Golden Gallery Spotlight

Gallery Spotlights are posts about randomly selected* art venues in Chicago

Matthew Blake

In its two-year history, the Golden Gallery has bridged the gap between below the radar apartment galleries of neighborhoods like Bridgeport and the commercial spaces of the West Loop and Gold Coast. Starting its third season, Golden is a converted apartment on a Boystown residential neighborhood that early on showcased local painters and photographers.

This fall Golden is showing New York-based abstract painter Patricia Treib, who fits into Golden’s track record of solo shows for emerging or midcareer artists, says exhibitions manager Andrew Blackley. “Our shows are less like a pattern of what medium we’re really interested in,” Blackley says, “but what artists we’re thinking make confident and challenging work.” One early pattern was that the artists were Chicago based. But that has changed with Treib and London-based photographer Lloyd Durling, whose precise, pointed images of TV’s and sunsets were on display this summer. Golden, though, will circle back to Chicagoans later this fall, with an exhibition of local installation artist Michael Andrews.

Jacob Meehan founded Golden Gallery in September 2008, converting a two-bedroom apartment on the residential Boystown street of Newport Avenue. Boystown may not be the Gold Coast, but Meehan, who lives in the neighborhood, deduced that it was not exactly Siberia and would attract residents drawn to both the neighborhood and individual shows.

Blackley says the location can be an advantage. “People who come here have to spend more time in the gallery,” he says. “It’s not like you have to see ten other galleries in a three-hour span on the same street.”

Last season’s opener— the photography exhibition Marginal Waters by Doug Ischar – was the one Golden show that explicitly drew on the neighborhood’s reputation and history. Ischar displayed photos he took in the mid-1980’s of gay men socializing at the Belmont Rock beach, then the city’s prime gay beach. It remains Golden’s most well-attended show. “People came in and said, ‘Oh, I remember going there 20 years ago,” says Blackley. “But then they were also people who were 20 years-old and said, ‘These are beautiful photographs and it’s interesting to recover this history.’”

Besides its locale, Golden’s physical set-up situates it somewhat outside the mainstream. The Gallery is clean and white, but it has the definitive markings of a domestic space: three separate rooms, a kitchen, even molding (The more conventional auxiliary space on Broadway is about ¼ of the size). The recession has facilitated Chicago’s already robust apartment gallery scene, but Blackley says Golden is not exactly a part of that. “We’re kind of in this area between an apartment gallery and like a West Loop commercial gallery,” he explains. “Chicago has a very rich tradition of apartment galleries, off spaces and alternative spaces. But, not to disparage them, those can be very temporary.”

Golden, alternatively, seems on a quest to build the most well-regarded gallery imaginable in a Boystown two-bedroom. “We look at what’s the best solution we can make out of this space,” he says, comparing Golden to galleries in New York City’s New York City that make the most out of a space with minimal rehabbing.

Blackley sees the challenge of managing the Golden space as analogous to the greater mission of running any Chicago art gallery. “[Jacob and I] both love Chicago and working here, but this isn’t New York or Berlin or L.A. It’s about what’s the best we can do here and make this is a respectable venture.”

*Gallery spotlights are chosen based on a lottery, which we document by videotape, in order to be transparent and truly random. 10 were chosen out of a pool of 350.