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Shockoe Artspace Gallery Offers an Alternative to the Commercial Gallery Space 

click to enlarge Artist Jared Nathan Crane’s “Primal Soup” (2017) is mixed media on canvas.

Artist Jared Nathan Crane’s “Primal Soup” (2017) is mixed media on canvas.

Move over arts district. Founder and gallery director Ryan Lauterio wants to make Shockoe Artspace a destination spot for contemporary art.

Since he founded the nonprofit gallery in Shockoe Bottom in 2011 and officially launched the space in 2016, he has mounted 10 exhibitions, about one a quarter, of two-dimensional work by artists such as professors Will Connally and Miles Hall, student Dakota Becker, and Brooklyn-based Roberto Jamora. In October, Shockoe Artspace also participated in itsfirst art fair: Current.

"You have to think that somebody in Brooklyn long ago, when nothing was happening in Brooklyn, was like: 'We're going to do it here,'" Lauterio observes. "'Maybe our friends come out.' … I probably sound very naive, but why not?"

Lauterio's dreams are big, with exhibitions scheduled until 2020. For his three-year plan, he hopes to begin a residency program to play host to an out-of-town curator, writer and artist so that they can, as he describes it, "gather and scatter" as advocates for Richmond's thriving art community. Lauterio, who teaches full-time in Virginia Commonwealth University's art foundations department, has long-range plans to launch a post-undergraduate or graduate art program that offers ongoing educational opportunities. To better equip students for life after graduation, Lauterio's program, which he describes as a "revamped apprenticeship," would teach artistic skills and a strong pedagogy in theory and practice in addition to writing, curating and business management.

Shockoe Artspace's current exhibition, "This Must Be the Place," features paintings by Chesterfield native Jared Nathan Crane, who returned to Richmond in January 2016 after completing a graduate work at the City University of New York's Hunter College. Crane's newest paintings, made during a span of eight to nine months, are a departure from his thesis work, which relied on theory and retained moments of representation. He admits this much smaller abstract work is in part a rejection of his training.

"A lot of [the new work] is instigated by chance. … I don't want to be in complete control of every facet of the painting," Crane explains. Rather than instructing audiences on how to interpret the work, Crane maintains, "I'm just an instigator."

Repeatedly, pairs of globular forms — in opaque white, black, or an inverse color — appear in the paintings. Each irregular form floats on top of the two-dimensional surface like a blight or an expunged area, as seen in "Troein," which includes six white blobs with a graphic black outline on a hazy green and blue ground. Moreover, this duality is extended by the stark colors, inclusion of several diptychs, such as "Luima" and its almost inverse "Sprout," or paintings like "Iroqu" that are compositionally divided into two planes.

Crane is unsure if his strategy of pairing is an intuitive response or one that is informed by nature, but he concedes that the paintings explore relationships — the organic and inorganic, order and chaos, and structure and freedom.

There is an uncertainty to the paintings. The dynamic scribbles, opaque irregular shapes, erasures, overlaps, and earthy color palette project an anxiety rather than a resolve, which lends them an air of investigation. The best ones are haunting and memorable while others border on decorative. But there is also a freedom here, a sense of experimentation and openness that is supple for the artist to manipulate. Each painting seems to project a palpable anticipation for the next steps forward in Crane's practice.

When asked why he chose to exhibit at Shockoe Artspace, Crane explains: "There's no rule book for how to get involved with galleries. You begin to feel isolated and think no one knows you exist. … I started looking at nonprofits. I cold-called [Shockoe Artspace] because I remembered Ryan from VCU. I'm a big supporter of what he is doing [here]. He operates as an alternative to the academic program and the commercial art-gallery space." S

This Must Be the Place is on view at Shockoe Artspace, 12 N. 19th St., through May 26. For information, see shockoeartspace.com.

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