Saturday, January 18

Finding success in a hip, homespun ‘zine


The creator of one of artdom’s hippest magazines
doesn’t even have a office. In fact, he’s never had
one.

From his bedroom to cyberspace, Amir Fallah has always done it
his way. The maverick, self-made entrepreneur has literally created
the first six issues of his cutting-edge magazine from cyberspace,
culling his material, conducting interviews and communicating with
his New York-based partners and his network of international
artists and contributors via e-mail, instant messenger and
occasionally his newly-acquired retro fax machine.

The international cyber-scope of Fallah’s project is one
indicator of just how far the Persian-born, Virginia-raised artist
has progressed. As the founder and creative director of the
aptly-titled urban lifestyle magazine Beautiful/Decay, Fallah,
currently a graduate art student at UCLA, is making serious inroads
with the art-loving, magazine-reading public.

Celebrating the release of its sixth issue today, Fallah’s
gritty yet glossy, photo- and illustration-heavy magazine can now
be found at indie bookstores and specialty shops around the nation.
The magazine combines elements of graffiti art, fine art and
music.

Beautiful/Decay’s present prominence is a far cry from its
humble beginnings as a hand-made, home-produced ‘zine.

“I started out in high school with a ‘zine, like a
black and white, Xeroxed ‘zine with my next-door
neighbor,” said Fallah. “Even back then it wasn’t
a graffiti magazine or an art magazine, but a kind of hodge-podge
of all my different interests. We had music, graphic design,
graffiti art, fine art. It was just very low budget.”

Fallah cites among his early influences the graffiti and public
art around his hometown and underground bands such as Fugazi.

“I come from a punk rock background where I listened to a
lot of underground music,” said Fallah. “All these
bands didn’t have a major label. So they put out their own
records, set up their own shows. So I come from that kind of
thinking, where if nobody else is doing it, do it yourself just
because you want to see it out there.”

While the do-it-yourself sensibilities of punk may have provided
the impetus for Fallah to churn out his home-made ‘zine,
music constitutes only a section of the magazine’s content.
Recent issues of Beautiful/Decay feature major sections devoted to
graffiti and public art, as well as fine or modern art from across
the globe. The magazine has evolved into a fitting reflection of
Fallah’s own multi-ethnic considerations as a painter.

“His (own) art combines American Graffiti grittiness with
the tradition of Persian ecstatic decoration to spectacular
effect,” said Robbie Conal, a respected Los Angeles-based
artist and writer.

Conal writes a monthly art column for LA Weekly called
“ArtBurn.” He also teaches drawing at USC, and is a
self-confessed admirer of Fallah and his ground-breaking
magazine.

“He spent years putting together Beautiful/Decay, growing
it from a ‘zine when he was just a kid,” said Conal.
“It’s a very hip classic synthesis of international
graffiti and hip-hop sensibilities.”

Conal thinks that Fallah’s magazine performs an important
role within the art community.

“(It’s) so important that young artists start their
own publications and don’t rely on older establishment
structures to express themselves and communicate with their
audience,” said Conal. “(That’s) a kind of
“˜grow your own’ approach to culture that I can
completely identify with.”

Fallah attributes the home-grown success of Beautiful/Decay to
the fact that it brings together a variety of disparate interests
and genres. Urban art, like graffiti art, jostles for space with
more “legitimate” forms. Again, the eclectic spread
reflects its creator.

“I had all these interests, and I felt like I had
something to say, to contribute,” said Fallah.
“I’ve always been interested in magazines. I buy
magazines once or twice a week. I really just love reading them. So
I was like, I should start my own magazine. Again, I couldn’t
find anything out there… that appealed to my various interests.
There was nothing that had everything I liked, so I made it
myself.”

Beautiful/Decay only survived three issues in its original,
Xeroxed form. But during his senior year of college (he attended
the Maryland Institute College of Art, before coming to UCLA)
Fallah sold several of his paintings at an art exhibit in New
York.

He bankrolled the proceeds from the sale, and with the help of
volunteers from college, resurrected his original concept, but this
time as a full-fledged color magazine. In 2002, issue A of the
all-new Beautiful/Decay was born. That issue had a print run of
3000 copies.

The current print run of the magazine has more than tripled
since, and Fallah anticipates that figure will double again in the
near future.

Fallah and his partners, Ben Osher and Fubz, are confident that
the magazine will continue to hit the right vein with its target
readership.

“(Beautiful/Decay) is both cool and relevant because we
deal with a very wide spectrum of art, from graffiti to acclaimed
fine artists in a cohesive format that presents everything in an
accessible way, ” said Osher.

“We fill a gap in print media, which is an art magazine
for a younger urban audience, without pandering to the mainstream
“˜urban lifestyle’ genre.”

Fallah understandably has high hopes for his growing pet
project. There’s one target he hopes to see fulfilled soon
though ““ to see a copy of Beautiful/Decay on the shelves at
the UCLA Store in the near future.

“We’re at most newsstands, but we’re not
anywhere on campus,” said Fallah. “That’s one
thing I’d really like to see.”

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