Gallerist at Home: Paul Kopeikin
The Kopeikin Gallery is nestled amidst Culver City’s galleries on La Cienega. Offering a fresh and reliable dose of art to Angelenos, the gallery is a favorite respite of mine, mostly because of its versatile yet dependable shows, such as “Looking at Mexico” and “Alejandro Cartegena” in 2012 (reviewed here) or another favorite artist “Amy Ross” (NAP #32, #50, #62, #74) in 2011.
Gallery façade, courtesy of Kopeikin Gallery.
At his home, gallery director and owner Paul Kopeikin has a similar approach and aesthetic when it comes to choosing the art he displays. But when it comes to the physical arrangement of the display, Kopeikin has more flexibility at home, often choosing a random pairing of photographs, or an entire salon-style wall in his kitchen. The look and feel is much like his gallery, refreshing and pleasurable to explore. - Ellen C. Caldwell, Los Angeles Contributor
Ellen Caldwell: I love that the three images in your daughter’s room are versatile, varied, and even mature, yet they still have a colorful, playful side too. Could you tell me a bit about their background and how they came to be there?
Paul Kopeikin: My daughter chooses things I own to decorate her bedrooms at my and her mother’s house, although I have also bought work I think she would like from the time she was born. Even now I use her as an “excuse” to buy what some people might consider “children’s art.”
EC: The Darren Waterston painting in your bedroom is fabulous. When and how did you get this painting? (I love its placement above your daughter’s handprint tiles as well…)
PK: A truck stopped at my gallery one day to pick up a photograph Darren had bought from me and when we opened the back of the truck to put it in I noticed several paintings that were going back to Darren from his L.A. dealer. I immediately fell in love with this one and called Darren, who didn’t answer his phone… as usual. The trucker wouldn’t just leave it, but a few minutes after he left Darren called me back and I bought the painting. I saw the trucker’s cell number on the receipt and stopped him just as he was getting on the freeway to drive up to San Francisco. Darren gave him the okay and I met him and got the painting off of a busy street during rush hour.
Trio wall #1: two photos and a painting, including an Emmet Gowin photograph; Laura Ball watercolor and a vernacular photograph of boxers in the ring.
Trio wall #2: two drawings and a photo, including a Ralph Eugene Meatyard photograph and two drawings, one by Enrique Martinez Celaya and the other by Edwina White.
EC: That’s a great story with a nice ending too. I also really enjoy the way you have paired the dual trios of drawings and photographs in your bedroom – it is a bit reminiscent of the trio in your daughter’s room. Could you discuss these in terms of your personal tie to them? Also, how or what motivated you to pair them together?
PK: The reasons they are hanging together are obvious, but they also worked together in size. One of the walls is emblematic of my collection, with an Emmet Gowin photograph, a Laura Ball watercolor and a vernacular photograph of boxers in the ring. They are all about “fighting.” The other wall has a Ralph Eugene Meatyard photograph and two drawings, one by Enrique Martinez Celaya and the other by Edwina White, who I did a show of a couple years ago. They are all solitary figures.
EC: Could you tell me a little bit about the mix n’ match salon-style, black and white photograph wall in your dining room? Did you hang all of those at once, or start collecting pieces and expanding the wall organically as you went?
PK: I love salon style walls and have seen many amazing ones over the years, particularly at Charles Cowles home in New York. So I had inspiration. Also, I always have more work than I can hang and I don’t like a house that looks like a gallery. I had all of those photographs and more, so the wall went up when I moved into the house. There were others that I unfortunately had to sell in 2008-2009 and others replaced them. I hate to sell anything and enjoy the work I own even when it is sitting in a box. In that sense I am a true, if humble, collector as well as a dealer, although many dealers will tell you that you cannot be both.
EC: Tell me about some of the stories and personal connections you feel for a few of the photographs you chose to feature…
PK: The Garry Winogrand of the boy and sheep is a present I bought myself for my 40th birthday. Although not as well known as his street photography, he did great work with animals. The Bruce Davidson is perhaps his most iconic image. The image is from the 1950’s and this signed print is from the 1960’s. I bought the print off of eBay for less than what a new print was then going for. It is a beautiful print, but I had occasion to compare it to a contemporary print I also owned and was disappointed to discover that his new prints were almost indistinguishable from the older ones.
EC: Finally, does the process of collecting art for your home differ from doing so for the gallery? What drives you or moves you differently?
PK: There is no difference between what I buy personally and what I program at the gallery. The only thing I can go on is my taste and knowledge and the hope that enough people will connect and like the same things I do. Most of the work I own and have shown was purchased before I did the show. At one point I tried to buy something from every artist I showed, but I have been in business so long now that it has become unrealistic to do so.
The Kopeikin Gallery is currently featuring two exhibits through February 16th: Kahn & Selesnick : The Carnival at the End of the world and Jose Guerrero: Thames.
Ellen C. Caldwell is an LA-based art historian, writer, and editor.