Artists’ Books & Cookies Make for a Winning Combo
Wendy Yao, a Los Angeles native, has grown Ooga Booga from a tiny store in a former storage closet in Chinatown to an internationally known name in the worlds of art and “cool.” She recently opened a second location, Ooga Twooga, which is four times the size of the first. Everything in her stores, from artists’ books and editions to clothes and accessories, reflects her uniquely Los Angeles vision. They are not to be missed on any art-sensitive tour of the city.
This weekend provides an excellent excuse to do so: on Saturday and Sunday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), visit 356 S. Mission Road for the third annual Artists’ Books and Cookies, an event produced in collaboration with Ooga Booga, the Mexico City-based Fundación Alumnos47, and my organization ForYourArt. Alongside hundreds of artists’ books, cookies from SQIRL, and conversations about independent artist publishing, you’ll also be able to view a stunning exhibition of Alex Katz’s flower paintings and, of course, browse the offerings at Ooga Twooga.
On this occasion, I asked Wendy about her love of artists’ books and her advice for getting the most out of her enticing stores.
How did you get the idea for Ooga Booga?
When I opened the space, about ten years ago, the landscape for stores was really different. There wasn’t anything back then that served my particular interests in music, books, art, and design, so I went about creating something that did.
Are artists’ books at the core of this?
I’ve always been interested in artists’ books. My upbringing was heavily influenced by underground music and punk: I was always collecting records, and there is a lot of exchanging of fanzines in those worlds as well. As I became more immersed in contemporary art, publishing independent artists’ books seemed like a natural extension of my interest in music fanzines: both are self-made, self-published, and more democratic forms of distributing cultural ideas.
How has the interest in what you’re doing changed since you started?
Public interest has grown a lot, especially in terms of artists’ books: It’s easier to find out about independent artists and publishers, and more stores carry this kind of material. In L.A., when Ooga Booga first opened, there was only Arcana and Hennessey + Ingalls, but now there are stores in many cities that specialize in these publications. The attendance at art-book fairs has also ballooned each year.
What’s your advice for someone browsing Ooga Booga for the first time?
We’re not the kind of store designed to be eye candy that you pass through, buy something quickly, and leave. There are many hidden treasures, and you’ll be rewarded for digging deep! If you have time to spend, it’s a more satisfying experience to come by, have a cup of coffee, use our Wi-Fi, and relax. We encourage people to take their time, even if they don’t buy anything. Also, talk to one of us!
For more information, visit www.oogaboogastore.com.
Photos: Anthony Valdez; Courtesy ForYourArt; Courtesy 356 S. Mission Road