Only a few months old, the brainchild of Wang and gallery partner Shadna Sieger appears embryonic to the naked eye. But the 108-square-foot studio-size space the gallery inhabits at the Allstate Insurance building in the 9th & 9th neighborhood belies the true span of these rightly named “projects,” thanks to the Internet. Upon entering IAO-Gallery.com, three “destinations” demarcate three personae. IAO Projects is their online work, including the YouTube video “YouTube Socks” featuring Amy Caron’s mixed media piece “Waves of Mu.” IAO Gallery is the physical gallery, including a complete inventory of their artists’ works. There’s also Sieger’s firm Shadna Design.
Originally born in Queens, N.Y., during the Sugar Hill Records days of the 1980s, Wang was brought up on the hip-hop aesthetic of combining disparate elements, and his education was eclectic as well, from Vanderbilt to Yale and reading James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Karl Marx. Considering himself “a displaced New Yorker,” he brings a New York state of mind in the sense of embracing risky work and new artists.
“As a cutting-edge space, I work hard to focus my attention on getting wonderful, kick-ass Utah artists side by side with international artists,” Wang says. Locals include Matt Glass, Jordan Jensen, qi peng and Brett Sykes next to German Sibyll Kalff; Brooklyn’s Jeff Faerber; Berkeley, Calif.’s Jan Wurm; and Barry Wolfryd of California and Mexico.
In the most cutting-edge medium, the artists’ videos on the gallery’s YouTube channel make their mark. Kalff’s “Little Balcony Drifting” makes nature seem unnatural. Faerber’s “Untitled” turns biography on its side. Stacey Wexler’s “Doesn’t Frighten Me” makes fear animated. Michelle Kurtz’s “Not Your Studio Visit” depicts the “reality” of her surroundings, reality TV-style. Kurtz and Peng collaborate with “how-to” parodies.
Wang found Kurtz (“Circlegal,” pictured) touching up her graffiti art on a billboard near 600 South and Main Street. Skilled at figure drawing, she won a University of Utah scholarship for her stick figures with pointed social commentary. She will present a performance piece later this year in which she stands by the road asking for money but gives people a work of art in return, raising money for the gallery and investigating local attitudes toward homelessness at the same time.
Other galleries with similar ambitions to expose local artists to a wider audience have failed, largely because their business plans weren’t as far-reaching as their artistic visions. Wang says IAO Projects is different, and his study of hundreds of galleries in New York and Denver supports that. “Our business model is geared to international as well as local collectors so IAO Projects isn’t provincial in scope,” he explains, “marketing on a larger scale and moving up the pecking order of the international art world.”
A key element is getting into art fairs, and recently, they were the only local gallery to make it into New York’s Anna Kustera Gallery‘s “World’s Smallest Art Fair.” IAO has artists accepted to the Rocky Mountain Art Fair, at the Salt Palace Nov. 14-16. The first exhibit in the gallery itself, “Shall We Begin?” opens Dec. 17 with one piece by each artist.
IAO already has three artists in the prestigious juried publication New American Painting: Donald Fodness (Boulder, Colo.), Kay Tuttle (Denver) and Megan Hildebrandt (Baltimore, Md.). Caron’s “Waves of Mu,” depicting the brain’s neural circuitry, travels to New York’s PS 122 space in October.
Operating in Utah does have its benefits. “It’s much more reasonable to have artists living here to execute cutting-edge works,“ he notes. “It’s much cheaper to afford a studio like Mason Fetzer’s downtown than Brooklyn, by a long shot. I’m trying to stop the brain drain!”