For the past two years Emma Gray has been organizing shows in her garage. The space, aptly named 5 Car Garage, is tucked away in a residential alley, unassuming until the doors open to reveal a modest, but beautifully effective exhibition space. Gray usually runs shows for two months, giving visitors ample time to make an appointment to see her exhibition. She greets everyone personally and possesses a wonderful ability to speak enthusiastically and eloquently about whatever artist has work on view.
Gray has a multifaceted background focused in the arts. She studied art portraiture and journalism in London. She moved to New York to be an artist, and like many young artists, she wound up working at a gallery. She then went on to work at Art Review and for Artnet, until she finally joined Sandy Heller’s team and established their West Coast advising services. Eventually Gray decided to launch out on her own and and had a tiny triangular office space on La Cienega where artists put on site specific shows. She quickly realized that the standard gallery model was not for her, however, as she desired a more flexible approach.
In establishing 5 Car Garage Gray designed the space, system and setup to accommodate everything she wanted to get out of running a gallery. In doing so however, she did not sacrifice the desires of her artists. Quite the opposite in fact. Gray has seemingly discovered a model whereby she is able to work symbiotically with new artists in developing their careers and addressing their individual needs. Gray is in it for the long haul, she says, recognizing the time and effort required to invest in artists in this way. But the model is working as Gray recounts how several of her artists have gained recognition with the help of 5 Car Garage and its untraditional methods.
The day Jamie Samuel and I visited Emma we were lucky enough to see John Knuth’s latest show, Base Alchemy. The show consists of a series of fly paintings and mirrored Mylar paintings. The fly pieces involve a fascinating, if not mortifying, process. Knuth creates them by raising 500,000 flies form the larval stage and then feeding them sugar and acrylic paint. Each painting is formed with millions of the resulting flyspeck markings. The compositions, both beautifully simple and densely intricate are all the more intriguing after knowing how they’re created.
The Mylar paintings, a new venture for Knuth, are highly reflective—both literally and self–a viewer sees herself distorted and captured by the work. The material, often used for emergency blankets I’m told, has a space-age feel to it that evokes a sense of urgency. In conjunction with the fly paintings one begins to get an overall sense of an impending apocalypse. When I’m also told that there will be intermittent appearances of albino morph California Kingsnakes—an animal who, due to breeding, could not survive in its natural habitat–that sense of disaster is heightened.
Though the show closes on October 10th, be sure to make an appointment to see Gray’s next exhibition, featuring Megan Daalder, opening October 18th. A visit to this space is something no LA art lover will regret.