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Art People: a gallerist finds room to grow on the fringe

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Unlike a lot of artists, photographer Lisa Boyle likes her day job. As associate director and curator at Carrie Secrist Gallery, she says, "I go to art fairs and galleries all over the world, choosing new and interesting artists to improve our stable. I like curating, and I like the challenge of helping organize the business. My favorite part of the job is working with young collectors, because they're still very excited. They're buying things just because they love them."

The majority of artists Boyle deals with at Carrie Secrist, a huge space on Washington near Halsted, are more seasoned. Because of the gallery's overhead, Boyle says, and its collection-minded clientele, she and Secrist focus on "big things by big-name artists. I can't bring in lighthearted, experimental work by really young artists--things I would really like to show." So this spring, when an acquaintance offered her an unfinished 3,000-square-foot space in his building on Kinzie off Ashland for free, Boyle jumped at it despite the location, far from either of the city's big gallery districts. A bunch of friends pitched in to clean and paint the place, and Lisa Boyle Gallery opened on April 23 with a show of works on paper by two New York artists and two sculptures by Loo Bain, an Art Institute student. Eventually the rent went up--Boyle's now paying a reduced rate "until someone else comes along" who can pay full price, she says.

The gallery joins a growing number of alternative spaces around town, like Polvo on 18th and Ashland, Standard on Bosworth and Blackhawk, and the Suburban (next to owner Michelle Grabner's garage) and Boom in Oak Park. They're out of the way, but their cheaper rents mean they can show art that's less likely to sell, or that's likely to sell for less because the artist isn't well-known (yet).

The kind of work Boyle shows at her gallery wouldn't pay the bills at Carrie Secrist. "You can't afford to sell a $180 drawing there," she says. "You'd have to sell 80 million of them just to pay the rent. I can show quirkier stuff. I have a sculpture by a girl who's not even graduated from college yet [Bain]--a patch of grass made out of paper with a sprinkler on it." On the off chance that she makes enough money selling such work to pay rent on her space long-term, she says, "it wouldn't be my end goal to have a big commercial space and make lots of money as an art dealer. It would be more satisfying to me if the gallery provided an opportunity to work with more experimental artists in a space where there isn't a lot of pressure to succeed financially." But she won't show her own photographs there: "It's considered incredibly queer to show your own work at your own gallery."

"New Work by Amy Jean Porter, D. Dominick Lombardi, and Loo Bain" runs through May 29 at Lisa Boyle Gallery, 1648 W. Kinzie. The gallery's having a party on Saturday, May 8th, from 7 to 11 PM. It's free; call 773-655-5475.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Kamba.

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