When Colin Rhys announced that he would be moving Rhys Gallery from his loft on Northampton Street to a plush new space on Harrison, adjacent to the SoWa complex, there were a lot of questions. Would the gallery continue to show the wide range of work it has become known for? Would it succeed commercially? Could it compete in shadow of the SoWa building? Many of these questions, it seemed, would be answered by the bigger question: who would he choose as the director?
Lydia Ruby seems to be the ideal choice, a glamorous and aggressive director (along with her husband Cyrille, she is among the most glamorous people in Boston, according to one local paper) with a solid background and an eye toward success. Ruby worked previously for The Grossman Gallery at The Museum School before attending BU, where she is near the completion of her MS in Arts Administration.
MN: Can you tell me about the new and expanded Rhys Gallery?
LR: The new gallery is a completed realization of what the old location wanted to be, but couldn’t sustain. As The Rhys Gallery became more accepted, visible, and frequented, the smoke began to thin and the mirrors tilted the wrong way. The ghetto, formally known as an “underground” and “alternative” location became unmasked, along with the reality that the Gallery, was in actuality, a loft.
At around 2500, the square footage is a bit more significant this time, and the Gallery now lives in a legitimate commercial space, but the reinvention mostly springs from the fact that this RHYS Gallery was built as exactly that. Rather than modifying or tailoring a room to accommodate art, this place was raw and empty. Its design and concept developed from only one focus: art exhibitions. We don’t even have room for a file cabinet, water cooler, or refrigerator.
MN: What is your role, and what has it taken to get the new space open and running?
LR: My role is often incongruent with my title of Director (or Her Highness, as I like to think of myself). Yes, I curate, write, visit, lunch, attend, schmooze, layout, point, and yell. I also, design, update, stamp, fold, respond, collate, staple, sweep, hammer, paint, climb, measure, schlep and complain. The same broad job description follows for the Executive Director Colin Rhys.
I have never been involved in such a major undertaking or ambitious project. A few times it seemed we might not be capable of pulling this off, it was just the two of us along with many contracted angels who took mercy on our obsessive souls. What still remains true, as with the last location, is that many artists and colleagues feel invested in the gallery’s success and are interested in helping out. That involvement and willingness to pitch in really saved our ass a few times and gives the Gallery an approachable personality, which we value highly.
MN: What direction do you see Rhys Gallery heading?
LR: We will continue to deal with emerging artists, mid-career artists, local, national and international, exhibiting works on paper, painting, sculpture, and installation. The focus is strong work, smart artists, and successful exhibitions. That’s the goal for now… ask me again in a year.
MN: How will you fit in, or compete, or both, with the rest of the SoWa neighborhood?
LR: I don’t see us competing with the SoWa neighborhood, or the rest of the Boston art market, for that matter. I think most of us fill a specific niche and have individual visions and approaches used to forward the careers of those artists we care about. So, in that same way I don’t see that we fit in, either. RHYS Gallery has a unique presence, and that is an advantage this city has over other locations where galleries are stacked stories high.
That said, it never seems intelligent to do what others are doing well already. Although there is risk in striking out on your own, the possibility of accomplishment through unique vision is motivating, and hopefully keeps your contemporaries from calculating your demise while you make your mark.
MN: Has the shift from the old loft space to the new location allowed you to change your approach to choosing artists and work?
LR: Somewhat. We have more to offer in terms of wall space and visibility, not to mention it's an actual commercial space this time, so it is clearly more appealing and desirable for artists to want to show their work here. That said, we are still considered a new gallery, so are faced with the same challenges of any new business in terms of building a reputation.
MN: In the past, Rhys Gallery worked with a lot of independent curators. What are your plans for taking control of the curatorial reins? Will there be indie curators in your future?
LR: Right now we are enjoying the complete control of choosing artists and the work ourselves. It is certainly more work, and we may at some point entertain the idea of a guest curator(s) in the future.
MN: Your early shows in the new space have already included an impressive list of artists, including Steve Locke and Ria Brodell. What artists can we look forward to? How are you recruiting new artists?
LR: We plan to continue impressing. I don't like to boast our line-up too much, because things can always change, but we have a few spring inclusions that are solid, such as Cristi Rinklin, theMiracle5, Shaun El C. Leonardo, and Mark Chariker. Stay tuned.
There are several ways we are recruiting. Some are artists we have worked with before, some are those we found through our group, open call exhibitions, and other we find through reference or simply searching artist online registries.
MN: Any final thoughts?
LR: Get yourself to the gallery, if you haven't already been, and keep coming if you have. We are less than a block from the galleries at Thayer Street, so there's no good excuse, and we have more open hours. We hope to offer a place for people to just come in, talk, and enjoy, in addition to acting as an exhibition space.
"Heidi Hove Pedersen + Cristi Rinklin" is on view November 30 - January 27, 2007 at The Rhys Gallery.
All images are courtesy of the artist and The Rhys Gallery.