Behind Barry Keldoulis’s head on the wall of his private viewing rooms are two paintings from his previous show. The exhibition was of works by Paul Wrigley, airbrushed paintings resembling blurry photographs, with subjects such as cheerleaders, racing car drivers and even Pamela Anderson in hot pants.

The legacy of Pop Art is in the air. It’s a movement Keldoulis has a certain affinity with, as he spent eight years in New York as assistant to Henry Geldzahler.

I studied philosophy at uni but then really got into the art world almost by chance, Keldoulis said. I met up with a chap there who was the commissioner of cultural affairs for the city of New York -¦ He was the first ever curator of 20th century art at the Metropolitan [and] he introduced Andy Warhol to Robert Rauschenberg to Lichtenstein and Pop Art became a movement.

He was sort of in the anomalous position of coming down from this bastion of conservatism to the Museum of Modern Art for a symposium where critics were saying -˜this is not art’ and he basically said -˜art is what artists make and this is what they’re making’. So that’s kind of the attitude that I’m adopting here really, he said.

Keldoulis moved back to Sydney in the mid-90s, working with Tim Olsen Gallery and Sherman Gallery before opening his own space. It’s proved more challenging than expected, but for Keldoulis fulfils an important role in creating opportunities for emerging artists.

I’ve identified a bit of a gap in the jump from exhibiting in artist-run spaces to the major commercial galleries, Keldoulis said. It costs a lot of money to run an art gallery and most commercial galleries are hesitant -¦ [because] you don’t make a lot of money off people whose work isn’t expensive.

So who makes it in? The criteria are both broad and specific.

There’s a lot of quite good art made by people who want to be artists but often they’ll drift into curating or art administration as opposed to making any art, he said. Really I go for the ones who I feel are artists because it’s in them and it’s got to get out.

The latest exhibition features one such artist, according to Keldoulis. The landscapes of Jess MacNeil play with the fragmented allure of memory, blending photography with abstract painting. Since Warhol and probably further back, since Duchamp, you’ve really got the capacity for art to be something more intellectual than aesthetic. I like stuff that’s a combination of both, Keldoulis said.

Most of the works at GBK have sold, although Keldoulis has a stall (along with 80 other galleries) at the Sydney Affordable Art Show. The show opens on 28 August at Fox Studios, with works priced at no more than $5,000.

 

Works by Jess MacNeil are on show at Gallery Barry Keldoulis, 19 Meagher Street, Chippendale, until 7 September. Phone 0414 864 445 or visit www.gbk.com.au. The Sydney Affordable Art Show is being held at the Royal Hall of Industries, Fox Studios, from 29 to 30 August from 11am to 8pm and 31 August from 11am to 5pm. Visit www.affordableartshow.com.aufor more information.

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