Nathan Spoor (NS): Having reached the five-year mark of being a gallery in the Los Angeles area, you’re not considered one of the newest galleries on the block. But what the readers are interested in is how it all began. Can you walk us through the early days and motivations behind starting a gallery in Los Angeles?
Andrew Hosner (AH): Thinkspace was started out of a joint collaboration between Cannibal Flower and Sour Harvest back in the summer of 2005. Our first show took place that November at our first location just off Melrose near Fairfax in the space that was the Art Annex for a few months, originally launched by Cannibal Flower. We were regulars at Cannibal Flower, slowly building our art collection back then, and just starting up the Sour Harvest art blog. One day at the Art Annex it was suggested by yourself, a close mutual friend of both of us, that we join forces, and take things to the next level with the help of our business and marketing backgrounds. After a couple meetings, and some brainstorming, Thinkspace was born. Thank you again for helping to dream up the name and for helping create and launch the first version of our website. It’s pretty crazy to look back and see how quickly all took shape and how we hit the ground running. Since then, our goal has been to try and develop those we work closely with, and as we grow, our hopes are we’ll be able to provide them the necessary exposure to grow along with us.
L.Croskey (LC): I never thought I would own a gallery at first. Working at La Luz De Jesus showed me what was missing from the gallery system and what artists need. Being an artist myself, I responded and started Cannibal Flower (in 2000) as an outlet to show my own artwork as well as that of my friends and other artists that didn’t have a gallery home. From there on out lots of artist started to get recognized and started doing serious gallery shows around the area after gaining their initial exposure via Cannibal Flower. Fast forward a bit and a friend offered a space to me off of Melrose and Spaulding which led to the opening of Art Annex. From there Nathan Spoor, who was helping me with Cannibal Flower at the time, knew Andrew Hosner of SourHarvest.com. Nathan had heard that Andrew wanted to do a group show for his website and hooked us up together to basically start Thinkspace. In fact Nathan was the one that came up with the name Thinkspace.
NS: To my understanding all members of the gallery have full time occupations besides spending major amounts of time working on the gallery and producing each exhibition. Can you elaborate on what you do besides work in the arts and how that affects your gallery minded goals and aspirations?
AH: We all still have other avenues that keep us busy. I still don’t know where any of us find the time. Of the three of us, Shawn (my wife) is the most wrapped up with outside interests. She is the head of Ipecac Records – an imprint owned by Faith No More / Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton. She does it all, and they have an exciting roster of diverse musical talent that keeps her on her toes to say the least. I still work a good bit for a rock label doing marketing, but just about every spare waking moment is now devoted to the gallery and those we support. I’ve done marketing in the music industry for almost 20 years now, so that knowledge and familiarity of launching a marketing/ad campaign around a musical release can very easily be applied to hosting exhibition openings in the art world. There are so many similarities between the art and music worlds, it still surprises me. Our partner in the gallery, LC, as I’m sure he’ll elaborate on in his answers, wears several hats in the art and music worlds. From DJ to independent curator to being the driving force behind Cannibal Flower for a decade strong now, it’s an honor to be breaking down barriers in the art world with LC by our side.
LC: I’m a DJ and I help to organize underground art events around town. My full time job is the arts. All I do around town affects my gallery-minded goals and aspirations. It keeps my mind in the world of art 24/7. I only hope that the artists I work with on the underground show level are able to grow into stronger artists and that the gallery grows stronger as well.
NS: What ways have you seen the art scene and artists change in the time since you’ve opened your doors until the present day?
AH: Overall, I’d say the most noticeable change is how quickly an artist can rise to a certain level of popularity and sales in the new contemporary movement. Much of this increased momentum is due to the power of the internet and social networking sites. It’s really provided several strong platforms for an artist with drive and a sense of marketing to get his name and work known on a wide scale in a very fast manor. That, and the sheer number of galleries in just the last couple years has really exploded, especially over in Europe and the UK. These two aspects combined are providing more and more avenues for artists to be exposed and have their work seen. We’ve also been noticing the more flat, illustration driven type style of work is falling off in terms of popularity and the return of painterly driven works, where one can see/feel the strokes in the work, are really making a strong run right now, led in part by the breadth of talent coming out of the UK that focuses on the human form.
LC: I’ve seen illustrative and graffiti artists gain acceptance and be invited into art galleries and the movement as a whole – when before they were frowned upon. What I’ve realized in this time is that although illustrators do work for other companies, they also have their own work they wish to show, and graffiti artists have become the new surrealists in many ways.
NS: What do you look for when you’re addressing an artist’s work? Many galleries tend to show a specific “type” of work or content. Is there a specific type of artwork that you feel works best with your gallery?
AH: Anyone familiar with our space knows we have pretty eclectic tastes, but all still somehow fall under the large umbrella now being referred to as the new contemporary movement (pop surrealism, outsider, lowbrow, graffiti, street art, urban contemporary, etc.). We look for work that we ourselves would want on the walls of our home. We all collect the work of those we show, and wouldn’t have it any other way. If it’s not good enough for us to invest in and hang lovingly on the walls of our homes, then why show it and try to sell the work to others that we hope to instill trust in? We don’t aim to just show artists that are hot or an easy sell. There’s no vision or forward looking curatorial skill involved at all in regards to chasing after artists that just had strong selling shows at another gallery. Anyone can watch sales and send out invites the week after a big show opens to an artist. It takes a strong eye to find new talent that grabs people’s attention and I feel we have a very strong track record in terms of exposing and developing artists that came up through Thinkspace (and in some cases came to us by way of Cannibal Flower). We profile everything from folk-driven works to photo-realistic portrait driven works to street/graffiti driven works. Strong and original content is key for us. We don’t look for the next ‘so and so’, in hopes of riding the sales of another artist’s style that’s popular at the time. We look for artists with unique voices that will stand out from the crowd and stand the test of time.
LC: Anything we like, nothing in particular. No formula. If it’s good and we like it we show it.
Isaac Pierro and L. Croskey
NS: Thinkspace has participated and hosted several different kinds of non-traditional exhibitions and special events that are art-oriented. How do you decide which kind of opportunities to pursue, and do these generally present themselves to you or are they ideas that you tend to generate from within?
AH: During our first few years as a gallery, we took part in several one-night events, pop-up shows and specially curated exhibitions at other spots around the country. We still like to get involved in as many outside special exhibitions as we can. We’re doing a few this year actually, and we love to get involved with fund raisers and special events that are close to our hearts. We just finished up a fund-raising exhibition for Born Free USA helping expose the ever growing numbers of animal species facing extinction and this August we’ll be hosting a special show to hopefully raise awareness and repeal Proposition 8 this coming November. As for how we decide what to do, it’s so hard to say. Much of it depends on timing and if it’s something we feel will benefit the gallery and/or is a worthwhile cause to get involved in. Overall, it’s been a lil’ bit of both – some come to us, many we go after ourselves in hopes of providing additional exposure for our gallery and those we support. In the last couple years we’ve really started to focus on doing more art fairs, so those have taken up a good bit of our spare time, not to mention the time/output of those we work with, but we always have our feelers out there for events / causes that we feel we may be able to help out with and/or partner with in some fashion.
LC: Both. Sometimes we’ll see opportunities and explore them to see how we see how we could get more involved and other times opportunities present themselves to us because of our history in non-traditional art shows.
NS: What goals have you set for yourselves as a gallery entity? Have these goals and interests changed much since the beginning days?
AH: To always keep growing and exposing new talent in the process. These have really always been our core goals. When we first sat down we agreed we wanted to give this a strong run for the money and see how long we could keep it going strong. We’re five years old now and our program is pretty much full through summer 2011 currently. It’s very exciting to think about all we’ve accomplished and how far we’ve come since rockin’ things over by Melrose in a lil’ space that couldn’t have been more than 200 sq ft. With the big back parking lot gathering area we had there, and the quality of artists we were exposing at the time, all just clicked and there’s been no looking back since. Now with our move to Culver City coming up in April, we’re excited to expose those we work with to a whole other facet of the LA art community. There’s so many art lovers on the Westside that would just never venture out to our gallery, where as Culver City is the new center of the LA art scene and draws patrons from all over LA due to the breadth of galleries located there. As they say, there is definitely strength in numbers.
LC: My goal was to be a career gallerist and help emerging artists. Nothing has changed. Everything has to be organic.
Andrew Hosner, Blaine Fontana, L. Croskey
NS: Do you see the gallery remaining in its initial form or evolving into something beyond its present configuration?
AH: Well, I guess this might relate to if we plan to grow larger or not as a gallery… With the move to Culver City, we’ll be taking over a beautiful 2,400 sq foot space that is currently undergoing some build to suit improvements before we start moving things in throughout the month of March. We didn’t want to miss a beat, so as we are celebrating our final show in Silver Lake, we’ll also be moving throughout the month of March and preparing to kick things off at the new spot in April with the debut Los Angeles solo show from Brooklyn based artist Anthony Pontius as well as a group show curated by Tina Ziegler of Hunt and Gather and London Miles Gallery. As for the future past our move, the sky is the limit. We will pursue opportunities as they present themselves and hopefully create new ones in the process. We’re curating our first show outside of the US this June at London Miles Gallery in the UK, and we’ll also be taking things up north to Portland in August, so we’re always striving to create additional outlets outside of our standard gallery setting to help further expose and provide opportunities to those we work closely with.
LC: It is forever evolving.
NS: Tell us about some of the artists that really excite you and why. Is there some common theme or trait that draws you to an artist?
AH: I’d hate to single out any one artist we work with, as we’re excited to be working with all of them. We are introducing some new artists this year that we’re anxious to see what others think of, as our plans are to continue to give them opportunities for growth in larger shows in 2011 and beyond. There’s no one thing or it factor we look for. The art just has to move us and we have to jive well with the artist, as we like to approach Thinkspace as one big extended family as we aim to work closely with those we support. There has to be a bond there and a strong connection to the work for us to pour our hearts and souls into representing an artist. We love work that has an edge and has something to say. It’s all about being fresh.
LC: I like artists that have good rendering skills and a vision. But personally I’m drawn to figurative female work, like that of Audrey Kawasaki, Nathan Deyoung, and Craig ‘Skibs’ Barker, to name but a few.
Andrew Hosner, Brandon Garrison, Andrew Michael Ford
NS: What are some of the more exciting and promotionally grand opportunities that you’ve experienced or been interested in as a gallery and arts promoter?
AH: Working with the Born Free and Animal Protection Institute folks for the last few years has proved to be a very rewarding experience and we’ve brought a large amount of attention to their organizations and causes in the process, not to mention we’ve been able to raise a good bit of money for them. To know that’s going to help save the lives of endangered animals is a very warming thought. We’re also working on a special show this August to help raise awareness about the injustices of Proposition 8.
Past the group shows where we work in tandem with a charitable organization, I have found going to Miami during Art Basel to be a huge experience for us. We’ve now been two years in a row and are already planning towards next December. There are several important fairs across the globe, but for the new contemporary movement, I feel this has become our annual meeting place and it’s like a big family reunion of sorts. You see just about every major player and artist in our movement there and to be able to go out at day’s end and mingle and get to know them all better and exchange ideas and share the work of our artists with all has proven to be one of the best moves we’ve made overall as a gallery. As I mentioned before, it’s all about providing additional outlets and opportunities outside the confines of our gallery. By focusing internationally, and not just locally, we have grown a very strong following and it’s still surprising to us when someone will come up to us out in Miami from some far off country talking about how much the artists we show have inspired them in many different ways and what a pleasure it is to see their work in person.
LC: Participating in Art Basel and seeing what other galleries are doing on an international level. But I’ve done plenty of things I’ve been excited about.
NS: How has being a group of avid art collectors affected your exhibition strategy?
AH: We really only aim to show work/artists that we ourselves would avidly go after and want to collect. We work closely with those we show, often times becoming close friends, so we want there to be more than just a financial interest involved when looking for new artists and building existing relationships. Of course it’s an amazing thing to be a part of when something gels and an artist’s work really starts to take off, but it’s also a great feeling to stick by an emerging artist in hopes that your love for them rubs off on your patrons.
LC: It’s good to have a group of people to bounce ideas off of and talk about art in general. It helps us understand each others taste when we are selecting artists for shows.
Andrew with Johnny “KMNDZ” Rodriguez
NS: In what way do you see your gallery offering opportunities for young artists just entering the ranks?
AH: We are always looking for amazing young talent. We are booked for a good bit, but we do still strive to do the odd pop-up show or two each year where we’re able to showcase new talent. We also do the ‘Fresh Faces’ series from time to time, where we’ll dedicate a wall in our project room or office to hang a small handful of works from a brand new artist. A sort of low-stress introduction. No deadlines or pressure to sell, just a nice low-key way for us to help introduce someone we have our eye on and see what others think. In addition to that, we still do regular portfolio reviews that are open to the community. We don’t do as many standard group shows as we used to do, but that is all apart of us growing as a gallery and focusing in more on a select group of artists we feel strongly about.
LC: On Thursdays we have an open door portfolio review where they can come in and talk about their art with a gallerist/collector about the progress and direction of their work. There are not a lot of outlets where artists can go and talk about their work when they get out of art school.
NS: What do you consider the most outstanding or enriching moment from your tenure as a gallery owner or group of owners?
AH: One of the best is seeing the change we can make in a person’s life by giving them an outlet/platform to help expose their work. Even more so once their work starts to sell and they start to make the strides towards being a full-time working artist and are able to let loose of their day jobs. I think our upcoming move to Culver City this April is a very, very big thing for us as well. There are still many in this movement that are more impressed by the quality of the gallery than the work it shows, which blows my mind. Art should be about art and not how well off the gallery owners are. We loved our space in Silver Lake and rocked it strong for over four years, but we feel it’s time to take that next step to a larger, more polished space.
LC: Helping emerging artists get art shows. Whether it be via our gallery or outside galleries.
Andrew Hosner, L. Croskey with Germs
NS: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for the artists and readers out in the world?
AH: Find your voice and develop it, don’t worry about what’s hot/selling at the moment. Focus on quality, not quantity and paint to paint, not because you have a show and/or deadline. When you do that, you are often times forced to put out work into the market that isn’t strong and only does you a disservice. Build up a body of work, and then look for shows and never lose the desire to keep growing as an artist. Attend live painting workshops, go to portrait study courses… some of the more established artists in our movement today continually aim to push the envelope by doing just that and not resting on their laurels.
LC: Being an artist is hard work, and you will be tested. So work hard.
L. Croskey, Stell Im Hulteberg, Andrew Hosner