Heart to Art: Lora Reynolds of Lora Reynolds Gallery (PART ONE)

Imagine my thrill as a seasoned New York art-goer thrust back into the unfamiliar Texas Hill Country this summer (I graduated from University of Texas at Austin but hadn't visited the city but once since then), going totally off a strong recommendation from Big Apple friends to visit Lora Reynolds Gallery. Imagine that joy when stumbling into a clean, well-lit white-box, with its raw concrete floor and huge windows, which just happened to be showing former Armory Show artist Susan Collis (So it goes, May 14-July 16, 2011). Since then (and looking back at gallery archives proves it), Lora Reynolds' eponymous space has consistently staged solo, duo and group exhibitions of local and international artists that challenge minds and emphasize the fortitude of a Texas-based gallery on the larger art world. - Brian Fee, Austin Contributor...Check back on December 28th for Part Two of Brian's Heart to Art interview with Lora Reynolds!

photo: Alison Eden

Brian Fee: What was your background before opening Lora Reynolds Gallery, and what considerations determined opening in Austin?

Lora Reynolds: I became interested in and engaged with contemporary art upon returning to Houston after my undergraduate. My now mother-in-law Jeanne Klein was living there, and she was very involved with the Menil museum and was, in fact, a friend of Dominique de Menil's. Jeanne was asked by Dominique to start a young supporters program for the museum, and while I was living there it was just getting off the ground. With Dominique around, we were welcomed everywhere and given extraordinary access. We traveled with Paul Winkler to The Philip Johnson Glass House where Philip Johnson himself joined us for lunch! The experience with that group, and with Jeanne and Mickey Klein in general, really opened my eyes to what contemporary art is and showed me there exists this entire community in which one can make a life, meet interesting, creative, wonderful people and see incredible things.

Ewan Gibbs | Austin, 2010, Graphite on paper, 11 11/16 x 8 1/4 inches. Courtesy the artist and Lora Reynolds Gallery.

It was through the Klein's that I met James Cohan, who was working at the time with Anthony d'Offay Gallery in London. I had never been to London and thought it would be a great adventure to do an internship at the gallery, despite the fact that at that time I had very little experience with the gallery world. So I applied and was accepted as an intern for what was supposed to be two months but ended up being a year, and an actual paid job. The experience of being in London and working at Anthony d’Offay Gallery altered the course of my life.

Bradney Evans | Sunset, 2011, Acrylic on paper, 35 x 35 inches. Courtesy the artist and Lora Reynolds Gallery.

I worked for Anthony d'Offay Gallery for a total of five years. My job was to look after the artists that the gallery showed who lived and worked in the U.S., including Ed Ruscha, Vija Celmins, Jeff Koons, Maurizio Cattelan and others...although Ruscha was my main responsibility. It was an exciting time and a great moment of change in Ruscha's career. After Anthony retired in 2001 and closed the gallery, I went to work for Matthew Marks Gallery for a year before my now husband and I began thinking about starting a family. He was already living in Austin, where he had an investment management fund, and we both knew this is where we wanted to raise kids. I moved back to Texas then, and I opened the gallery in 2005 when my daughter was 1 1/2.

I named the gallery after myself because I am utterly lacking in creativity - but mostly my reasoning was that perhaps the connections I made while working in the art world in London and New York would recognize my name and thus connect me to the larger, international art world.

Francesca Gabbiani | Wonderland, 2005, Colored paper, airbrush and gouache on paper, 104 x 78 inches. Courtesy the artist and Lora Reynolds Gallery.

BF: What role did you intend for your gallery in Austin's art scene?  

LR: The gallery has sought to bring international and national artists to Texas and to provide a venue to see interesting contemporary art in all mediums. It also gives artists a chance to show somewhere outside of the more critic oriented art scenes such as Los Angeles or New York. Being located in Austin can provide artists a chance to show more experimental work—to perhaps feel more comfortable taking risks. Because we are removed from the main centers of the art world, we are able to show artists who already have representation in Los Angeles and New York—their showing at the gallery is seen as a positive expansion of their reach, rather than an encroachment of any sort. We are also very interested in cultivating a connection with the community and collectors by providing a place where they can engage with very progressive artwork.

Kehinde Wiley | Gavin Study I, 2008, Oil wash on paper, 40 x 26 inches, unframed. Courtesy the artist and Lora Reynolds Gallery.

BF: As the local art climate has shifted, what unique challenges has the gallery faced, and how has it adapted to surmount them?

LR: We have seen great growth in the visual arts in Austin over the last six years, with the completion and opening of the Blanton Museum, the expansion in reputation and reach by Arthouse, along with their gorgeous new building and now the merger of AMOA and Arthouse. The Visual Arts Center (VAC) has opened at UT and is doing great work, as is Fusebox. All of this amounts to a much richer and more diverse art-world here - one that brings interesting and important international artists to Austin. We, as a city and community, are making great strides and I can only hope it continues.

What all of these institutions and festivals achieve is bringing great curators, artists and gallerists here, along with museum and collector groups. We have had groups from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, The Menil Collection, CAM in Houston and Miami MOCA, among others. We recently had Jay Sanders and Elisabeth Sussman — curators of the upcoming Whitney Biennial — as well as Franklin Sirmans from LACMA and Nicolaus Schafhausen of the Witte de With in the Netherlands. This influx of curatorial talent and museum supporters is just fantastic for the artists living and showing here!

Benjamin Butler | Untitled Tree (Blue, Yellow, Green), 2006, Oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches. Courtesy the artist and Lora Reynolds Gallery.

Unfortunately, we have had pretty slow growth in the number of contemporary collectors. Or, rather, the community of collectors here is rather small for a city of this size, which presents a challenge on the commercial side. If I had not started my career outside of Texas, in larger collecting communities, it would be much harder to succeed here now because the base is just not broad enough. That is why it is so hard for commercial galleries to survive here and why so many try and fail. I would love to see ten more international commercial galleries here to build a community, but it will take time.

Karen Breneman | The Bee, 2006, Enamel, acrylic and graphite on panel, 11 1/4 x 16 inches. Courtesy the artist and Lora Reynolds Gallery.


Lora Reynolds graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and established the gallery in Austin, TX in March 2005 after working with Anthony d'Offay and Matthew Marks Galleries in London and New York. The current solo show by Mads Lynnerup, Help is on the way, runs through February 4, 2012.

Brian Fee is an art punk currently based in Austin, TX. His culture blog Fee's List covers his three loves (art, film and live music) occurring in his other three loves (the Lone Star State, the Big Apple, and Tokyo).

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