When Transfer Gallery officially made its L.A. debut on June 8, it was with Liminal Territory, a show featuring the video art of Rick Silva and Sabrina Ratté. Silva, a professor at University of Oregon, comments on the environmental degradation of national monuments using drone footage and computer animation in “Western Fronts: Cascade Siskiyou, Gold Butte, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears.” Ratté, who is based in Canada, merges human-made architecture and natural grandeur in, “Undream.”
Both works appear online, but, at Transfer Gallery, they screen large and pristine on an otherwise bare wall with sound that booms inside this small space. It’s a gallery with a homey vibe, where a kitchen sits next to the front door and a blackout curtain keeps the L.A. daylight from interfering with the projections.
“Media belongs in a home, as opposed to it being this sterile, white cube encounter,” says Kelani Nichole, who founded Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn six years ago and recently moved to Los Angeles.
Nichole wants to show people how they can live with tech-forward art. Inside a downtown live-work loft, she’s doing just that.
This unusual set-up wasn’t completely intentional. When Nichole landed in Los Angeles earlier this year, she wanted to find a more traditional gallery space. Plans changed quickly, though. The city is big and, with clusters of galleries stretching from its southwestern to northeastern reaches, Nichole wasn’t sure where hers would fit. Plus, she had socio-political concerns. “I didn’t know where I could responsibly open a storefront and have a street level presence in a neighborhood without negatively affecting the community in that neighborhood,” she explains.
Nichole, who balances her curatorial work with a career as a User Experience Strategist, is interested in the intersection of art and tech. Virtual reality, video games and gifs are amongst the works she has exhibited. She got her start in the Philadelphia-based collective Little Berlin, where she learned the ins-and-outs of DIY art spaces before heading to New York and launching Transfer Gallery. Past shows have included artists on the edge of internet and game culture, like a 2016 exhibition from Angela Washko centered around “The Game: The Game,” a video game based on the tactics of pick up artists that would go on to win the Impact Award at last year’s renowned IndieCade festival.
Moving to Los Angeles puts Nichole in closer proximity to a number of the artists with whom she works, as well as potential collectors from the tech and entertainment worlds, who might be more inclined to invest in these experimental pieces.
As it turned out, the loft-gallery setting has its advantages. It’s an intimate space that allows Nichole to experiment with how she shows art, whether its through private gatherings in the loft or larger pop-up events at other venues. When visitors stop by during public hours, they can get an idea of how these pieces might work in their own quarters. Plus, they can engage with the works in a way that isn’t necessarily possible when viewing them through a phone or laptop screen. Here, the videos are massive and you can have an actual face-to-face chat with another person about the works. “Central to the idea of this show is that anyone can see the work online, anywhere, so why would you want to come to the gallery?” says Nichole of Liminal Territory.
That’s a question that seems to be at the center of Transfer Gallery’s practice: How does art online co-exist with art in physical spaces? It involves rethinking everything from curation to revenue streams for artists to even the concept of the art collector.
Nichole acknowledges that the art she represents isn’t for everyone. They likely won’t be displayed in the same ways that paintings and sculptures are. Viewing them can require software and hardware that will evolve as technology advances. She sees a potential audience in people who want to invest in art and have a keen interest in maintaining it, whether that means upgrading the means by which the art is viewed or tinkering with today’s gear after it becomes antiquated. Those kinds of culture lovers are there–we see sparks of that today with renewed interest in old media like cassettes and VHS tapes–it’s just a matter of bringing the art to them.
Transfer Gallery, 1000 S. Hope St., #420, Los Angeles