

CB: Blind hate?

BF: Yeah, I hadn’t even been to Southern California for ten years and I was a hater. Anyways, I started to hear that [LA] was kinda rad and sort of cheap. It seemed like a lot of opportunity. There’s art stuff here. It seemed like the opportunity I was used to in New York, that what I enjoy was available in California too.

CB: When did Alleged come out here?

BF: We started talking about it in the spring of 2000. I said in a year or two Ashley and I are gonna come out to California. Aaron was already starting to think about LA. He was always really into the idea of branching out and not being a one-place gallery. There was an Alleged Tokyo for a while and that only fell through because the business partner was bad and shady.

So we came out to L.A. for five days and had a really rad time and it was like okay, let’s do it! Although I was kinda scared for a second. Because everything seemed to be getting career. And I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to be a gallery-ist for my life. I loved working with Aaron and I loved the gallery. But the thing about Alleged is I really liked the options. Like publishing and outside curating and different types of shit…

CB: Watch out for the curb!!

BF: AAAGGGHHH! Dude, this guy behind me is so pissed.

CB: No shit.

BF: Anyway, the idea was to come out here and have a gallery that was sort of like our front. Like our face of the business. Then focus on publishing, outside curating…be more project-oriented. We were gonna start an Alleged record label, which I was gonna head up. Like, a small label. That was the idea of coming here. We planned to move in September. I had to finish one last credit at school. I stayed. But Aaron moved out here in September and I didn’t move out here until February. And that brings us to how I got to LA.

CB: What was it like coming to Chung King Road with a gallery in tow?

BF: Aaron came and set up shop on Chung King Road, which is this little gallery spot in L.A. that’s really hot. The whole L.A. gallery world is super-different. In that it’s not centralized like in New York. There’s different zones in L.A. but it’s…in New York there’s Chelsea, there’s Williamsburg. It’s really pretty strict in that way. But Chung King Road is pretty neat because it is a little pocket. Sort of like how one of those pockets is. But it’s not nearly as big. I guess it’s comparable to how Williamsburg will be…fuck Williamsburg. Anyway, Aaron got an awesome offer to have a space there. Which he thought was gonna be a limited-time thing. He opened it up as the Annex, which was supposed to be reflective of ‘being temporary.’ Annex was supposed to be a temporary name.

CB: What was the first show there?

BF: Mark Gonzales. Statues. An edition of Mark Gonzales Statues.

CB: When was this?

BF: September 14.

CB: Wow. That was really quick. He got out here…

BF: It took a week. He had the show figured out and the art was already made, but yeah it was right around September 11. He didn’t know if he should have it but he had it instead and it was really good and people seemed appreciative to have nice things going on…

CB: So, you love it out here…

BF: Yeah, I do love it here. The thing I like about L.A. is that you have access to just as much stuff. Art stuff, music stuff, fashion stuff, modeling stuff, acting stuff. It’s not identical access. Obviously if you wanted to be an actor this would be a better place to be. Art stuff, I feel like the opportunity is kind of better because galleries are a little more open…

CB: People are hungrier here for things to make a splash…

BF: Exactly. People are more hungry here. So I feel like in a lot of cases…obviously in New York music is a big deal and everyone’s looking at New York…

CB: Hype or hope?

BF: Hype! [laughter] The thing I like about that whole thing is it seems pretty fun-oriented and I like the idea of a move towards fun-oriented music. I think that’s good. I think fun in New York is a good idea ‘cause I feel like New York used to seem like a fun thing before I moved there and I think that if New York became a fun thing that would be great for New York.