Letter from the Editors and Publishers

Dear Reader,

This fall marks the twentieth volume of the collectively produced quarterly X-TRA. The journal was initiated by a few artists in Los Angeles who had identified, as Ellen Birrell put it, “a need for artists to take control of the processes by which their work is seen and understood.”1

For the first six years, X-TRA was printed on newsprint and given away for free at galleries, museums, and art schools. Regardless of cover-price, the X-TRA editorial board has always focused on high quality writing. We continue to strive to present diverse, surprising, and thoughtful approaches to contemporary art that uphold our core mission to promote and provoke critical engagement with contemporary art.

We are proud to present this first issue of the twentieth volume. The transition from the newsprint freebie to the substantial full-color journal in your hands today is part of our history. For giving X-TRA its unique physical form over the years, we thank current designers Brian Roettinger and Taylor Giali, and those of the past: Aaron King and Holiday, Michael Worthington, Conny Purtill of Purtill Family Business, Brian Bartlett and Danielle Foushée, Mitchell Kane, and Jérome Saint-Loubert Bié. Thumbnail images of our front covers from the past twenty years will be scattered throughout the pages of volume 20.

X-TRA’s entire archive, which represents our work with more than 450 artists and writers, is available for reading online. In addition to the quarterly, X-TRA also presents public events, editions, and books, and we are growing our online presence. These facets of X-TRA are integral to fulfilling our mission.

In honor of this twentieth anniversary milestone, we are poised to launch several new programs that further define X-TRA as an artist-driven organization with deep roots in the community. Our aim is to provide a platform for artists to define their own terms of engagement and to expand the fields of criticism and theory.

With the Artist Writes series, we have commissioned essays for volume 20 by four significant contemporary artists: A.L. Steiner, Andrea Fraser, Martine Syms, and Pope.L. Each artist-author will present a corresponding public lecture in Los Angeles. Their essays will be anthologized upon the series’ completion.

In this issue, you will find the first of the series—A.L. Steiner’s “It’s Nobody’s Fault: Extinction of Consciousness and Everything Else.” The project, which Steiner produced in collaboration with Otherwild, is both a direct address and a meditation reflecting on the frustrations and tribulations of being an artist-writer-activist in this charged political moment.

Later in the year, we’ll announce details of another new initiative—the X-TRA Forums—for which we’ve invited four artists to delve into X-TRA’s archives. The artists—Malik Gaines, Michelle Grabner, Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, and Patrick Staff—will select an article from the past to use as a departure point for a public forum. Engaging contemporary art criticism via different platforms and media, the X-TRA Forums will mine the recent history of contemporary art in order to consider the present and to foster cross-generational conversations between artists.

It has been an honor to deliver X-TRA to you for two decades. Whether this is your first issue or your seventy-eighth, we are happy to have you with us and look forward to celebrating with you this year and in the future.

With warm regards,

The Editors and Publishers of X-TRA: Jeff Beall, Stephen Berens, Ellen Birrell, Neha Choksi, Poppy Coles, Leslie Dick, Travis Diehl, Karen Dunbar, Jon Leaver, Shana Lutker, Mario Ontiveros, Elizabeth Pulsinelli, Nizan Shaked, Brica Wilcox


  1. Ellen Birrell, “Project X Paper,” The First Show (Orange, CA: Guggenheim Gallery, Chapman University, 1992), 2.
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