>re.view< The Gallery Zero
Small Gallery, Big Art
by Jonny Boys
The first time I went to an opening at The Gallery Zero was April 1, 2011. My friend's Deklun and Pace were playing there and they invited me and my wife. As soon as I stepped inside the wow factor was overwhelming. The entire space is red, red walls, red floors, red ceiling. And it makes the art pop off the walls.
One thing that I detest about contemporary art galleries are the solid white walls. The white actually creates a negative atmosphere for displaying art. Don't believe me? Please get up right now and head to the closest art museum that shows art from the 19th century or earlier. When you get there tell me what color the walls are. That's right, they typically are not white. The concept of white walls comes from minimalism, it is as if the contemporary art world is taking display cues from the Shakers.
After walking though the gallery and seeing all the art, Pace Rubadeau took me to the back to meet one of the two owners. Randy stood their talking up the space to a group of people and Pace introduced me. To my surprise Randy shook my hand and with a big smile he told me, “Jonathan, it's nice to finally meet you I've been following your work on Facebook for some time now.” Well that got my attention for sure.
My partner and I liked one artist in particular. What is significant about that is my tastes in art are typically wild and hers are tame. Nemo's work was intriguing to us. All of his work is bright, bold colors filled with geometric shapes, it is very robotic looking. That coupled with the shaped canvases and thick black frames all hung to create one large piece. The genius is that a collector could buy it as one piece or in pieces.
I don't think I've seen a gallery before that is almost completely devoted to graphic artists. It is a unique art gallery. One that people in Portland generally don't know about. Randy and Jim have been in business for three years, but they have been three long years struggling to find a public voice in the sea of galleries that makes up Portland's art scene. To say, I've been unimpressed with the mainstream art scene in Portland so far is an understatement. It's a city
teaming with extraordinary artists with a group of “art conservative” galleries showing artists who have been creating the same tired art for thirty years. But there is a group of galleries that have been busy for the past few years trying to gain back some of the ground claimed by the above group and the Gallery Zero is among them.
Randy Young is no stranger to the art world. He managed a few galleries in Beverly Hills and LA. He has represented some of the great contemporary artists of the 20th century. He and Jim Lowry go way back. Jim, a film maker by trade wrote and directed a movie called “Bad Trip” in 1988. Randy co-starred in it. If you are interested you can purchase and watch it on Amazon.com. After the movie was released Randy decided to stay in LA to try to continue his career as an actor. Over time he realized it wasn't in the cards so he transitioned into a career in the gallery business. Flash forward to 2008, Randy found himself returning to Portland with the idea to transform Jim's computer repair shop into a gallery to showcase graphic artists. They teamed up with Todd and Mary Millar to renovate the space. It was Todd and Mary who came up with that bold red look. Todd even designed and built the Gallery Zero light boxes you see on both sides of the door as you enter the space.
If you attend any opening you will no doubt be met by Randy, who is to put it mildly, passionate about his gallery and his artists, you will hear a theme. He will remind you that, “No one does it like we do”, “it's all about presentation”, “each show is consistently better than the last”, “the walls are filled with iconic imagery”. The artists that show there are equally as passionate.
I intentionally attended the January 7th opening of the Great Graphics Show so I could grab some shots for this story. I wasn't prepared for what they had hanging. I glanced at what seemed like a large installation of 2D art and walked through the gallery. Many of the pieces I had seen before, by Ben Perkins, Damien Zari and Joni Yates. But as I came around the corner I woke up. There in front of me was a massive installation of 91 paintings by Portland artist Jae Burlingame. He told me that he used to sketch a lot when he was a kid but never took it seriously. “People tell you, paint what you know. I know movies, video games, cartoons...so I'm painting that”. He has been painting for one and a half years and you would never know it. He started painting as a hobby to fill his time, he had been fired from a big box hardware store for a comment he made on his Facebook page. The first piece he did for this series was a
Stormtrooper from Star Wars. He painted the background first and the color bled over into the white area on the canvas and after painting the outline he thought “man that looks good, that's how I'm going to do them all”. He said that if he hadn't have painted the Stormtrooper which is white with black highlights, none of the other paintings would have happened. That was the first piece he sold.
One night while drunk with his friends he made the claim that he would paint 100 of them. Much to his friends' surprise he more than completed the task. It took him four and a half months to complete. Amazingly this was his third show. He was painting at a street fair in the rain and the owners of Salon 419 asked him if he would show his work in their salon. He showed his first 35 there and then he showed all 100 at Milepost 5. The curator of that show lives around the block from the Gallery Zero and talked to Randy about showing the pieces there.
He sold 11 pieces the opening night at Milepost 5 at $200 each, which is not bad for his second time out. “The reason I chose to do villains instead of heroes is they are so much more dynamic, more free willed and able to be crazy. And it's more compelling. If it wasn't for the villains, then your heroes wouldn't matter. So it's actually giving them the spotlight that they deserve. And every villain is a hero in their own story.”
I asked him what he has in store for his next show. He's working on a large scale tribute to his original Stormtrooper painting. “The idea behind it is,
Stormtroopers are clones of each other. But from the moment of cloning they all have individual experiences, they're all, you know, everywhere. So they are all going to be different colors, hand painted, so they're going to be individually flawed and individually colored, but the second you step back from it they are all going to look the same. So they are going to lose their individuality just by taking a step back.
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