Think “alternative space” and your mind will conjure up concrete floors, unfinished walls, improvised lighting with wires dangling from the ceiling. Alternative spaces in the hip, art world sense are somewhat rare in D.C., but are even rarer outside D.C. itself, let alone outside the Beltway, as the Adam Lister Gallery (3995 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, VA) is. Adam Lister is a Fairfax native who recently returned from New York after studying at the School of Visual Arts. Like many artists in New York, he lived and worked in Brooklyn. While living there he was involved in organizing and participating in art exhibits within alternative spaces, as well as galleries in NYC and New Jersey. He’s even done a show in the back of a Ryder moving van!
Adam recalls, “We would drive all over the five boroughs of New York City, parking on streets and opening up our show in different neighborhoods. I also ran a studio space in the industrial section of East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The studio was in an old factory building, and we turned a raw 1000 square foot room into a six-studio ‘art lab’ for young emerging New York artists. I’m interested in the struggle and tension visible in young frustrated artists.”
The truth of alternative spaces is found in the rawness of its art. It is often more than a little unvarnished and with that famous edge, cutting or no. This is true of the Adam Lister Gallery, where many of the artists showing are still actually in graduate school. The work is inventive and searching. Its energy is undeniable. What it lacks in finesse is made up in earnestness, something often lacking in more “finished” work by artists further along. The urge to create here seems stronger, more palpable. There is more fumbling perhaps because more is being attempted.
One standout in the current show is Stephanie Rivers, the granddaughter of Larry Rivers, whose work fuses images from nature with graduated stripes. But the work in the show that is most magnetic, literally, is by Adam Lister, who uses magnets in surprising ways to create installation pieces as well as sculpture. His use of color is his own, and a pleasure for the eye. There are a number of pieces that incorporate mosaic, a technique Adam acquired while restoring New York subway stations.
With his gallery, Lister aims “to provide an environment and exhibition space for emerging artists at different levels in their careers. I currently have a rotating exhibition schedule and we’re in the process of setting up artist ‘labs’ for artists to have space to experiment, create, and have their work seen by the public. I would also like to create a space that offers rare and unique, quality artwork, in an area that craves a contemporary art space.” The gallery is currently doing an open call for a 2010 summer group exhibition. Submissions should be made online at www.adamlistergallery.com.