Bleicher Golightly Gallery – Billabout.com – September 2011
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Cliché For Some – Discovery For Others
In LA for the last twelve years, Brisbane born gallerist Om Bleicher personifies a new era for Australia’s global identity .
The Antiquated notion of “Aussies,” as hard living rednecks – weaned on a diet of raw meat and beer is in dire need of an upgrade and people such as Bleicher have addressed this stereotype.
While many see Los Angeles as a haven for all things filmic whether acting, directing or producing TV, Bleicher reaffirms the city’s diversity and a cultural life beyond the silver screen.
Like many antipodeans, Bleicher’s path to LA is a patchwork of happenstance and adventure. Before arriving in the US he was at entry level with his visual art career in Australia. Focusing on underground art events at alternative venues he was achieving more success with sound art and musical projects.
He confides, “I received an Australia council grant and was also chosen for the Noise media festival, launching my projects and interviews on major Australian media outlets across the country. When I came to America the visual art took off and I moved more into composition for film and sound art performances that related to my visual art shows.”
“Im not entirely sure myself how I ended up as a gallerist. Certain artists struck me when I was exhibiting and navigating the LA art scene that didn't have strong representation.”
I started helping them out with business matters and it snowballed into representation and private dealing and eventually I opened the Santa Monica gallery Bleicher/Golightly and recently the LA Bleicher La Brea gallery.”
This is a far stretch from his humble beginnings in north Queensland without a television and only his imagination for entertainment. To fit in I’d make up television shows to tell other kids at school every week. I've been creating ever since and drawing and making art since I could hold a pen. I’m fairly self-taught I studied psychology and philosophy and got my fine art education from helping my partner at the time with art school assignments. “
Asked what is distinct about the art he shows, Om reveals , “The artists I choose are unique in their ability to blend contentious art world boundaries, particularly high brow and more low brow art boundaries. I like work that blends the contemporary and the traditional and has a psychological element.
I have been following artists that were difficult to place in other galleries because of their cross disciplinary or deep psychological aspects. At the time their work was not ‘cool’ enough for the low brow galleries but had too many accessible expressive or low brow elements in their work for conceptual galleries. The gallery also attempts to push the traditional gallery convention and experiment with exhibits beyond usual linear catalog shows.
Of his own work, he says “I make paintings and mixed media sculptural painting combines. I’m interested in the way that thoughts and emotions interact. I layer my canvases first doing conceptual sketches then expressionist painting in response then more drawing in response to the paint until it builds up to point that feels finished and balanced. My work has the naïve raw elements of a lot of self-taught artists but coupled in with highly academic thinking from a non-fine-art background. “
On the tourist tip for Australians new to the US, particularly artists trying to make their mark, Bleicher confides, “There is not much of a market in the US art world on the basis of being an Australian artist unless you are an Aboriginal artist. You will need to build a collector base over here. Come stay here and get out to openings and meet people, become a familiar face to galerists and collectors.
In terms of galleries he recommends in LA he notes big international and national galleries like Gagosian, ACE, Patrick Painter, Blum and Poe, LA Louver. “These are huge commercial galleries often with spaces the size of museums. There are also highly respected staples such as Jack Rutberg and Courtier gallery that are true believers and represent and hold collections of important historical artists. “
Asked what is unique about LA over say NYC or other US cities for art, Bleicher underscores the west coast’s diversity. “Los Angeles is the wild west and melting pot of the art world. The strong entertainment industry and buyers from it means that art galleries can get away with showing work outside traditional fine art doctrines. At the cost of some iffy work it leads to very interesting pockets and techniques and voices emerging from the wild lands.”
In the face of world recession and overt US nepotism Om is doing something right. Testament to his success he has two galleries in LA, one in Santa Monica ( XTZ) and another on Labrea Ave in West Hollywood.
Future shows at these spaces worth mentioning include August and September , with painter Julia Schwartz presents glacier-like landscapes at the La Brea gallery. Others shows worth a look include Courtney Reid in October and Gay Summer Rick in August ( no a straight bloke who paints).