Blink, and you missed the first act of the RJP Nomadic Gallery's performance on First Friday.
The sun was setting slow and low as the eager crowd flowed through the Blue Star Complex. As art aficionados waded about the parking lot while catching sets from local bands nestled amongst the sculptures, a 40-foot-long Ryder truck rounded the bend and parked in front of the shops as unassuming patrons sipped their brews and looked at anything but that. Three white-clad men emerged and began unraveling extension cords. The back door of the truck flung open, revealing a sparse interior. As the trio en blanc began taking apart a mysterious wooden box, throwing around palettes and wielding power tools, onlookers gathered. The transformation of this truck from vehicle to gallery was very publicly underway.
The exhibition/performance, Dark Matter, was curated by Ryder Richards, Piotr Chizinski, and Jonathan Whitfill, collectively known as RJP. A comment on transparency in the art industry and a celebration of those who thanklessly labor behind the scenes, it celebrated the preparatory nature of making and displaying artwork: from sketchbook, to shipping, to the nails in the gallery wall.
San Antonio art bastion Blue Star Contemporary Art Center not only welcomed this innovative show, they supported its genesis. Director Bill FitzGibbons and LoneStar Studios-based artist collective The Lullwood Group together helped raise over $1,000 for RJP's grassroots project via Kickstarter.
The mysterious box was a mobile Gallery Kit 2.0, a design that emerged over years of trial and error, and you can build one too, if you want to. The RJP website offers its blueprint to any and all interested as well as videos of their shows if you'd like to see how it's done. The show, which borrows its name from artist/activist Gregory Sholette's book about the politics of visibility in the art world, exhibited work from six artists. There were sketches, doodles, form studies, and a video depicting artist Jordan Wayne Long shipping himself across the United States in a crate.
"[We] enacted a labor-based performance, showing the public the typically hidden aspects of art installation ... [and] showcase[d] work influenced by the very actions we just demonstrated," said Richards.
A particularly fetching piece featured a sequence of pencil marks on the wall by New York artist Paul Villinski, who used to be employed in exhibition design.
"I've always appreciated the secret infrastructure of exhibitions," he said. "Our goal in presenting artwork in exhibitions was to make our work disappear; so that it never occurred to the viewer to think about the installation of the artwork ... I love the idea of an exhibition about making exhibitions."
A second performance, Cr(e)ate, was held the following night at LoneStar Studios. Drawing hundreds of surprised viewers and posing just as many questions during the one-night stands, RJP Nomadic Gallery shines a very real light on cultural and practical dark matter in a field that often feels reserved for those of high financial standing; it was D.I.Y. culture at its best. Power to the people.
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