Ruben Ochoa's Class C mobile art gallery

Otis College artists and designers are making their mark during one of the city’s preeminent art events.

With Frieze L.A. upon us, Los Angeles is popping with Otis College alumni and faculty who are showing work in and around the art fair. Some of the most comprehensive art listings are in the Los Angeles Times, Hyperallergic, and The Hollywood Reporter, and below we’ve singled out some of our stellar alumni and faculty, whose work is being celebrated in the coming days and weeks. 

If you are an Otis alumni and with an update on upcoming shows, career milestones, product/collection debuts, etc., please let us know, as we’d love to amplify your work on and our various social media presences

Ruben Ochoa (’97 BFA Fine Arts)

Otis College alumni Noe Pina and Ruben OchoaThrough Sunday, February 19, 2023 Ruben Ochoa will be rolling out Class: C (above), the mobile gallery housed in an old Chevy cargo van that his family once used to sell tortillas near San Diego. Shortly after graduating, he began using the van for art exhibitions, transforming it into a tiny gallery space that he invited other artists and curators to use for shows. At one point, the van had a halfpipe installed on the roof.  

“Now, for the first time since 2005, Ochoa is opening the doors of his storied and rather rusty van to the public again, parking it on the tarmac of the Santa Monica airport for the run of Frieze Los Angeles there (Feb. 16-19) . . . The van will showcase Ochoa’s own work, bronze sculptures he recently made of stacks of tortillas—‘monuments to the history of the van and to my mom, who pioneered our tortilla delivery route,’” Ochoa told The New York Times of his upcoming installation in the Maestro Dobel Tequila Lounge at Frieze

Edgar Ramirez (’18 BFA Fine Arts)

Otis College alumni Edgar Ramirez at Frieze L.A. beside one of his paintingsEdgar Ramirez shows his work through Sunday, February 19, 2023 in the Focus section of Frieze, which highlights emerging artists, and this year “showcases artists who link both personal and collective narratives of immigration across generations, through the dystopic urban American landscape, or by using the body as a vessel for examining these histories.” Ramirez’s work—reflecting his upbringing in the Wilmington area of Los Angeles, near the Port of L.A. and numerous oil refineries—utilizes predatory lending and similar signs found throughout his neighborhood. “Appropriating the look and language of these predatory signs, he paints them in a multitude of colors on cardboard and then subjects them to a process of aggressive sanding, ripping, and subtraction which seems to exist somewhere between classical décollage and the urban decay which can be seen in areas around Ramirez’s neighborhood, particularly the port and nearby refineries.” 

Kelly Akashi (’06 BFA Fine Arts) 

As part of a Frieze Projects installation, Kelly Akashi has three works in Villa Aurora through Saturday, February 18, 2023. “The exhibition Against the Edge brings the work of contemporary artists into dialogue with cultural sites across the Westside, unearthing narratives of liberation and creativity as well as exile and occlusion.” Aksahi’s three pieces are nestled throughout the historic landmark building in the Pacific Palisades, and speak to “many of Akashi’s sculptural and conceptual concerns—how materials encode presence and absence, flowers as a marker of ephemerality, and cycles of life, death, and rebirth.” 

Alison Saar (’81 MFA Fine Arts) 

Alison Saar currently has a solo exhibition, Uproot, at L.A. Louver, through March 11, 2023. In a presentation composed of sculptures and paintings, Saar “employs historical memory and media as a lens through which to view the contemporary and delves deeper into the realities, histories, and layers of Black womanhood in the United States. Titled Uproot, this exhibition excavates the intersection of racialized gender inequity and reproductive rights, taking as inspiration images of the Sable Venus and the use of herbal abortifacients as a means of resistance and revolution.” 

Saar is also included in the exhibition, Afro-Atlantic Histories, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, alongside Otis alum Kerry James Marshall (’78 MFA Fine Art). On view through September 10, 2023, the exhibition “charts the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies in the African diaspora. Through a series of dialogues across time, Afro-Atlantic Histories features artworks produced in Africa, Europe, and the Americas in the last four centuries to reexamine—from a global perspective—histories and stories of enslavement, resilience, and the struggle for liberation.” The exhibition includes a spectrum of media—paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, ephemera—from historical artists like Frans Post and Édouard Antoine Renard to contemporary ones like Saar, Marshall, Kara Walker, and Hank Willis Thomas. 

Andrea Bowers, Otis Faculty, MFA Fine Arts

Andrea Bowers is included in the group exhibition Visual Language: The Art of Protest at Subliminal Projects, on view through March 25, 2023. The exhibition “is an investigation of how art serves as a societal crux between dissent and action. The exhibition features a selection of pivotal artists whose practice challenges systematic corruption imposed by those in power. The tone of the works gathered range from political, ironic, typographic, autonomous, and abstract, collectively serving as a beacon of resistance, awakening, and a confrontation of regressive politics.” 

Betye Saar, Otis Faculty Emeritus 

Former Otis faculty Betye Saar will sign copies of her new book, Black Doll Blues, at Roberts Projects on Saturday, February 18, 1:00–3:00 p.m. “Betye Saar: Black Doll Blues features new watercolor works on paper and assemblages by Saar that incorporate the artist’s personal collection of Black dolls. These watercolors showcase the artist’s experimentation with vivid color and layered techniques, and her new interest in flat shapes. While Saar has previously used painting in her mixed media collages, this is the first publication to focus on her watercolor works on paper.”

Dolls from Saar’s collection, as well as her sketchbooks, watercolor paintings, and related materials will be on view during the event.

Main image: From Frieze L.A.; photo of Otis College alumni Noé Piña (’98 BFA Fine Arts) and Ruben Ochoa (’97 BFA Fine Arts) in front of his Class: C, and photo of Edgar Ramirez (’18 BFA Fine Arts), by Mark Farina/Otis College of Art and Design.