As we told you back in January when it opened, the Oliver Francis Gallery is a small, inviting contemporary art gallery in East Dallas, just around the corner from the lively Deep Ellum arts district. Owner Kevin Rubén Jacobs was looking for a small studio in early July 2011 but opened the space as a gallery instead and “then the first show ended up being two weeks after I got the keys to the place, and it used the entire space,” he explains. “Since then I haven’t had a studio. I’ve just been running the gallery.”
Fans of the gallery on Facebook couldn’t be happier that Jacobs opened up the space to artists, saying that there is “Nothing like it in Dallas,” and it’s “Worth the effort of finding it and arranging an appointment.”
More recently, Jacobs formed the gallery as a company and has begun representing local artists. Company or not, Jacobs wants it to be “a very nurturing space for experimental works and installations.” One such artist he recently showcased is Brad Troemel who, along with other contemporary artists, runs a tumblr blog called JOGGING, an online compendium of artworks, observations, consumerist send-ups. An offshoot of that blog is his Etsy site where you can buy some of the handmade pieces which often appear on the JOGGING blog. While some of the pieces might evoke laughter (such as his LIVE STRONG yellow Hotdog, Pen, and Q-Tip HOLDER), they often provoke deeper thought about the usefulness of the consumer-driven products that surround us.
Like many others, Jacobs first came across Troemel’s work online. “He was affiliated with some other artists that I had been looking at,” he says, “so I went to his site and I loved his work.” As a result, Jacobs decided to host a one-night-only (July 15) pop-up gallery of Troemel’s Etsy pieces: the JOGGING store.
Nestled into the back half of the gallery, a small sign on a glass door invited the patrons into the JOGGING store, where they could peruse through JOGGING’s online Etsy store. Expectations of an art “store” are immediately averted: The Etsy sculptures are not actually there. Rather, each piece was printed along with its description and a link on an individual sheet of paper, and hung up along the stark white walls of the gallery.
Troemel’s work pokes fun at the absurdity of modern consumerism through ironic collage. From taco locks (left) to marshmellow vases, it would be difficult to find a piece that doesn’t make viewers chuckle. Set up in neat rows, each piece leads into the next, asking the viewer to pay close attention, not only to the (occasionally outrageous, tongue-in-cheek) juxtaposition of items within the work, but the relationship between them as well. Some pieces, such as this Whole Foods lawn torch may more closely resemble traditional sculpture, while others challenge the viewer’s notions of cultural meaning and value.
Overall, there is a strange, dynamic-yet-calming effect while viewing Troemel’s online work in such an open and public space. Ultimately, the show leaves the viewer with one final gallery wall, empty except for the small sheet of paper showing Troemel’s Etsy profile. The sparse description and shipping instructions confront the very structure of online shopping itself, while simultaneously leading the viewer to yet another pair of websites, showcasing his other works.