CIA’s Bruce Checefsky is your wry art tour guide in Gallery Guy
Art galleries: They can be settings for divine experience and transportive beauty.
And they can be showcases for donkeys and donkey doo.
What to make of such contradictions? That’s a question for Bruce Checefsky.
The director of Reinberger Gallery at the Cleveland Institute of Art is the host of “Gallery Guy,” a short-video series highlighting artists and exhibitions. The episodes offer viewers context for looking at art. They’re one way Checefsky hopes to “break down the intimidation” factor of contemporary art.
Produced by the CIA marketing department, “Gallery Guy” trades on Checefsky’s gregariousness for artists and enthusiasm for the contemporary scene.
This is a second incarnation for the series, which was launched in 2011. Checefsky and a former colleague recorded about a dozen episodes with a hand-held camera. The recordings were short on production values, but served to quickly capture interesting tidbits about the gallery world. “It was never serious,” Checefsky says. “It was meant to be fun and off the cuff.”
“I remember one episode where I was talking about how we design exhibitions,” he says. “We walked through the gallery and talked about paint colors, where to put the walls, what’ s the strategy behind locating artworks in the gallery.”
The series went dormant, but got a reboot this fall, with four episodes dedicated to artists and artworks in the annual Faculty Show. Checefsky interviews the artists with their work, teasing out details of photographer Nancy McEntee’s portrait of her daughter, printmaker Maggie Denk-Leigh’s series of bird prints, and ceramist Seth Nagelberg’s slip-cast ceramic tile wall piece.
He throws humor into the mix, too, riffing with gallery coordinator Nichole Woods about who she would “edit out” of the show, and cooking weenies over designer Dan Cuffaro’s camp stove prototype.
Next up: interviews with Nicola Tyson and Angela DuFresne, New York-based artists whose works are on view in the LIVING DANGEROUSLY exhibit on view at Reinberger through Dec. 16.
Checefsky wants to entertain, but also to dismantle barriers between galleries and visitors. Casual viewers can be flummoxed by contemporary art and assume that a work “must be good because it’s here, or it must be important because it’s in a gallery. And it’s just not true,” he says. “There’s an underlying business part of it.”
Case in point: The spring 2016 Frieze New York exhibition, which included a display of a live donkey. Checefsky was there and witnessed visitors lined up for souvenirs. “There’s cleanup and maintenance that goes with a live animal,” he says. “They wanted the bag with donkey (droppings).”
Whether such an exhibit is “important” may be the wrong question. Checefsky would like to think Gallery Guy helps audiences ask better ones. “I think they don’t know what to look for. They need to have a conversation with the work.”
“Gallery Guy” can be seen on YouTube or by visiting cia.edu/galleryguy
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