It’s who you know
Parts of “Evolution of a Rash,” a painting that looks large in Never Ender Gallery’s cozy back room, are typical Ron Rash. He’s known for painting bug-eyed, cartoon-like cocktail drinkers and fire-breathing cowboys with bloodshot eyes, using graphic influences from vintage tattoos and the steady, authoritative hand of a sign painter.
Other parts of the painting show little heads peeking out from behind inky hills or dinosaur bones on a white background. The looser lines look like they were drawn by a young child. They were. It’s a collaboration between Rash and his 7-year-old son, Tucker.
It’s part of the exhibit, Cordially Invited, for which gallery owner Amber Gutry asked artists she knew to participate, then she asked each of them to invite another artist of their choice. The goal was to set up some unusual parameters that would encourage experimentation then see what would happen.
Rash considered contacting artists he’d never met whose work he admired, then he invited his son. They’d shown two separate pieces in last year’s Cordially Invited. This year, they decided to work together. Rash says the collaboration gave him new ideas.
"[Tucker] added elements that I typically don’t use, dripping ink, line drawing with pen and pencil,” says Rash. “It really did challenge me. It was challenging because I didn’t know how the process would go. It was pretty experimental. I just took out a piece of wood and took out a bunch of paints and inks and things and told him to let loose. I had to adapt my style. I’m generally in full control of what I’m doing. In this case, I love the way it turned out.”
For Gutry, this was also an experiment in relinquishing some of the control she would normally have over an exhibit. Part of her idea was to take a creative approach toward meeting one of the challenges of running a gallery: finding a stable of dependable artists who consistently produce good artwork.
Gutry has always been one to capitalize on whatever resources are available. In late 2004, when the walls weren’t installed in time for Never Ender’s grand opening, she held the exhibit on bare lumber framing. In this case, she’s depending on her usual artists’ professional connections to help her cast a wider net.
“I was surprised when this showed up from Berlin,” she says, as she unpacks a small blue painting from its shipping box. It’s by someone named Reppeteaux, an acquaintance of artist Darryl Pierce, who’s formerly of Reno and presently lives in Oakland.
After a couple years of running the gallery, Gutry knows who she can trust with her experiments. When Anthony Alston’s artwork-drop-off slip read, “Hi Amber, If I could have enough room to stand in front of a shelf or pedestal, that’d be great,” she didn’t ask. Having hosted Alston’s quietly absurdist, small-scale performances before, she simply reserved a space for him and hung the metal-backed painting with glued-on orthodontic retainers by invitee Omar Pierce.
“We have the same sense of humor,” says Alston of Pierce. “He is dealing with the same themes and motifs and ideas.”
Alston and Pierce haven’t decided yet if they’ll keep co-exhibiting. But back at the Rash household, it’s clearer which way things are going. Cordially Invited has spawned something of a microcosm of art-world politics there.
“Now my daughter is interested because she saw us working on it,” says Rash. “She’s 4.”