Monday, May 18, 2015

May Gallery Stroll: God Hates Robots

A peek inside SLC's latest alternative gallery

Posted By on May 18, 2015, 9:30 PM

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Every couple of months the art community gets a brand new jolt of excitement with the addition of a new location to add works for display, and usually the best time to get the word out and get as many people to check it out is during Gallery Stroll. So on an evening with on-and-off rain, tons of people made their way over to the brand new God Hates Robots gallery and ticket shop on West Broadway, to see an array of established and rising artists display their works for the inaugural show. Today we chat with co-founder Shon Taylor about the new space and the work you can see there over the next month, along with some pics of what you can see.

Shon Taylor
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GodHatesRobots.com

Gavin: Hey Shon, first off, how have things been since we last chatted?

Shon:
The past three years have been great! On the business side of things, we (Bottlerocket / 24Tix.com) moved to a new office space in the same Caputo’s building in December. This is our sixth office space in 15 years, but it’s the first space that we’ve actually had the opportunity to plan properly and build out for our needs. It finally feels like the right home for a long period of time. On the personal side of things, my wife had our second child two years ago. The family unit is now complete.

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Gavin: How have things been going for you at 24Tix these days?

Shon:
24Tix has done some very exciting things. We’ve partnered with Graywhale Entertainment locations to act as outlets for our tickets. We started working with the Salt Lake Arts Council in 2012 ticketing for their Twilight Concert Series. There are a lot of technical and communication challenges that come into play when you start charging money for such a large and well-known previously free event. Add to that our desire to help the Arts Council keep fees associated with ticketing as low as possible. You get the opportunity to exercise creative problem solving on a completely different level and work with their great team. Most recently we’ve activated ticketing for Ogden Twilight and the Utah Pride Festival. Finally, local venues like Urban Lounge, Kilby Court, and Velour have really raised the bar on acts that they bring in and promote. There is something going on that appeals to almost any taste almost every night of the week. It’s nice to feel like we’re contributing something to a vital part of our community—even though we’re a ticketing company.

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Gavin: A few years ago we briefly chatted about the Happy Accidents showcase. How was that show for everyone involved, and will you do another one any time soon?

Shon:
I think that everyone who did The Happy Accidents Project walked away satisfied. We asked the question “What happens when contemporary painters paint along with Bob Ross?” and got to see the answer! I don’t have any plans to follow-up on that project anytime soon. I’m generally not a fan of disappointment. Everything about the first show was fun. Ordering supplies from Bob Ross was fun. Watching hours of Bob Ross videos was fun. Seeing artists who I love paint was fun. I wouldn’t want to do a follow-up unless I was sure that it would tickle me in the same way.

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Gavin: I read elsewhere that this project took roughly 15 years to accomplish. So first, how did the idea for God Hates Robots come about, and why now to finally put it into action?

Shon:
God Hates Robots was something my business partner, Ray Childs, and I started jamming on about ten years ago. We’re both interested in all aspects of art and wanted to attempt something outside our music ticketing business. GHR was originally intended to be a 100% online concept, allowing artists to create galleries of work and sell them to consumers via a centralized commerce engine (akin to Etsy). It’s easy for me to say these words to you now and for you to understand them because of how much technology has evolved over that time—but ten years ago this was a pretty heavy concept. We got excited about it, talked about it with artist colleagues, made some stickers, threw up a splash page for the site and started framing out the concept then shelved it. We became much too busy with our primary company, Bottlerocket MFG, to pull it together. And once we returned to the concept, it seemed to be missing something. We kept the splash page up (tweaking it once to remove the “coming in 2005!” text) and some of the concepts in mind, knowing that they may be useful at some point. During this time, I also attended a number of art shows in my friend Chris McCaw’s hallway in San Francisco. He would open up his house on a monthly basis to whoever wanted to do a show. The only requirements were that the artists be from San Francisco, that nothing sells for more than $200 and the artist deals with the transaction (keeping all of the money from sales). He did this for eight years with hundreds of people showing up to each show. The basic tenets of his hallway gallery were manipulated for our gallery. The gallery that exists now is a cross between the ideas that came out of early conversations with Trent Call, Camilla Taylor, and Cein Watson mixed with time and some different experiences.

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Gavin: What made you decide to go with the space on West Broadway for the location?

Shon:
We’ve been in this neighborhood for fifteen years, with our original space being in the basement of what is now the Westgate Condominiums. At the time, it was the cheapest office space in the city. We started renting space from Tony Caputo about five years after that when Westgate began to convert the building from commercial space to condos. The Pioneer Park neighborhood is full of memories for me. I think I was 14-years-old when I started going to Raunch’s original location under the 400 South overpass. I started going to shows at the Speedway a few blocks further west of that when I was 15. We’d skateboard through the park (and past the giant train engine that used to be there) on our way to Bandaloops coffee shop on 2nd West and 3rd South. I did Food Not Bombs in Pioneer Park for years. I didn’t choose to be in this area as much as I chose not to leave it. It’s getting a little bit “bourgy,” but it’s bound to correct itself.

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Gavin: How was it for you converting it into both a gallery space, as well as a ticket office?

Shon:
The nice thing about the space is that much of hard labor was provided by our landlord. We didn’t build any walls or do anything super-serious. I spent a lot of early mornings (I’m a morning person) and weekends building all of the things to dress up the space. While it got a little tedious at the end (there are still a few things that need to be done), I very much enjoy building things and bringing concepts to life. It’s also awesome because my labor is free!

Gavin: When looking for art to display, what was the process in choosing who to invite? And who do you have on the walls this month and how long will they be on display?

Shon:
We're fortunate that Trent Call took on the task of curating our Inaugural Show, inviting artists whose work he enjoys participating. It would have taken us a long time to pull off what he was able to do in a matter of weeks. The Inaugural Show features 18 artists: Betso, Fletcher Booth, Trent Call, Clay Cavender, Meg Charlier, Skyler Chubak, Isaac Hastings, Paul Heath, Jason Jones, Gailon Justus, Richard Landvatter, Steven Larson, Even Jed Memmott, Nic Miller, Mike Murdock, Elmer Presley, Brian Taylor and Camilla Taylor. The show will hang until Friday, June 12 and the gallery is open daily from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sometime in the next month, we’ll begin establishing our criteria for submission and review for artists interested in showing at God Hates Robots. Until then we’ve booked a few shows with artists that who’s work we know and are familiar with. There are enough details to work out with a new gallery that it made sense to limit our variables in the first months.

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Gavin: My understanding is that there’s a price cap on all the artwork. What made you decide to go in that direction rather than have the artists dictate the price?

Shon:
The artists still dictate the price, but that price can’t be more than $400. Two considerations went into capping prices for work: First we wanted work prices to be aligned with our focus on emerging artists and experimental work. Second we wanted to encourage purchases from peers and first-time art buyers. Owning original art is special. You feel responsibility for the art as an owner while cultivating deeper connections with the work by seeing it daily. You see different things in work based on your mood, the way the light hits it in the morning as opposed to the evening and how the work interacts with your personal space. Collecting art, in this sense, is no different than collecting records or comic books. The first step is starting your collection. If that tickles you in the right way, it’s hard to stop wanting more work and it’s even harder to stop loving the work that you have. Because our commission split is 80/20 (meaning that the artist gets 80% of all sales), it’s easy to work within the $400 cap. A piece that might normally sell for $600 in another gallery would generally only net the artist $300. In our gallery, they can make $320 by selling a $400 piece.

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Gavin: What made you decide to launch during Gallery Stroll, and how has it been working with them?

Shon:
It just seems like the right thing to do. The Salt Lake Gallery Stroll organization works hard to promote galleries which, in turn, work hard to promote artists. Working with them has been easy! We just made a couple of phone calls, had a brief conversation and wrote a check to be part of the organization.

Gavin: What do you hope to contribute to the local art scene as a gallery?

Shon:
Our real goal is to do things that support artists. If we can sell work, that, in my mind, is a great contribution. Artists who can eat and have a place to live are more likely to produce more work. That contributes to a healthy and vibrant art scene. I really also want a place that celebrates diversity. I know that’s a generic answer, but I know that there are artistic experiments in our community that may not ever be shown in any existing venue. I want to see it and I might want to show it. These shows might not sell anything at all, but that’s something we’re prepared for and would entertain for the sake of seeing it happen. Art is subjective. I suppose that our contribution may be viewed subjectively as well, as it doesn’t align with the common model. But I feel that God Hates Robots is a step in a more artist-forward model. I don’t think that will change anyone else’s model, but it’s interesting to see if an alternative model can succeed.

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Gavin: Once the inaugural show is done, what else can we expect from you and God Hates Robots over the rest of 2015?

Shon:
In the coming months we’ve scheduled solo shows from Trent Call, Meg Charlier, and Skyler Chubak. We’ll finalize a few other shows with people we know heading into fall and winter, then open things up a bit more. We have a few more things planned for God Hates Robots outside of the physical gallery that include an online toolkit that helps artists manage their inventory, an online store for merch and possible online stores for art and reproductions. It’s obviously taken us a while to get things to this point, but I feel like everything else we have planned will be much easier to execute. I’ll keep you informed as these things roll out.


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