Artist Interviews 2023

ENDED SUMMER at Compound Contemporary  
By Johnny Otto

Photos by Leon Ofsky

Some dreams do come true. Especially if you are focused and determined enough to pursue them with all of your heart. Art Squat Magazine was a dream of mine for many years before it became a reality. The idea grew out of an art show from the early 90's with the same name. As the years passed and I continued to show my artwork throughout Los Angeles, I thought about a way to bring artists together and to help promote their work. I remembered that Andy Warhol had started Interview Magazine with British journalist John Wilcock as a way to celebrate all the amazing artists and celebrities that they had meet and admired. I wanted to do something similar for all the artists that I was meeting and whom I had become friends with. So, in the first part of 2021, I started Art Squat Magazine with my friend Julia Siedenburg, who I had met years earlier. Shortly after, Laura Siebold joined us as a Writer/Contributor. (Jessica Jerskey came aboard as our Cult Movie Reviewer in 2022). I was overjoyed to finally be getting the magazine off the ground, but I was also a bit overwhelmed. Where to start? Who do I interview first? So, I stared thinking about all the artists I knew and reaching out to them.

As I began to contact artists, I thought about Svetlana Talabolina, a Russian artist who I had met briefly right before the pandemic lockdown. When I first saw her art, I knew she was a rare talent. I contacted her, we spoke about art, exchanged ideas and I asked to interview her. I was so honored that she agreed to be in the first issue of Art Squat Magazine. Her skill as an artist is impeccable. Later, because of the overwhelming amount of talent that we all recognized in her work, Svetlana also became the Artist of the Year for the magazine. Will Carsola, best known for his animated series Mr.Pickle, was our first cover artist. We also featured Bill Barminski whose work I had seen at Beyond the Streets in 2018. Other artists included Camille Waldorf, Matthew Wood, Mamie Young, and Charolette Rose. Our first issue was a big success and very satisfying to have gotten off the ground. The dream was a reality. Now we had to keep the momentum going and find more artists for our second issue.

That summer, 2021, I heard about a show that Dave Navarro was doing at Julian's Auctions in Beverly Hills. I reached out to his Publicist to see if I could go to the show and interview him and she arranged for me to be on the guest list. My plan was to also interview the other artists who were part of the show, including RISK, Plastic Jesus, WRDSMTH and Billy Morrison. All who would become involved in the Ended Summer show. In fact, as I looked back at all the puzzle pieces and how they fit together for the Ended Summer show, I realized what an important role my friend Svetlana played in making everything happen. You see, I do, from time to time, suffer from social anxiety and feel awkward going to events by myself. So I asked Svetlana to attend the Julian show as my guest. I wouldn't have attended had she not been my guest. That's how anxious I get. Instead I would have had Julia and Laura interview the artists and the puzzle pieces would not have come together as they were about to. Svetlana and I hadn't seen each other for a long time, so it would also be a good opportunity for her and I to reconnect. I found her to be very intriguing and wanted to see her again. There are certain connections that you have with people that help you to grow, and I felt that she was someone who would become an important force of change in my life. I was right. She brought a lot of passion to her work, which I found to be contagious, and I loved having her energy around me. I also believe that she brings a lot of magic and good luck with her. Having her attend the Julian show with me, I felt more relaxed than I would have been if I were alone. She is also very funny and disarming, which always sets me at ease. Her presence allowed me to work the room with more confidence. Because I went there with her, and not stayed home, I got to meet RISK, Dave Navarro, Billy Morrison and Plastic Jesus. The Julian show was an amazing experience. I loved the energy of all of these amazing artists working together and mutual respect that they had for each other. I was secretly wanting to be a part of it. I wanted to show along side them and to be part of that kind of group dynamic. That was the Summer of 2021.

In the early part of 2023, I began planning a group show to showcase some of the artists we had featured in the magazine. But the questions began to arise...where would we host such a show and what artists would agree to participate? I began reaching out to artists in to see who would be interested. By that time I had met WRDSMTH, so I reach out to him. I also wanted Svetlana to be in the show. She was, and still is, one of the most gifted artists I have ever met. She even called me "Andy", after Andy Warhol, which I loved. Also I reached out to Plastic Jesus, Billy Morrison, Dave Navarro and RISK. It was a month or so before I heard back from any of them. Eventually they each wrote back to me and said that yes, they would like to be a part of the group show. At that point I had no details, I didn't have a gallery to host the show in. RISK had written me back and asked me what the venue was going to be for the art show. I told him that it was still undecided. A month or two later Nicole Alessandrino, his partner who helps run the gallery, wrote to me and said that they'd love to host our event at their new gallery in Thousand Oaks, Compound Contemporary. Needless to say, I was floored. I was overwhelmed with joy. The dream I had of working with all of these artists, was coming to fruition. The long hours with the magazine, the shows and events, years of working as an artist in Los Angeles. I was finally going to be showing with all of these artists that I had admired. I was so happy. But I didn't have time to pat myself on the back because I knew that there was still so much work to be done to organize everything.

I spoke with Nicole asking if we had a lot of RSVP's. She had told me to expect at least 400 people. I was so happy to hear that. Everything was coming together! I had finished several new pieces featuring my 'BUY ART SAVE A CRAZY PERSON' slogan. All the artists delivered their art, had it installed and then we just had to wait for the big night. Those few days, the waiting period, are sometimes the most anxious for me. When the day finally arrived, September 14th 2023, we arrived early at the gallery to set up some last minute things and I was amazed to find that there were already people there and the party had started. As the night went on, and my nervousness subsided, I was able to finally enjoy all the hard work I had put into making the even come to life. I was grateful for the magic that the universe provided when all forces are aligned for a common purpose. We are all dreamers who want nothing more than our art to flourish. Our desire is for people from all walks of life to enjoy the gifts that we are sharing with them. We hope that they appreciate the hard work and talent, because sometimes a lifetime of toil leads to a moment of bliss in a beautiful dream - that was the Ended Summer art show.

Thanks to RISK and Nicole and everybody that helped put the show together!! Ended Summer featured artwork by RISK , Robby Krieger, Billy Morrison , Svetlana Talabolina , WRDSMTH , Plastic Jesus, Mark Estes, Shepard Fairey , Dave Navarro , Johnny Otto and Tommy Hollenstein

Founded in 2021, by Johnny Otto, Julia Siedenburg and Laura Siebold, Art Squat Magazine has featured hundreds of Artists from all around the world, including Painters, Photographers, Sculptors, Poets, Digital Artists, Muralists and more. Compound Contemporary was opened in 2023 to showcase the works of both local and globally-recognized contemporary artists. Open on an invite-only basis, guests have the opportunity to view original works in the gallery’s inviting, laid back atmosphere. A space for public shows, special events, and private gatherings all focused around the gallery’s fine art collection.

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