These are inflationary times in the Bay Area rental market, as everyone knows, even if the dreaded I word is not being invoked concerning our big, beautiful national economy in this pre-election year. The local art world is alert to the challenge. Galleries are closing, to the sorrow of local patrons; and yet galleries are opening, too, despite the unsettled state of the Union, and the inherent economic uncertainties of the culture industry, which was long ago appraised by H.L. Mencken as "a very tough dollar."
A new art venue opened recently in Alameda, the attractively retro town that is home to a vibrant art scene, including Anchor Alameda Association for Art, Asian Elephant Art, Autobody Fine Art, Gary Comoglio, Everybody Get Up, Forrealism, Frank Bette Center, Geraghty's Art Gallery, K Gallery, 3Dot Art Gallery, Mandar Fine Art, MGH Discovered Art, Red Door Studios, Studio 23, and Strange Stock Art Conservation. This extensive list does not even count the nearby galleries in Jingletown, just across the Park Street Bridge.
The Space by the Bay, or The Space, at 2319 Santa Clara Avenue, Suite B, near Park, above American Oak Restaurant, opened April 5, 2019. The large curated group show, The White Cube Challenge, was based on an unusual premise: the white plaster cube that is ubiquitous as a still-life subject in beginning drawing classes — along with skulls and skeletons, masks, vases, and swaths of fabric. The work of some thirty artists was shown, with the theme inspiring a range of responses: minimalist geometric abstraction (Jenny Balisle, Daniel Chen, Chad Hasegawa, Angela Johal, Jamie Morris, Alexandra Nunez); painterly semi-abstractions (Brett Amory, Sheldon Greenberg, Ken Gulley, Maura McMichael, Paul Punk, Amberlee Rosolowich); ironic or droll 'portraits' of the cube (Mark Elliot, Adam Forfang, Terry Hoff, Drew Price, Shawn Vales, Gregory Vernitsky, Linh Vu, Minh Vu); and even a traditional cityscape, in square format, "made of little cubes," to quote Matisse, describing Braque's new work of 1908; or "little boxes," to quote Malvina Reynolds, describing postwar Daly City in 1962, in what fellow folkie Tom Lehrer called "the most sanctimonious song ever written."
As if the show's premise was not interesting enough, gallery director Kevin Moore added RFI codes that, scanned by smartphones, opened up short Art Is A Verb podcasts of the artists describing their works, a clever way to inform audiences in these tech-driven times.
The willingness to experiment seems to be integral to The Space's creative DNA. "We are focused on creating an atmosphere of creativity, we want to bridge the gap between High Art and culture by rethinking how art is presented, taught, marketed, and sold,' writes Moore, a painter and professor at the Academy of Art College with a twenty-year exhibition history. "We love art, we love culture; The Space is our humble attempt to bring those two things together in a different and engaging way. ... Our idea is to offer artists complete creative freedom with regard to the work they want to produce. Because The Space does not rely on sales for income, we can take chances with the shows and artists we represent. We want our artists to have control over their work, meaning we will work closely to support their chosen subject matter, artistic ideas, and pricing."
Besides offering the works for sale on EBay ten days before the shows' opening receptions, The Space also has experimented with variable pricing, i.e., works priced at 1 percent of the buyer's annual income, which is provided under the honor system.
"We envision shows that blend the virtual world with the physical, where you can be looking at a painting live, and bidding on it online simultaneously," Moore wrote. "We want to turn everyone who attends our shows into potential collectors and active participants."
These days, galleries have to be creative, versatile and nimble to acquire and keep an audience. The Space will not rely on sales alone. Its 1,800-square-foot gallery can be rented for events, like many art venues these days. In addition, The Space provides studio space adjacent to the gallery for a half-dozen artists, and hosts painting classes for adults and art camps for kids aged eight to seventeen. For further information, please see the website, TheSpaceByTheBay.com.