Artist Profile: Timo Fahler
Being an artist affords opportunities for social engagement that can be utilized, rejected, or exploited in the worst case. Timo Fahler (b. Tulsa, Oklahoma) is an artist who believes that artists are cultural reporters, in that there is a certain level of responsibility inherent in the practice of art making to identify and transmit meaning from both personal narratives and world affairs into an open dialog. He engages in a trifold art practice encompassing his art making, a migrating installation called BBQLA, and Meatgrinder, a youth oriented art club community. Each facet plays a role in supporting the other and builds an infrastructure for sharing resources and creating opportunities for other artists.
The first time I encountered the work of Timo Fahler was at an exhibition called IN, which he collaborated on with Rafa Esparza at Club Pro Los Angeles in 2016. I remember the sections of rebar sculptures dissecting the space and culminating into the shape of a snake’s head in the main room and an old overstuffed chair, disemboweled and suspended from the ceiling. There were brightly painted trunks of salvaged telephone poles positioned on the floor, and painted planks of wood assembled to sheets of chicken wire on the wall that straddled the line between painting and sculpture. It was hard to believe that this exhibition was composed by two artists, because the individual works and visual references blended so seamlessly together that it was as if it was coming from one point of view.
IN Timo Fahler and Rafa Esparza at Club Pro LA 2016
But after visiting his studio since then, Timo’s work has become instantly recognizable in his use and reuse of materials like rebar, dyed hydrosol, cinder blocks and linen which take form in sculptural pieces that serve as a reflection of self in contemporary society. While they are considered sculpture on a formal level, many of these works invoke the nuances of painting through the use of line, color and the additive process he uses to build on top of the steel frames. Timo is currently developing a new body of work that explores his personal family tree by incorporating images and ephemera from family members directly into the art objects. One piece includes a railroad spike harvested from the same tracks in the southwest where his grandfather would deliver water to the railroad workers. In another, the seven children of his grandmother are represented as flowers which signify her love of gardening. It is in these metaphors that Timo can express his personal understanding of who they were and what they stood for, and in the times of border policy and regulation, telling the story of his Mexican/ German immigrant heritage also serves as a way to reflect on self-identity as not only being American but Human.
Slow Relief Ibid gallery Los Angeles 2017
Initially, BBQLA began as a series of exhibitions that took place in a backyard over barbecue in 2015. Timo Fahler Adam Beris and Thomas Linder were three guys from the Midwest looking for a way to engage with the many local Los Angeles art communities that exist there, and found that sharing resources and providing opportunities for younger or underexposed artists to exhibit artwork was a great way to do that. After moving to their current location at Jesse street in Boyle Heights, where Timo and Thomas also have their studios, the project gained momentum and continues to be an essential meeting point for artists, curators, writers and all manner of creative people to congregate and connect. The exhibitions take place in a small room built inside of Thomas Linder’s studio space and are frequently guest curated by artists from all around the country. Keeping with tradition, at the openings the team prepares a BBQ feast cooked in the DIY fire pits just outside the building and free for all to enjoy. The success of these events is no doubt due to the outpouring of hospitality and somewhat primal experience of connection that comes from sharing food and conversation by the fire.
Timo Fahler and Thomas Linder (right) with Meatgrinder teens at 2017 art salon
The teen-focused art club Meatgrinder developed just as naturally, when Timo met Max Oppenheimer at an opening in January 2017. During this time Timo was volunteering as a teacher for teenage students studying for a GED in Boyle Heights and found that a traditional classroom and program structure would fail to hold their interest. Through conversation with Max, he decided to spearhead the Meatgrinder program as a way to create an entry point into the larger art world for youths growing up in Los Angeles to take part in. The program consists of artist-led walkthroughs at gallery exhibitions, trips to museums, studio visits and workshops, all of which are decided upon through open conversation between Timo and participants—and membership is free.
As an artist, Timo Fahler utilizes the opportunities this platform provides to create opportunities for others, which in and of itself is a lifelong practice of openness and inclusion.
Timo Fahler (b. 1978 in Tulsa, Oklahoma) studied at San Francisco City College, Kansas City Art Institute, and received an MFA from UCLA in 2012. Upcoming exhibitions include a group show at Et. Al in San Francisco in August 2018, a collaborative exhibition with Rafa Esparza in Guadalajara early 2019, and his second solo exhibition at Ibid gallery in Los Angeles early 2019.