This Friday, XYandZ Gallery will celebrate its two-year anniversary with an appropriately titled event called "TWO." Thirteen of the artists who have previously shown work at the space have helped curate the show, and each has chosen two artists to include.
While most of the gallery's past exhibitors will be participating, there is one XYandZ artist who will not be returning. Ryan Quirt, a Minneapolis-based artist who died tragically at the age of 24, was the first artist to be exhibited (posthumously) at the space, and is indeed the reason for its existence.
Mike Bishop, the gallery's director, says that several months after Quirt's death on May 5, 2006, his parents, Jon and Deb Quirt, became interested in showing his body of work, which included 4,500 pieces. While Quirt had been known mostly as a graffiti artist, his parents wanted to share the other kinds of artwork that their son had created.
Dane Klingamon (LA) and Allan Packer (Seattle)
Jon and Deb approached a few of their son's friends -- which included Bishop, Drew Peterson, Aaron Seymour-Anderson, and Evan Nyquist -- about the possibility of putting a show together celebrating his work. Although the Quirts had the idea for the exhibit several months after their son's death, it wasn't until more than two years later that plans began to take shape.
The friends began looking for a space, but found it to be a difficult process. This was in 2008 and 2009, when financial times were forcing some venues to close, and others weren't looking to take on new artists. Some galleries offered the possibility of renting their space for a week, but Bishop says that this didn't fit their vision for the exhibition. "Because of what the show was, and the story behind Ryan, we didn't want this to be a show for one week. We felt it wouldn't do it justice," says Bishop.
So they decided that they needed to find their own space, and XYandZ was born. The Quirt retrospective opened in August of 2009, and it was titled "Ryan Quirt: He was Hip, He Liked to Dance."
As time progressed, some of the original founders moved on. Peterson went to graduate school in Chicago (though he has remain involved, and had a show at the gallery), Seymour-Anderson pursued work in the ad industry, and Nyquist went to school in Savannah. "Their involvement has shifted in the process," says Bishop.
Bishop himself is not an artist. Before all of this started, he was finishing up his Masters in Business Administration, though he always had an interest in the arts. Through his friends Peterson and Seymour-Anderson he became connected to the arts scene as an observer. His background in business works pretty well in running the gallery. "That's the one thing artists don't tend to think about," he says.
"What's important to the gallery," Bishop says, "is these connections we've made with the artists. Not only connections, but the influence and impact their suggestions have had on us."
Since the very beginning, the decisions about who the gallery would exhibit came from the artists themselves. Peterson put Bishop in contact with Tonya Torgeson and Broken Crow. Broken Crow in turn recommended Erik Burke, a.k.a. OverUnder. "We've been trusting artists we've worked with, so there's a connection beyond that one show," Bishop says.
XYandZ's method of choosing artists based on recommendations of other artists has tended toward exhibitions of work that might not be shown in other for-profit galleries. As an example, Bishop points to a show featuring the organic material pods by Sean Connaughty that hung from the gallery.
But surprisingly, their artist-centered and contemporary-art focus has actually done well for the space. "We're offering something different besides two-dimensional work on walls," he says. The gallery has also been successful renting the space out -- sometimes to three or four different groups over the course of a month.
Since starting XYandZ, Bishop has linked up with Joseph Belk and Kate Iverson, forming Permanent Art and Design
to expand their capabilities. "Through Permanent we merge the capacity of art and the functionality of design to work on projects ranging from web development to multimedia art installations," Bishop says. "At the core of what we do is art. We stay connected to that through our work with artists at XYandZ gallery and CO Exhibitions."
Since joining up with Permanent Art and Design, XYandZ has also hired a curator, Tricia Khutoretsky, who's been working closely with Bishop on the second anniversary show.
As for the "TWO" exhibit, Bishop says all of the work is totally different. "That's what's so amazing about it," he says. "At first I thought, 'Holy crap. How is this going to work out?' But through the process, as all the work got up on the wall, there has been this weird connection to XYandZ shows from the past. You feel like you've seen it before. There's a connection to the space. If you ask 13 artists to pick art they like, there's a crossover. It's a good representation of where the gallery is at."
"TWO: XYandZ Gallery's Two-Year Anniversary Exhibit"
Through December 17
3258 Minnehaha Ave. S., Minneapolis
The opening reception is from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, December 2