What is an Art Squat and how did this journey begin?
Well, many many moons ago, circa 1999, my brother Michael Otto, who just prefers to be called Otto, was
friends with a guy named Andy who lived in a fourplex on Genesee ave. just south of Melrose, across from
Fairfax High school. Andy had told my brother that there was an empty two bedroom apartment on the second
level across from his and that the Landlord hadn't been seen in years and nobody was paying rent. He went
on to tell my brother that the empty unit was filled with junk that had to be cleared out but once that was
done, the space could be used as an art gallery. So, my brother and I and a few other friends, spent a few
days clearing out all the junk, and we put large locks on the doors so that nobody could enter without us.
There was no power in the unit that we occupied, so, whenever we had an art opening, Andy would run power
cables out his back window and into the empty unit. Collectively we came up with the name Art Squat for our
new gallery and we had some crazy raging parties. This went on for several years. The Landlord was never seen
or heard from. In fact, there was a garage behind the property that had a vintage car in it and boxes of
newspapers from the 80's. J.V. McCauley from the LAWEEKLY attended our opening night and here is what he wrote:
"What would you do if the landlord stopped collecting rent and allowed squatters to take over an abandoned Fairfax-district
apartment right next to yours? Why, commandeer the empty site, run extension cords from your pad into the space and create <
an art collective, of course. Tha's exactly what host/artist - not to mention beautiful - ANDY SCHEER did when he brought
together artists HOLLAND, DAVID FRUDIS, MICHAEL MORRISON, JOHNNY OTTO, and just plain old OTTO for ARTSQUAT recently.
Judging by the refreshments (beer and a boozy pink punch - what squatter can afford champagne?), this was no fancy-shmancy
party. Among the smart art tarts milling and swilling while reviewing the hand-painted photographs, illustrations, and
paintings were actor ALEXIS ARQUETTE, superstar CANDYASS, hairchopper FRANKIE PAYNE, PETRA HAYDEN (formerly of THAT DOG),
Aussie transplants BELINDA GAVIN and her hot boyfriend MULLY, saucy SELENA, who got into the spirit of the evening by
painting "ARTSQUAT" across her breasts (now that's what we call titillating), club king JOSH WELLS, photographer
ANDY DEVINE, cocksucker to the stars HAGATHA, the long-lost but not missed SHELVELVA KENNEDY-SINATRA, and brassy babe
MISS ANDRA." -
, J.V. McAuley
But that was 22 years ago, so why now use the name Art Squat for a new art magazine? Well, for one, it is a catchy name.
Two, I've always liked the idea of being slightly outside of the normal channels when it comes to having art openings
and for promoting my art and the art of my fellow Artists. To Squat in the art world, you could say. Hopefully the
Landlord doesn't make an appearance and this magazine will reflect our devotion to the Artists who make this world a
beautiful place to call home, for a long time.
Johnny Otto, Founder, Art Squat Magazine
Johnny Otto, Art Squat Gallery, 1999