Rodi Gallery, when the white cube turns conceptual it goes on four wheels

Probably the Rodi Gallery is not the first movable gallery in the history of arts, but seems to be the best conceived up to now: a real white cube on four wheels, able to pop up “with and without permission” in the parking lots of cultural and educational institutions of Hudson, Beacon, Kingston, Newburgh, Peekskill and Yonkers. Conceptual Fine Arts spoke with Elise Graham, the Rodi Gallery maker and driver.


Are you an artist?


Yes, I am an artist.


Which is your background?


I studied art. I got a BFA in painting at the Cornell University and an MFA from Hunter College in New York. Since then I’ve been working as an artist.


When did you take your driving licence?


(laughs) I got my driving licence when I was 17 years-old and I’m 57 years-old now so for all those years I’ve driven a car and this is the first time I’ve driven a truck. Actually, when I started with this idea, one of my only fears was would I be able to handle the driving of a truck. I felt confident about everything else but it turns out that hasn’t been a problem at all, and I actually enjoy it.


The problem is that you have to take art everywhere, so to set art in the right contest may be quite a challenge, isn’t it? For example, how is with the parking?


Clearly we can’t drive the truck with the art installed. So we have to pack it up in a way where it doesn’t move around too much off the walls in the back, and when we get to the locations, we will unpack and install the show.


Where are you now?


I live about fifty minutes north of New York City in the suburbs.


Our theory is that the biggest power in art, both contemporary and historical art, is the capability of setting the artwork in its ideal place. That’s why I’m so interested in your project.


I think you are right. I’ haven’t actually thought about that particular idea, but I will do it now that you have mentioned this.


If you are a curator, an artist or a gallerist, your problem is always the same: putting the artwork in the Met or at MoMa…


Right, we are kind of pushing against that notion. It’s really about location in two ways. It’s about the location of the art in the space, the opportunity to have the art in an unusual physical place, the truck. And then it’s the location of the truck in the wider world, where we decide to bring the truck. I think those two things create an interesting concept: it’s the art in the truck and then the truck in the world. We are starting to lean more toward asking artists to make works specifically for the truck rather than to just lift what they have been doing in a studio and bringing it into the truck. That’s is something we have been thinking about and acting on and see how that works.


After two shows in the truck, what are the benefits that you have discovered?


One of the biggest things I have discovered is not about art but about human nature and how people react physically to the truck in terms of approaching it, looking in from the back and ultimately stepping up the stairs and going inside. That process is very daunting for a lot of people, even people interested in looking at art. There’s some sort of funny intimidation that I’m trying to work out but I find enormously fascinating to think about how to attract people into the truck. It’s a really beautiful welcoming space.


You’ve worked a lot on it.


Oh, yeah. It has been an interesting challenge. Everyone’s reaction to it has been so positive and so optimistic. People feel uplifted by it for some reason that I haven’t really analyzed yet. If I can get them there, if I can get them at least to look in the back or go up the stairs and take a closer look at the show, everyone is just very optimistic. I find this very interesting.


Do you remember exactly when the idea to have a movable white cube van came to your mind?


I’ve always been thinking about alternative ways to show art. It used to be about alternative ways to show my own art and I did a pop-up gallery in an empty retail space.

I’m using this time right now to line up the artists that we are going to show in the upcoming months when the weather gets a little warmer, talking to them on what they plan on doing or showing. We will also work with them and figure out where to bring the truck to show their work. So there is a lot to do.


Does the project have a deadline?


No, the future is open.


Until the truck will be able to go..


Exactly, so far so good. I’m sure some of our thinking about it will change, or at least I’m hoping. I don’t want it to be a kind of static thing. I want it to be a project that is constantly reacting to its past. In many ways I see myself as a survivor in the art world, or at least flourishing in a time when most artists are thinking about packing it up.


Do you have a blog?


We have a web-site, we are on Facebook and Tumblr.


Every gallery space or artwork today needs a software, and the software is basically a story telling. Theory and art come together. Today theories are lost, or better are turned into storytelling. In the case of Torey, you see a guy who is able to do tricks with his bike, then you have an environment which is communicated by the videos and then you have the abstraction that he does, a specific kind of world that you know thanks to the web. It is a similar process that it’s going on in many many fields in contemporary art.


I agree. It’s not just the isolated artists working in their studios with no other influences.


Thus, maybe the introductory text for your next show could be the bill of the mechanics…


I wouldn’t mind to include that kind of information, although I hope I don’t have too much of it.

September 22, 2014