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Casting the Net Over the Local Scene

The online magazine ArtCommotion was set up to be 'a place where the Los Angeles art community can come together' with the click of a mouse.

July 21, 1996|Suzanne Muchnic | Suzanne Muchnic is The Times' art writer

'We always try to differentiate ourselves from print. Otherwise, why bother?" says Joseph J. Nuccio, producer of ArtCommotion, a new visual and literary arts magazine on the Internet.

Why indeed? If you're knocking yourself out over what he calls "sort of a labor of love, an R&D thing" that produces no revenue, you may as well have the satisfaction of forging new territory in cyberspace.

ArtCommotion--published by Commotion New Media, a Santa Monica-based multimedia production company, and distributed on the World Wide Web ( touted as the only magazine on the Net devoted to art in Los Angeles.

Beyond that distinction, the online publication offers interactive multimedia features and information updates that print cannot duplicate. Although the cover of the first issue looks suspiciously similar to tried-and-true art publications--and the contents are a familiar mix of visual and literary artworks, reviews, profiles, interviews, news and reader comments--a click of the mouse reveals more than meets the eye.

"Equidistant," an interactive artwork by Kim Abeles commissioned for the magazine, appears to be nothing more than a map of Los Angeles with superimposed concentric circles rippling out from the La Brea tar pits, but the piece explores the city from pairs of points equidistant from the center. Click on one of about 60 green dots and you can be transported to the Watts Towers or a mid-city church wedding, accompanied by music. Click on one of two pink dots and you can peruse 24-hour videos of the downtown Broadway shopping district or views from the window of a Holiday Inn in Hollywood.

Moving on to reviews, when you read Michael Cohen's analysis of "Hall of Mirrors: Art and Film Since 1945," an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, you can also hear comments from curator Kerry Brougher. In the "Scoop" section, devoted to emerging artists, is an interactive work by Jason Smith.

As for literary arts, instead of merely reading Amy Gerstler's poetry, you can hear her recite it, or you can construct haiku from Laurie Fox's book "Sexy Hieroglyphics." Relatively lengthy texts are broken up by pictures, while underlined words indicate the availability of more information--often on other Web sites.

Among the features in the magazine's second issue, to be released in mid-August, is a work by Yoko Ono, who is based in New York but has been commissioned to create a piece about Los Angeles. Complex projects such as Abeles' and Ono's will remain online for two months, while news changes weekly and some articles change monthly.

"We're not interested in being yet another thing on the Web," says Philip van Allen, who founded Commotion New Media in 1993. "We wanted to create a place where the Los Angeles art community can come together. We also want to support the art community and build a bigger audience. Our mission is to expose interesting and provocative contemporary art to a broad range of people."

ArtCommotion is an outgrowth of Launch, a CD-ROM entertainment magazine developed by Commotion New Media.

"We produced the first five issues and designed a system so the publishers could make it themselves," Nuccio says. "That left us with an opportunity to implement ideas for a magazine. But the Web and CD-ROM are so different, it posed an interesting challenge."

So did cracking the art world.

"We know multimedia. We don't know the art world, so we set up an advisory board," Nuccio says. Their consultants include artist John Baldessari; dealers Wayne Blank and Craig Krull; and David Jensen, a multimedia specialist at the J. Paul Getty Trust.

The project has been fun, say Van Allen and Nuccio, who pride themselves on giving artists an opportunity to define a new aesthetic. But if the art part is shaping up, finances remain a big question. Although ArtCommotion doesn't have paper, postage and printing expenses, it is labor-intensive--and the only ads in the first issue are free classifieds for art services.

Reluctant to solicit ads from unrelated businesses, Van Allen and Nuccio say they hope to find six art-interested corporate sponsors to donate $5,000 each per issue. If and when ArtCommotion makes money, 10% of profits will be donated to community-based arts education.


NATIVE SON: Five years ago, Alfredo Ramos Martinez, a Mexican painter who lived in Los Angeles from 1929 until his death in 1946, was reintroduced to the city in a 25-year survey of his work at Louis Stern Fine Arts. Now the artist is being honored in his birthplace. As part of the 400th anniversary celebration of the city of Monterrey, where the artist was born in 1872, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey has organized a major exhibition of his work, opening Aug. 16.

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