Oakland's Lucky Tackle Gallery is more street than elite.
BY LINDSEY WESTBROOK
From the Week of Wednesday, September 18, 2002
A new kind of gallery scene is emerging in the East Bay, according to
Oakland artist Jason Byers. It's something like San Francisco's self-proclaimed
"Mission School" -- the recent, much-touted infiltration of
street artists into local galleries, and vice versa. But what's happening
over here, Byers says, is grittier, more genuinely urban -- an altogether
different sort of neighborhood production.
Byers is the featured artist in the first one-person show at Lucky Tackle,
a brand-new gallery on San Pablo Avenue just south of the Berkeley-Oakland
border. The space was home to a bait and tackle shop until a few years
ago when Adam Rompel, another local artist, cleaned it up and transformed
it, first into a studio for himself, and recently into the Lucky Tackle
gallery. Now the name and the original sign are all that remain of the
shop's former occupants.
Lucky Tackle's inaugural show, a group exhibition confidently titled "Shit-Hot,"
opened this last July. It included works by more than twenty artists and
summed up, according to Rompel, what his new gallery is all about.
"I see Lucky Tackle as part of a Bay Area tradition of artist-run
galleries," he observes. "These platforms provide a voice for
the fringe, the degenerate, or punk-ass artists out there. And with this
crowd being seen, a totally new dialogue opens up for other artists as
well as the art-viewing public."
Rompel and Byers met four or five years ago as graduate students in UC
Berkeley's art program. They share a love-hate relationship with the "art
world"; they both appreciate intelligent, thoughtful work, but dislike
the self-important, high-minded attitude that so often comes with it.
"I've studied my fair share of 'those French guys,'" Byers says
with a smile, "enough so that I don't really like them anymore. But
I've always been interested in taking a philosophical approach to art.
I'm not trying to create a literal, mechanical, nice, clean, hyperconceptualism
like, say, Sol LeWitt. I approach things with more of a sense of humor
Byers' paintings of everyday objects, like bicycles and can openers, appear
almost humble at first. But the longer you look at them, the more they
seem to point outside themselves to more abstract ideas of language --
the arbitrariness of words and the naming of objects.
Future shows at Lucky Tackle will focus much more on installation-based
artworks. They certainly won't be as salable as paintings, but Rompel
says he's learning, with the help of other local artist-gallerists like
Charles Linder (Refusalon, Linc Real Art), and Marisa Jahn and Steve Shada
(Pond Gallery), how to strike a balance between profitability and experimentalism.
"I don't think I'm going to change the world, or even change Oakland,"
he says, "but I'd like to create something that people would be excited
to go see. Oakland lets me afford to be risk-taking. I don't have to be
concerned about sales to make the rent."
"Once Adam gets going," Byers predicts, "the work will
reflect the gallery's location a lot more. People just going out on a
limb -- crazy stuff. He'll also get foot traffic from the street, like
people shopping at the Goodwill next door. There won't be any tourists
walking by in that neighborhood."
Fringe, not French: Adam Rompel (foreground) and Jason Byers
"Objects in and of Eight Parts" runs through October 26 at Lucky
Tackle Gallery, 6608 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, 510-484-4373. Fri-Sun 1-5
p.m. or by appointment.