Sacha Baumann’s FULL BLEDE delivers community and collaboration with art world

So many artists I know struggle with knowing how to get involved, how to network and how to get visibility within the amorphous art world.

Getting your work noticed on Instagram amidst the never-ending stream of images, or setting yourself apart from the masses of other people at art events can be tiresome at best and you can feel like you’re having to fight your way into a world that should be welcoming you with open arms.

I always fall back on the idea that it’s better to try to shape the art world into the one you want to participate in as opposed to trying to squeeze into something that isn’t the right fit.

When faced with the feeling that there is a lack of opportunity, or that the structures in place aren’t going to work for you, why not spend some time thinking about how you could create opportunity? What would you want to change about the art world, and what would the alternative look like?

Luckily for us, there are artists who have been asking these questions and shaping our art world by creating alternatives to the existing structures. From an exhibition space in a backyard, to a grant for artists funded by tip jars, and even an art fair, these artists have created platforms whose benefits have a domino effect in their reach.

Sacha Baumann is another one of these artists.

Baumann is a rare type that has both artistic abilities and administrative skills that she puts to good use working for artists and galleries as an arts administrator. In 2017, she was working for Charlie James Gallery while Los Angeles artist Nancy Buchanan was having a solo show. In researching Buchanan’s work, Baumann came across a magazine created by Paul McCarthy, which Buchanan was included in along with other notable artists such as Susan Mogul, Barbara T. Smith and Bruce Nauman.

Entitled Criss Cross Double Cross, the magazine lasted just one print run despite its ambitious aim of  “wanting to figure out a way to present all the artists who were living in Los Angeles at the time” as McCarthy would later say in Second Life: Criss Cross Double Cross by Gabriel Cifarelli.

Around this same time, Baumann had been invited to show work in a group exhibition but had just lost her studio space. She used the unfortunate, or serendipitous, timing as an opportunity to make something that didn’t require a studio space—she decided to develop her own paper with Criss Cross Double Cross as the inspiration. She had always loved newspapers, made a zillion zines since being a kid, and thought, “Why can’t I do this?”

The first issue of her paper, entitled FULL BLEDE, was produced at 16 pages long with a run of 100 papers. Like Criss Cross Double Cross, which was designed to be oversized and spill off of coffee tables, FULL BLEDE is a full-on broadsheet printed on newsprint. Each issue has a curatorial theme that Baumann invites artists and writers to respond to.

The artists selected for inclusion have a large image of their work printed on a full page. Text is included only when it is an artistic contribution, and each artist has a small paragraph about their work included in what might be considered the end credits. There are no articles, interviews or opinion pieces.

FULL BLEDE quickly developed into a regular publication, yet for the first three of four issues, Baumann said that it felt like people didn’t take her endeavor seriously. She had to continue to reiterate that she was in it for the long haul.

Baumann reaches out to a Los Angeles area gallery to partner with for the issue’s launch to coincide with an exhibition reception and cross-pollinate audiences. Now, with 10 issues under her belt, the galleries are coming to her.

Mike Weiss, Director of Lowell Ryan Projects in Los Angeles, which hosted FULL BLEDE’s most recent launch, said “FULL BLEDE offers a rare thing in the art world, it is not just another publication on art, but reads like an immersive environment of images, text and artist projects. We offered our gallery space for the launch of issue number 10 and found it to be a rewarding experience since we met many new artists and writers.”

The launch of the paper brings a new audience to the gallery and the artists featured in the paper get to share their work. Baumann also gets to widen her circle of both gallery and artist contacts. Baumann describes this as a “virtuous circle.” She benefits, the artists benefit and the galleries benefit. She is considering bringing in guest collaborator or curator for a future issue as well. The circle, or web as she calls it, continues to grow.

In learning about these types of projects, I am always interested to know: Who are they serving and how does the organizer personally benefit from the project? With the next question being: Is it is profitable?

“It’s a loss every issue,” Baumann said. FULL BLEDE is available for free, and aside from a low-key ask for donations on the website, she “never wants money to be the thing.” There is no income from advertising in FULL BLEDE because Baumann does not want to be influenced by a funder or advertiser.

Paul McCarthy’s original project could not find the financial support it needed to continue. With a plan to produce 1500 copies for that first magazine, he was only able to pay for 700 and the rest were likely dumped by the printer. Not knowing how to sell the magazine, he ended up giving away most of the copies.

Coming up on its 11th issue, FULL BLEDE is still going strong. FULL BLEDE at this point has featured over 250 artists and has increased Baumann’s own profile in the art world.

This is DIY opportunity at its best. I think part of Baumann’s success is that it was never about money, instead she values the sense of community that is being cultivated through each issue and at each launch. She also uses it as an opportunity to flex her design and problem-solving muscle and become acclimated to the networking it requires.

Often existing in addition to a day job and the artist’s personal art practice, these initiatives involve a lot of unpaid labor and a huge time commitment. However, by creating something that invites contributors and offers opportunities to many, Baumann has also created a newspaper-sized calling card for herself within the art world.

When I start to think about the reach someone like Sacha Baumann has had or the other artists I’ve discussed in past columns, the art world becomes a more accessible place. It doesn’t seem so impossible to connect with like-minded people and see shakeups in the way things operate.

Initiative does have results and shows that we can each become creators of the art community we want to have; we can collaborate with the art world to create that space for ourselves that fits just right.

Roundup of Recommendations:

Want to dip your toe into the world of print publications? How about starting with a zine? The Creative Independent (an all-around great resource for artists) has a tutorial on How to Make a Zine. They also have a great piece on How to Get Press For Your Creative Work.

Continuing the theme, a recent episode of the Art & Cocktails podcast discussed how to get more media features in blogs, magazines and other publications and includes some very practical tips to get you going.

One easy step you can take right now to get featured in a magazine is to apply to ArtMaze Magazine, an artist-run print and online publication. The deadline for their current call for art is February 20.

There are also a couple local open call opportunities for exhibiting your work including Art Clout Long Beach’s first open call (deadline February 29) and __flatline (also in Long Beach) is currently taking exhibition proposals (deadline February 15).

And don’t forget to follow FULL BLEDE on social media to find out about their next launch event and get involved in the community being created around it.

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Virginia Broersma is an artist and operates The Artist’s Office. She lives in Long Beach and along with her studio work, organizes opportunities for information sharing, relationship building often through shared meals, and offers a variety of services aimed to help artists identify and pursue the opportunities available to them, including a subscription service for artist deadlines. Her work can be seen at virginiabroersma.com and on Instagram @theartistsoffice and @virginiabroersma.
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