In the sleepy suburbs of Fairfax, Virginia, Amir Fallah founded Beautiful/Decay as a black and white, hand-photocopied “zine” while still in high school. Along with business partners Fubz and Ben Osher, Fallah has transformed B/D into an internationally distributed publication with a circulation of over 40,000 readers in less than ten years.
As the Creative Director of B/D, Amir has molded the magazine into one of today’s most well-respected and reputable independent publications. His working aesthetic, knowledge, and creative intuition is internationally recognized and his CV includes illustration for numerous publications, event orchestration, revitalization of brand identities, and speaking on panels at colleges and universities, including Columbia College, USC, UCLA and Maryland Institute College of Art.
In a few words what is Beautiful/Decay?
Beautiful/Decay started as a small zine surrounding my personal interests in art, design, graffiti, music, and culture. Today it’s a publishing house, apparel line, design firm, event management company, and when we have time we publish a magazine. Our target demographic is creative individuals that have a wide variety of interests in the arts whether its collecting art, design graphics, or making art.
What is new for B/D in 2007- any new development(s) you’re particularly proud of?
We seem to always have a million things going on at once. In the last month we have designed three apparel lines (two seasons of Beautiful/Decay artist series and one Aya Kato line exclusively for B/D), published our newest issue and are currently redesigning our website while running our online shop. Expect our website to get an amazing facelift. The new version of the site will have many new features for artists and designers such as an event section for readers, an international listing of galleries, and a new audio and video section that will constantly be updated with new content.
How many people are involved in the production of B/D?
We have five in LA and two in NYC that work full time on the magazine. We also have a large group of contributors that work on every issue; it all really depends on what project we’re working on and what type of talent we need.
What is a typical day at the Beautiful/Decay office like?
A typical day consists of answering a hundred or two emails, multiple phone conferences, lots of googling, and if it’s Monday we all go to India Sweet & Spices for Lemon Rice Mondays! Best $5 dollars worth of food in the world!
Street art and graffiti have been very popular the past few years- but you’ve been covering such forms of art for more than ten years; how difficult was it running an independent publication when these “scenes” were not so popular- did you ever consider giving it up?
I was just thinking about this the other day. Most people don’t realize this but not only are we one of the only magazines to consistently cover graffiti but we were the first magazine in the US to consistently feature public art and street art. I don’t remember that whole scene being very popular when we first started putting out B/D. Now street art and public art are extremely popular and you see it all over the place. As a result, we’ve become extremely choosy with what we do and don’t feature from that world. Anyone can come up with a second-rate vector graphic and wheat paste it around the arts district in their town. We prefer to look for those select artists that push the format of street art to the edge and break away from the usual treatments, imagery and concepts. We’ve never really considered taking it out. One of the best things that Beautiful/Decay has done is stick to its guns. While other publications have formed their content around what advertisers want, we have continually kept our mission clear: to cover a wide range of creativity regardless of whether it’s on the streets or at the Whitney museum.
Have you considered publishing any books or producing an art related movie(s)?
We haven’t done any movies yet but we have published two books so far. The first was a collaboration between four artists and myself called Cornceptual Popstraction and the second was for a group show featuring artists Aya Kato, Skwak, Jesse LeDoux, and Friends With You at the Scion Installation space in LA.
What are the next big plans for B/D?
We plan on pushing the content of the magazine and continually refining our look, feel and presence. We are also going to be dramatically expanding our apparel line in the next six months along with our presence on the web. I also wouldn’t mind putting together a creative conference based around the magazine and giving more talks on independent publishing.
On a personal level:
How long have you been an artist for and what are your favourite mediums of expression?
I’ve been making art for as long as I remember. I’ve always had a love affair with paint. I don’t know what it is, but all forms of paint interest me whether its water color, spray paint or acrylic. However, lately I’ve been playing around with other mediums like sculpture and photography.
What are you currently working on? (current projects, exhibitions etc.)
I’m currently working on two shows. The first is for a group show at the L.A. Louver gallery called Rogue Wave. I’m going to be showing several paintings, a few photos, and a large outdoor sculpture. The sculpture is a mix between a fort/tree house and a terrarium. It’s going to have four walls: three out of wood and one out of glass. Inside will be a giant mound of earth with Cacti and succulents growing out of it. On the roof there will be a large hole to let the sunlight in to keep the plants alive. I’ve never made such a big piece, so it should be a lot of fun. Right after that I have a show at Rhys Gallery in Boston. I’ll be showing some paintings and a large fort sculpture there as well.
Having already many years of experience with B/D and being an artist yourself to what extent do you think education (both undergraduate and postgraduate) helped you as an artist? -as a professional?
I think I come from a privileged background where I was lucky enough to be involved in graffiti, which is steeped in traditions of folk art, but also to study and take part in the academic art world. Having that wide scope of experiences helps keep things in perspective. I love the DIY punk mentality that goes along with painting graffiti and I also love learning about the history of art and seeing how it has changed over the years throughout all the different movements. A lot of graffiti writers talk shit about fine art and a lot of fine artists stick their nose in the air at graffiti, but I think they have a lot in common. Beautiful/Decay would not be around if I didn’t have a wide array of experiences in both those worlds.
Major influences ?
One of my earliest influences was the underground music and skateboarding scenes. The first time I found out about punk and hardcore music was when I was riding a skateboard. I skated to my first record shop and bought a Minor Threat tape because some skater kid was talking about them. As soon as I heard that tape my life changed. I don’t know what it was, but I think Ian Mackaye changed my life. Once I got into punk and hardcore I met some graffiti writers at hardcore shows. All of a sudden my life was engulfed with graffiti. I decided to take some art classes to get better at graffiti and before I knew it I was hooked.
Where can someone view/find out more about your art?
You can see some of my art at hybridheart.com. I usually have a listing of art shows on the site as well.
What other publications (print and/or online) do you enjoy reading?
I like reading Inc. magazine, Giant Robot, Bidoun, designiskinky.com, artnet.com, and vvork.com. I also love reading artist monographs and biographies. I have a pretty bad art book addiction.
Last book, movie, song you read, saw, heard and really liked?
Anything else you would like to add?
I’d just like to thank everyone at B/D who works so hard to make the company work and a big thank you to all our readers and supporters. I never thought Beautiful/Decay would get so big and it’s really humbling to meet so many people that connect with it. Thanks.
Amir received his B.F.A. from The Maryland Institute College of Art and his M.F.A from UCLA in 2005. His past exhibits include shows at 4-F, M.Y. Art Prospects, Laband Gallery, cherrydelosreyes, Overtones, and Scope Miami. Upcoming exhibitions include a group show at LA Louver in Los Angeles and a solo show at Rhys gallery in Boston. Amir is currently represented by The Third Line gallery in Dubai, UAE.