Newly located to the northeast DC Atlas Arts District is RandallScottProjects owned and operated by longtime gallerist, Randall Scott. On the eve of opening his new H Street gallery, I spoke with Randall about his history in gallery and plans for his new space.
Gail Vollrath (East City Art): Tell me a little about the history of RandallScottProjects. Was there a particular event that led you to make the decision on being a gallery owner?
Randall Scott: I was the assistant director of a gallery specializing in photography in Los Angeles in 1990. I was just finishing up my undergrad and had had my first solo show in NY. The gallery abruptly closed and I had to decide to move to NY and be an artist (or try and be one) or stay in L.A. and try to be an artist. Well, I made the decision to stop making art and strike out on my own in L.A. as a gallerist. At that time, there was a wonderful “movement” you might say of artists and curators opening exhibition spaces in non-traditional places. I persuaded a building owner in Santa Monica to let me use the raw ground floor space of his new building for a gallery, for free. I called it TBA (To Be Announced) and it was open without electricity for a year. Well, actually I found a way to string 300 feet of extension cord from a circuit box to power 30 clamp lights. It would blow the circuit three or four times during an opening. It’s the little things you remember. Plunging 200 people into complete darkness while an intern runs to flip a circuit breaker is quite memorable.
When it closed I was offered a job in Eastern Europe and off I went to be a photojournalist. Within a month of being there I was hanging out with Ukrainian artists and sharing a studio in an abandoned apartment building with one of them. I tried to open a space there, but the red tape was just too complicated.
It was not until 2005 that I jumped back into running a gallery. I had photographed for magazines for the preceding 15 years and just thought I needed to reinvent myself by reverting to my old self. Kinda like finishing something I had begun in L.A. That space was on 14th Street, above Thaitanic. I loved the space, renovated it myself, but felt it never took off. That is why, 4 years ago I moved it to NY. It thrived in NY and I met a lot of people I might not have while in DC. It was a good move, but the travel and being away from my daughter was too much, so I closed it and settled back to DC. I’ve been a private art dealer since.
I don’t think it was one single event that moved me into opening a gallery. It’s more like, I’ve always worked for myself. Why get a job in a gallery when you can open one yourself? Start out small and build it up. It’s not as easy as it sounds, there are obstacles and hardships and sometimes, well, you always worry about making rent, but for some people, that’s the route one has to follow.
GV: You had a space in DC at one time and then went to Brooklyn. Last summer you had a temp space in northwest DC. What led you to locate on H Street?
RS: H Street is awesome. I have been looking there since I closed the NY space. The neighborhood is on that teetering point…slightly gentrified, with a raw flavor. That section of H Street has the Atlas Performing Arts Center, the Rock and Roll Hotel and a host of bars and eateries. Parking is easy and the streetcar is scheduled to start testing later this year. Around the corner are Connersmith and G Fine Art, so I feel I am in excellent company.
GV: You mentioned that you are interested in representing DC area artists. Tell me a little about what may excite you about what you have seen in DC art.
RS: There are many wonderful artists in the DC area, and in Baltimore. I like the photographs of Frank Day, Trevor Young’s paintings and I think that Katherine Mann is someone that every local collector should be looking at strongly.
GV: Please use this opportunity to introduce a couple of your artists as well.
RS: Well, starting out this year I will have solo shows by Mason Saltarrelli, Michael Bevilacqua, James Busby and Robert Kingston. All are amazing painters who will define the gallery direction over the next couple years. Mason is an exceptional talent whose intuition guides his paintings. He has a great sensibility that is old school, but fresh and evolving. Michael Bevilacqua is a well established painter from NY whose work has been collected around the world. Robert Kingston’s paintings are a perfect blend of contemporary themes with a reference to expressionist art history. They are like looking into atmosphere; I feel I am floating and free. All three showed in the Untitled No. 1 show last summer. James Busby is a new painter, introduced by Michael Bevilacqua. He lives in South Carolina. His paintings are wonderful, a solid feeling of spacial form and color that brings you in and keeps you there. I am very excited about these four shows.
GV: I seem to remember that your curatorial focus leaned more toward photography in the past. Are you now considering other mediums?
RS: I have always worked with painters, but yes, I had probably been leaning more toward the photographic. It was what I knew best and at the time was what I was interested in. My direction for the new space is the opposite. While I will always be interested in photographics, I am primarily looking at painting and small scale sculptural objects. It’s a wonderful progression for the gallery and it expands my visual vocabulary. I think I am bringing in some very new and never before seen painters to DC. I hope everyone will respond.
GV: What do you think of the direction of the DC contemporary art movement?
RS: I was not aware there was a movement. Maybe I missed something.
GV: Well let’s start one!
RS: I spend too much time indoors. I did however just spend a Friday night moving between two exhibition spaces in alleys and one in a house that brought me back to my L.A years. Art communities are not defined by commercial galleries. They are defined by young (and old) artists and organizers who band together and do things their own way, anywhere they can find space. I would much prefer to hang out in the kitchen at Delicious Spectacle sitting on the counter drinking a beer talking art and stuff. I love that vibe. I’m also excited about Kristina Bilonick’s new project at Pleasant Plains Workshop on Georgia Ave.
Oh, and movements are so 1990. Do something by accident.
GV: What are your long term projects for 2013 and beyond?
RS: To have lots of accidents.
Randall Scott Projects opens with Mason Saltarrelli: Golden Cacti, a solo exhibition of paintings by the New York artist.
- Opening reception – February 9 from 5-8 pm
- The exhibition runs through March 9.
For more information visit www.randallscottprojects.com