For twenty-one years, 1210 Second Ave has been a favorite spot for art collectors and admirers. The space formerly housed Friesen Gallery, but Friesen’s gallery director Jon Wood recently transitioned to owner and the gallery became Abmeyer+Wood. Wood has reshaped the space based upon his art historical background and his desire to take chances. The fluidity of Abmeyer+Wood speaks to the range of his personal, professional and artistic philosophy.
Wood’s well-informed perspective is based on years of working in a gallery setting after studying art history at University of Washington. The academic side, the desire to teach and educate viewers, guides him in selecting the work he shows, which includes work from local, emerging artists as well as established, nationally known artists. This approach attempts to remedy some of Seattle’s provincial tendencies, which can blind local viewers to the rest of the art world. This approach also allows Wood to nurture young artists and take part in “artists’ learning and discovering art.”
The emerging artists Wood supports connect with the young collectors Abmeyer+Wood often draws. While Wood states that he seeks works that he is passionate about, his selections are “tempered with the reality of selling the pieces.” As a gallery owner, Wood must navigate a commoditized art world and the expectations that come with being a gallery owner. Wood’s approach is to place personal experience and connection at the fore. He explains that, “art has been placed too high on a pedestal,” that may frighten some viewers. In the same vein, this pedestal approach can turn art into product, “which denies the work’s importance and its place in history.” Abmeyer+Wood places an emphasis, instead, on art as a connection to the spiritual world.
Abmeyer+Wood’s current show of New York-based artist Ron Ehrlich’s “Drunken Horses” seems to epitomize the gallery’s philosophy and outlook on the art world. Ehrlich’s work speaks to Wood’s desire to show pieces that provide perspective to viewers. “Artists have a connection to aspects of life that many forget about. Art reminds viewers of that.” Ron Ehrlich’s horses are, as Wood describes, a challenging body of work, as the artist’s personality frees him from the typical conventions we traditionally see in life and art.
These horse paintings—proclaimed by Ehrlich as self-portraits—allow viewers to project personal experiences onto the artworks. Pages upon pages have been written about the varied symbolism of horses around the world, but on a phenomenological level they are a dichotomy—an example of power above all, but divided between freedom and control. Ehrlich’s work develops beyond the subject matter of horses through a complexity of layers and interesting uses of medium—also somewhere between freedom and control. The three-dimensionality of some of the pieces at Abmeyer+Wood jut out at the viewer while in others Ehrlich physically scrapes material from the wood panel. The works seem to reveal and conceal the process and purpose of their own making, encouraging the viewer to engage imaginatively.
Ehrlich’s show is proof that Wood proceeds true to his word, exposing the local audience to local and national artists whose work is as challenging as it is engaging.
Ron Ehrlich’s Drunken Horses will be on display until April 25.