Tif Sigfrids is excited to announce Via Café, a group show planned in collaboration with Jasmine Little upon the occasion of her solo exhibition with the gallery. The show is organized around a group of artists who studied art together at UCLA or were part of the Chinatown art scene in the early 2000’s. While expansive, it is entirely incomprehensive. The show will open Saturday, January 16th and remain on view through February 27th. The gallery will be open on Saturdays from 9AM – 3PM and by appointment for the length of the exhibition. Please contact info@tifsigfrids to schedule an appointment.
I remember when Via Café opened in 2002. Before that you could get coffee from the gas station on the corner. From one day to the next, there was espresso (and Tofu Bahn Mi sandwiches). I’m pretty sure that people didn’t care as much about their proximity to espresso then, but this still qualified as an important development in Chinatown. Overtime the walls of Via began to absorb the art from nearby galleries. I remember seeing Jasmine Little’s impressive painting of a girl laying on her back and thinking “that’s a giant painting!” I’m sure plenty of people reading this press release have memories of eating Tofu Spring Rolls under that painting. A lot of new things seemed to pop up around that time. Jorge and Steve started the Mountain Bar, maybe it was also around the time that Dave opened his gallery in the cul-de-sac? Much has been said and written about the Chinatown art scene of the early 2000’s that it seems trivial to attempt to add anything to the narrative except one’s own experience.
I moved to LA that same summer to make a movie with a friend from Ohio and somehow got an “internship” at China Art Objects. The basic format for the internship was a lot of hanging out followed by meeting artists for drinks at Hop Louie. Giovanni talked quite a bit about food and restaurants and eating lunch was another major part of workday. Jon Pylypchuk was using the gallery as his studio that summer, making work for his fall show. He seemed very cool and I’d never seen anything like his art and when I wasn’t too shy I think I’d talk to him about bands I liked. Joel had a space on Chung King Road called Dianne Pruess and when I met him, he and Robbie Kinberg were printing a dictionary of words Robbie made up called 40 never before available words on an old letter press in the office of the gallery. This was probably also around the time Mr. Banjo (Tony Fernandez) made his debut concert perched on a twelve-foot tall stool to commemorate the release of his new CD that was recorded in the basement of the gallery. I was so impressed by all of it. How was I ever supposed to leave this utopic place where so much creativity was happening in a four- block radius and at first glance, it appeared that being an artist was a legitimate profession.
I transferred to the art school at UCLA. I felt very lucky to get in. Everyone who has ever had Roger Herman or Lari Pittman as a professor feels the same. At UCLA I met a number of artists who I’ve had the pleasure of maintaining friendships with over the years and many whose work I’ve had the privilege to show. Having my own gallery has been a nice way to stay in touch with folks, like Jasmine. Her first solo show at the gallery was delayed by Covid and in the midst of all the extra time to plan the idea to make an accompanying group show of people we went to school with emerged, which expanded into this. Perhaps nostalgia is the best antidote to this bizarre and tragic set of global circumstances that has kept many of us apart and isolated. I know we all look forward to the day when there are cafés to gather at en masse after an opening or for any reason at all, really. In the meantime, I hope this crowding together of people’s art is an optimistic sign of better times to come.
Mark von Schlegell
Mike HJ Chang