More than one Big O

Kevin Paulsen’s Oo Gallery opens with first exhibit SOot

by Carrie Jones Ross
February 24, 2011 12:39 PM | 1 1 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Geddes Jones-Paulsen discussing his work with a patron. Photo by Carrie Jones Ross.
Geddes Jones-Paulsen discussing his work with a patron. Photo by Carrie Jones Ross.
The expression, “One door closes and another open,” rang true Friday night when Oo gallery swung open the doors of the recently closed Surprenant Gallery on Wall Street for their first exhibit, entitled Soot, featured until March 31. New owner Kevin Paulsen is certain that his gallery has a progressing edge over other typical “standard white cube”-type galleries.

Multitudes of works — all nodding to the concept of “soot” — in various media and styles by over 30 “emerging” far-flung East Coast artists hang on exhibit at Oo until the end of March. They include work by Martin Whittfoot, whose colorful, ethereal work is featured this month on the cover of American Painter.

“It’s winter,” explained Paulsen’s write-up on the soot theme. “And artists have been utilizing soot in myriad form for millennia to make images … bacteria, bone char, carbon matter, flame, hues of black brown, bistre and gray, lamp oil, lampblack, negative stains, tattooing of the corneas, smut, archaic pesticides, model trains, the Old Masters, optical fibers, smudges and remains.”

Paulsen, a former antiques dealer who also specialized in American folk art, explained that he has come to prefer modern work by living artists with whom he can forge personal and long-term relationships. Paulsen was on ground floor of the O Positive health, art and music festival last summer, and worked closely with artists on the logos, designs, paste-ups (even contributing a few of his own work) while on the arts committee. He said he has already begun working on it again for this year.

Paulsen, whose own art will be featured in storefront windows along the epicenter of American fashion commerce on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in the middle of March, feels that many art galleries are “pretty staid” these days, and wants to “break apart the academic model” to reform the model of art gallery banality.

Most of the pieces in his gallery sport a price tag under $1,000 in efforts to make them more accessible to a wider range of people, and hopefully encourage art-lovers to start their own collection. Additionally, Paulsen is offering a 40/60 split with the artist (whereas most galleries take 50 percent or more of sale), and is working toward eventually allowing the artist to keep all the money from the sale, while Paulsen works collecting commission money on larger-scale sales. “Because I’m an artist myself I understand the old model of the artist taking only 50 percent,” said Paulsen. “If an artist needs $4,000 for a painting, it’s up to the dealer to sell it, and if that means shaving back to $6,000 then so be it — with the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and online marketing. I used to sell antiques, but then you’re dealing with posthumous artists. I want to deal with younger artists so we can build a relationship over time.”

Paulsen recognizes that the role of a dealer is vastly different than it was 20 years ago, as now the costs of reproduction are far more affordable, and it’s far easier for an artist to market himself. He asserts that the art world is a new Darwinian universe in which art galleries must evolve or perish.

“I will have walk-ins based on the price points with nothing more than a thousand dollars on the wall,” elaborated Paulsen. “I’m going to modify the walls soon; I will be having ’zines, and short runs of T-shirts designs, and multiple prints. There will be an affordable baseline. It’s not going to be your standard white cube with overpriced items but I will be dealing in the background. A lot of gallerists in communities like Kingston really aren’t showing art — they are showing pictures that people can access easily and are comfortable to take. I’m more interested in showing pieces that are new, and aren’t always easy, but are easy to look at … I’m trying to be cutting-edge. I’m working with professional emerging artists, and they are not just weekend warriors.”

Paulsen drew an example from his opening night when several people returned the next day, interested in seeing more work. He brought them to the studio of Kingston artist Joe Concra where they bought a larger piece. “It’s not just friends and family, but real art collectors,” insisted Paulsen.

In addition to art on the walls and shelves, the gallery’s backroom is offering a different form of permanent art: tattooing. Paulsen’s 22 year-old son, Geddes Jones-Paulsen has set up shop as Itinerant Tattoo, exclusively tattooing custom work, by appointment only. Jones-Paulsen’s painting “Nantucket” was the first piece to be sold on opening day, wielding an $800 price tag. Jones-Paulsen, a former tattooist from Kingston’s Ink Inc., said that he will also be traveling the East Coast doing his own tattoo designs.

“[Oo] brings a lot of artists from around the country that I’ve been following for a while and that I haven’t seen much of in this area,” said Jones-Paulsen of his father’s exhibit.

Well-dressed art collector Ron Domiguez of Brooklyn strolled the gallery with a pleasant smile, checkbook in-hand, to add his to already expansive collection of emerging artists. Dominguez explained that his personal collection reflected his appreciation of “dark and edgy” with overtures of spiritualism. He bought a “tweaked” portrait by Ewelina Ferruso, which he felt neatly fit in his collection. “In the art I collect there’s a lot of subconscious thinking that deals with human insecurity.”

Dominguez displays much of his collection on his New York City apartment walls, while other pieces are stored. Many of his pieces are on loan at museums and exhibits, a fact which warms Dominguez with great pride. Dominguez is not a wealthy Manhattan-ite, rather, he is a professional Fifth Avenue doorman. “I like the accessibility of these artists,” he said. “I can talk with them, have dinner with them. With dead artists you can’t do that. I can’t knock on Warhol’s door and ask what he meant by that.”

Other artists on display at Oo are Joanna Kane MA, Dennis Michael Jones, Tom Grady, Saudiel Sañudo, Martin Wittfooth, Ruth Wetzel, Matt Rota, Denise Orzo, Fred Stonehouse, JonEdelhuber, Chris Gonyea, Lucy Mink Covello, Bonnie Marie Smith, Mike Egan, Sophie Morrish, Duke McVinnie, Warsaw and Billy Norby.

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Raudiel Sañudo
February 25, 2011
great article!

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