If you took a cross section of all the visual arts activities going on in greater Los Angeles at any one time and published a list of them, you would have something resembling the visual arts section of the Fringe Festival. The catalogue includes a smattering of exhibitions at museums, universities, high schools and community centers; gaggles of artwork hanging around lobbies, cafes, bookstores and displayed on sidewalks; performances, tours, auctions and receptions. About the only elements missing are mainline commercial galleries and parking lot sales.
It says here, on page 3, that the catalogue "is a wonderful survey of the dynamism of the arts in Los Angeles today." It isn't. It's just a roster of organizations and individuals who paid a fee to be listed. With no quality control and no thread of conceptual, aesthetic or organizational continuity, the Fringe is only a publicity mechanism.
So why should we take it seriously? Beats me, except that the festival is sponsored by the city's Cultural Affairs Department, it has well-intentioned supporters and it seems such a waste of money and effort.
The catalogue also says that the Fringe is a "truly populist festival." Would that it were; at least that would clear up some of the confusion. Then the public would know that any hobbyist can join the Fringe--and plan accordingly. As it stood this year, a Fringe viewer could end up at a first-rate exhibition or amateur hour. The range of quality might be forgivable if events had some other connection, but no. Most catalogued items are just listings of things that would be going on without the festival or programs developed willy-nilly.