Alt Art

Richmond’s ADA Gallery showcases contemporary artists.

Sarah Bednarek, “Concertina,” 2014, walnut, paint and canvas, 36″ x 12″ x 12.”

ADA gallery founder and director John Pollard is joking when he says “Artists Doing Alright,” is what ADA stands for. It’s really Artists Downtown Access, which Pollard selected when he opened the Richmond gallery in 2003. The name pays homage to ATA (Artists Television Access), a video gallery in San Francisco where Pollard worked for a number of years. “And my Grandmother’s name was Ada,” he adds. “She was always supportive of my art instincts as a kid, so I did it for her and some good karma.”

 Pollard, who received his BFA from the University of Virginia in 1988 and MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1992, classifies ADA as an alternative gallery showing the work of emerging and mid-career artists. “I’m always looking to be surprised and challenged, and I do have a thing for humor .… not jokey ‘ha-ha,’ but someone who’s honestly funny and letting that out subtly in their work.”

In ADA’s February line-up one sees just the kind of work that excites Pollard. Brooklyn-based Sarah Bednarek and Richmonder Kirsten Kindler are featured in a two-person show, and Lynchburg native George Terry will create a video installation inside the gallery.

Bednarek, born in Wisconsin and a resident of Brooklyn for the past eight years, crafts sculptures from wood, melamine and canvas using a technique similar to book-binding. These creations are complex arrangements of lines and planes reminiscent of origami, albeit origami done by a physicist using unexpected colors and patterns. The work is informed by Bednarek’s battle with stage IV colon cancer, with which she was diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 29. While undergoing treatment, Bednarek had hallucinations of flying through “a crystalline world of ideal geometries, all pervaded with benevolent illumination.” While she was moved by the experience, it provoked questions for her about real versus imagined space. Intrinsic to Bednarek’s carefully rendered pieces is the issue of control, whether it be of space or destiny. The sculptures evoke the most basic structure of things—as if she has stripped everything else away and is exploring matter on a sub-atomic level.

Both fanciful and edgy, Kirsten Kindler’s paper constructions are made with images cut from magazines, which Kindler puts together to create a rowdy display of spatial incongruities. These are works that appeal on both the macro- and micro- level, inspiring differing reactions among viewers. From a distance, the pieces are bold, lace-like curtains or shields of dynamic form. Up close, they are revealed as a delicate and charmingly quirky assemblage of images. Kindler, a Richmonder by way of New York City since 1998, has an eye for color and composition that is both restrained and wild. Her work looks almost out of control and yet manages to avoid complete chaos. One can’t help but think of a 21st-century version of Cubism, not just because of the overall look of the pieces, but also because of the use of collage. Kindler infuses the medium with life by opening it up, quite literally—she has seized the objectifying ambition of the Cubists, producing two-dimensional work that appears three-dimensional.

While ADA Gallery’s major focus is on painting and drawing, it is open to all media, and in February will also host artist George Terry’s video installations. Terry plans to present a new work entitled “You Can’t Go Home,” consisting of interviews with artists who have moved to New York from elsewhere to pursue their careers. Equipped with a video camera and fog machine, Terry travelled to each artist’s current home.

In the ensuing interviews, they discuss ideas of home, mysticism, New York and Michael Jackson, among other topics. Terry’s creation synthesizes the disparate aesthetic experiences of color, sound, shape and aura to explore his identity as an Appalachian artist working at the nexus of the contemporary art world.

No longer the laid back new kid on the block, ADA is taking itself more seriously as it matures. In 2006 Pollard began attending major art fairs in Basel, Switzerland, London, Washington, New York and Miami, using them as a way to promote ADA. This brush with the larger art world sounds glamorous, but for Pollard it all comes down to the art and its authenticity: “I like to see honesty and hard work: artists that are really into what they do and they’re persistent and patient (and often obsessed), and they aren’t too concerned by the market and what’s popular.”

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