OOF Books in Los Angeles

An Edward Ruscha painting hangs in the Museum of Modern Art called “OOF.” Over a midnight blue background, three yellow block letters pop out in all capitals: OOF. It’s silly and fun, this rendering of an onomatopoetic comic book grunt. There is a pleasing geometry to the solidness and straight edges of the F next to the perfect circles of the Os.  It’s the kind of painting that brightens your day, that makes you a little happier. It has a certain “OOF-ness” about it.

A lot of us, whether we know it or not, are chasing “OOF-ness” in a relatively “OOF-less” world. As of last year, finding some became quite a bit easier. Christie Hayden opened OOF Books, the bookstore-art gallery hybrid in Cypress Park last July. The owner’s previous project was Bookish, a mobile art bookstore in Baltimore. OOF’s small space, unlike the converted box truck that housed Bookish, has zero wheels, but it does have geometric yellow shelves that remind one of Ruscha’s lemon letters. Hayden told me that the “brick and mortar model makes a lot more sense for Los Angeles where people are innately more mobile: it allows for the act of discovery.”

So what does OOF have to discover? The store stocks visual art books, books and zines from local LA presses and art book makers, used key art readings, rare books, and generally, things printed on paper. They host book launches and art exhibitions. The exhibitions are changed every month and are mostly solo shows for local LA artists, although this month the store will host a performance piece and installation by a New York artist. Last year, around the holidays, the store hosted ceramics artist Phill Kim for a one-day residency.

Despite being only a little over a year old, OOF seems to have found its place very quickly. The store was featured as a T: New York Times Style Magazine Editor’s Pick. It’s a place for art enthusiasts, but also for those who just wander in, discovering the store and its well curated cadmium yellow shelves for the first time. A place where you find yourself unable to resist thumbing through all of the colorful covers and glossy pages it has to offer. Once you start, you’ll almost certainly happen upon a book on Henri Matisse that you just have to get for your Fauvism-loving mother, or maybe a book on Cy Twombly for your too-cool, La Croix-drinking roommate, or a book of fashion photography that your best friend would just die for. Soon, you will have discovered two or three or maybe seven books that you need. And without even noticing it, spending an afternoon paging through art books in a little, yellow bookstore, you will have discovered some of that elusive “OOF-ness” as well.

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