Hearing the name Zenith Gallery, one pictures a pristine-looking space that embodies a certain gravitas.
However, starting from the front yard of what turns out to be Zenith Gallery, at 1429 Iris St. NW — owner Margery Goldberg’s house — one sees artworks placed much closer to each other than expected. The house exudes a creative vibrancy that makes the property stand out along this residential stretch of Northwest D.C. Inside lies more art, including jellyfish lamps and pieces of woodwork.
“I’m picky about my woodworkers,” Goldberg said.
As evidenced by the neon fireplace, it becomes very clear that Goldberg eats, sleeps, drinks and breathes art. For her, every detail matters in displaying a piece of art, down to the way the item is hung. On a recent Saturday, she was having a discussion about what could be done to hang something where French cleats would not work. The solution? D-rings — ideally medium-sized ones, but she was open to an employee buying large D-rings from a store to deal with the problem.
Zenith Gallery’s 40th anniversary celebrations will be going on all year long. There is currently an exhibition at the gallery’s downtown outpost at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, “In the Beginning: The Rhode Island Years, 1978-1986,” on view through April 28. The group show of work by 11 artists, including Goldberg, serves as a tribute to the gallery’s early years, when “many traditions of Zenith such as, neon, humor, sculpture, three-dimensional art, fabulous painters and photographers, fashion, and video shows were exhibited here more than anywhere else in the District.”
At the Iris Street location, the exhibition “Light Up Your heART” — a group show of 13 artists, again including Goldberg, who work in neon or with other light technology — opened on Valentine’s Day and will be on view through March 24.
When choosing artists to represent in her gallery, Goldberg takes her work seriously. “You have to knock my socks off,” she said. One way to make that happen is by not having a penchant to imitate another artist.
Goldberg well understands the path of the artist. Born in Rochester, New York, a place she describes as “one of the hotbeds of the craft world,” she took art classes while growing up. She later got a bachelor’s degree in art from George Washington University.
Her passion in artwork is in sculpting. At GW, she was close to her sculpture professors. “I always knew I was a sculptor,” Goldberg said. She opened up a studio in Georgetown, but that studio was caught up in a severe fire. After the fire, a man named Michael Klein suggested that they open a gallery together, which they did in March of 1978 in the 14th Street NW area. That gallery closed nine years later due to a zoning dispute with the D.C. government, she said.
Despite the closure, the gallery’s history continues to this day, 40 years later, though in different locations. For details about current and upcoming exhibitions and related artist talks, visit zenithgallery.com.