Just as we were getting accustomed to the eclectic mix attending the Oleander On Royal openings, it had to go and disappear on us. But fret not! The space is still a go-to for all the same Queerdo art you found there before–it has just merged with the neighboring art gallery Red Truck. Back in June, several employees along with former Oleander owner Jake Thomas purchased Red Truck Gallery from its previous owner who still owns the hip pizza boutique on Rampart by the same name. In order to find out exactly what the vision was for the new “twin” gallery spaces (940 & 1000 Royal St.), I dropped by one sweaty afternoon and chatted up co-owner and director Rachael Cronin.
As part-owner of Red Truck, how did you come into owning an art gallery in the Quarter?
Six years ago, I saw them putting up the first show and was dying to work there. They hired me in sales, then I went into a managerial position, and with this transition to ownership my sweat equity has paid off.
Did you already have an art background?
I went to an art high school in Ohio and I moved here when I was 19 right after I graduated high school. I just couldn’t wrap my head around paying one hundred grand for art school so I moved to a city that I loved and just tried to really get in. New York and L.A. can do their own thing, but New Orleans is where I really fit in.
So you are an owner, but do you also curate the work?
Gabriel Shaffer and I do the curating for the space. We have everything from folk art to contemporary pop surrealism. It kinda falls into a category called low brow–less stuffy art for lack of a better term. You see a lot of galleries in New Orleans cater to tourism, the whole blues, jazz, cool buildings, and scenic stuff, which is really beautiful, but ours is more out-there, strange art.
I also get to do the traveling art shows like Art Basel and the LA Art Show. Recently, I did the Hamptons for the 4th of July. I just covered up all of my tattoos and tried not to act like a weirdo. I felt like a social chameleon.
Do you guys represent local artists, regional, or anywhere in the country?
Anywhere. Altogether our roster is about 60 artists. For some, we might only have a piece or two. Twenty-five percent of them are from New Orleans, then the majority are from the USA, and we have Mexico, Canada, and several from Europe.
So you guys recently merged with Oleander On Royal, which occupied the space directly across St. Phillip from you guys. What’s the vision for the new side by side spaces?
This space [the one downriver of St. Phillip] we’ve nicknamed the “Red Truck Showroom” which has the bigger pieces, the more expensive pieces, and the more famous artists. The other one [upriver of St. Phillip] we call the “OG Red Truck” which has all of our prints, merchant stickers, and kinda the more freaky art like engraved horse skulls which is a little bit darker. So it’s to separate out the two spaces so they aren’t bombarded with 60 artists all at once.
It seems like you guys have a penchant for more representational art often with a high level of craft.
A lot of the artists would be considered outsider artists whose work is really labor-intensive.
What does it mean to be an outsider artist?
It’s an artist who’s kinda figured it out on their own. It’s synonymous with self-taught. Typically, they didn’t go to art school or don’t have a professional background in art and got into the art world on their own.
Why did you guys choose the Royal Street art scene as opposed to Julia Street or the St. Claude corridor?
Well, Julia Street is mostly the blue-chip art gallery scene as opposed to our low brow stuff and we just love this corner. The foot traffic is great, but it’s not too crazy. We don’t get much bullshit. The other galleries on the block flow well together. You have Antioch Gallery, Frank Relle, Harouni, GE Graphic Gallery, and we kinda support each other. So people will think of the 8-900 block of Royal as a corridor as a section for a particular kind of art.
What are the big events/shows coming up?
We have a big Decadence party coming up called Cream, which will feature erotic works by Brandon Reneman, Camille Rose-Garcia, Jasjyot Singh Hans, Caitlyn McCormack, Michael Meads, Xavier Schipani, and Lena Dunham.
And our other really big show coming up is called LAX-MSY and that’s because a big gallery from LA is coming here to do a big collaborative pop up show and it’s also our six year anniversary; so we are gonna have a big Dirty Linen party.
The opening reception for LAX-MSY will be at Red Truck Gallery (940 Royal) on Saturday, August 10th from 6-10pm (Dirty Linen Night).
Cream opens Southern Decadence weekend and the reception will be held Friday, August 30th from 7-10pm.