Synchronicity

Synchronicity is a multifaceted art space on Melrose Avenue in the Los Angeles neighborhood of East Hollywood. Bravely (or otherwise, depending on how you feel), they opened their inaugural show at the end of 2008, during the crux of the American economic collapse. Yet Katie Vonderheide and Chris Gere– the diligent duo of the Millenial cohort that run the gallery–remain hopeful and excited about their eclectic program. DailyServing’s Allison Gibson first met the team at the opening of Synchronicity’s show The Sensual World, after a cone of vegan Scoops ice-cream from across the street, and recently caught up with them both again to discuss the surprises and realities of running a gallery, the jam-packed roster of events they host and their convenient location to said ice-cream shop.

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Allison Gibson: So, what exactly is Synchronicity and how did it come to be? It seems you have so much going on in the brick and mortar space on Melrose, and I’m sure a lot of planning and visualizing of the mission for it went on before you opened shop.

Katie Vonderheide: Synchronicity exists as a creative space that doesn’t limit itself to showcasing one type of art. Ideally we wanted to incorporate all kinds of art whether it be visual, music, film, history, comedy, and so on. The idea to start a gallery space was the initial plan, but the more we talked about the mission of the space the more we got excited about making it more than just that, and not limiting the space to art exhibitions. We wanted to make our own presence in the neighborhood and hopefully greater Los Angeles.

Chris Gere: Katie and I are both transplants to LA, she from Chicago and I from San Diego. We met soon after moving here and quickly discovered we had uncannily similar artistic tastes. We are both very passionate about art, Katie more visually, and myself more in film and music. Katie had been curating art shows at various galleries on the Eastside, including our friends’ spaces, Junc Gallery and Echo Curio. These shows served as a momentum for opening up our own space with the idea to showcase all forms of artistic expression, be they art, music, film, or performance. Even with this momentum, we didn’t want to rush into opening up a space until we found the ideal location. Adjacent to Scoops and the unofficial Bicycle District, we felt we had found in East Hollywood the ideal spot for our creative space.

AG: What experiences in both of your backgrounds founded this interest in the arts?

CG: Growing up, my main interests have always revolved around the arts in some way, from collecting comics to being introduced to great films by my parents, who always encouraged my love of the arts. When I was a kid I found a big box of underground comix that my Dad had stored away probably 15 years before, including many by R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, Bill Griffith and their contemporaries. This is what really planted the seed for the sort of art I enjoy now and a lot of what we show at Synchronicity. In high school and then college, I focused my energy on studying film while DJing at my school’s campus radio station. After leaving school, I came to work in a store/art gallery, which was somewhat of a crash course in how galleries are run.

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AG: The name Synchronicity alludes to your intention of integrating the various expressions of art into one space that you’ve both mentioned–art, music, film, performance. It seems that so far your schedule of shows has held true to that mission. Tell me about the plan you guys had at the beginning of this year for your new program/space and how you’re finding things to be working or not working in regards to that plan.

CG: When we first opened last November, our idea was to have monthly art shows, with events throughout the month pertaining to the exhibition, such as film screenings, live music or performance. The title of our first show, Polymathic Persons, encapsulated this idea–the theme being artists who are also involved in other artistic disciplines such as film, animation, music, etc. We had some wonderful events during that show, but one exhibition that really exemplified this vision was the religious records show, Within Heaven’s Earshot. This show exhibited about 400 religious record covers, along with original religion-inspired art. During the month we also had screenings of religious documentaries, music performances, a filmed interview, and a performance by David Liebe Hart, a Christian ventriloquist. While that show was definitely our most successful in that vein, we generally have at least one special event per show that relates to the exhibition in a way. Also, aside from special nights that relate to the art shows, we often have at least four or five live music nights a month. I’m definitely happy with the way our programming has been going.

KV: The vision for the space has definitely turned for us into something more concrete since the beginning of this year. We wanted to treat Synchronicity as a concept space; having the art on the walls relate to the events, performances, and film that take place within the walls. We think of it as our own all-inclusive art piece. Programming can be a bit much for only two people sometimes and I would say that that is the only downside. Although, we continue to collaborate with other artists and musicians to help lighten the load and also bring something fresh to the space. Initially, it was a struggle to give up some of that control, but ultimately it has allowed us to continue putting together multifaceted, exciting shows.

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AG: So, what’s been different than you expected about running a gallery space on your own? And how do you think your including other mediums of art entertainment in your program benefits you as a business, as compared to the bulk of LA’s commercial contemporary art spaces that solely exhibit fine art?

KV: It’s a lot of work! That’s something that you always hear but you never want to believe. Everyone thinks that running a gallery is fun, and it can be, but you have to work even harder since your product is not really a conventional one, not everyone collects art. Having the special events relieves some of the stress of relying on art sales alone. We opened in the midst of the recession in November ’08 and a lot of people were, and still are, genuinely concerned for us. We had to think of a way to sustain the space while remaining true to our vision for the gallery. We also rent out the space for birthday parties and quinceaneras.

AG: Synchronicity also differs from more traditional galleries in that you don’t represent (to my knowledge) a particular roster of artists. How do you find the artists that you exhibit and do you see a future of representation for Synchronicity?

KV: We do not represent any artists at this time. The artists that we exhibit are ones that we really admire, who often times are also really good friends. Those friends often give us recommendations. We all try to keep our ears to the ground regarding new artists or anything that is new and exciting going on now. Sometimes we go out on a limb and ask someone we think is so far-fetched. For example, for our inaugural exhibition we contacted Daniel Johnston and Mark Mothersbaugh and they both had work represented. As long as the gallery continues to grow I can see us representing some of our core artists, meaning the ones that we consistently work with.

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AG: So, you didn’t know Daniel Johnston at all when you contacted him? That’s rad that he showed work in that first exhibition.

KV: We did not know him or Mark Mothersbaugh previous to the exhibition. Being a new gallery we thought it was going to be a lot more difficult than it ended up being since artists had no point of reference. But, I was able to direct them towards past shows that I had curated and also explained the mission of the space and its relation to the show.

AG: Tell me about Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite, the new show co-curated by Ben Bigelow, opening at Synchronicity this Friday. The trailer is quite intriguing.

KV: Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite is a group exhibition that focuses on video and animation artists. The opening, July 31st, will feature a screening of shorts contributed by the artists involved. The first screening will take place at 9pm and there will be an encore at 11pm. Ben is the drummer in a band called Queen Victoria and the three of us had met when he came to perform at Sync one night awhile back. Ben had the idea to do a one night screening with this group of artists that he had presented to us. The list of artists involved were some that we already knew of and wished to work with and also artists that we have done work with in the past. We had the month open for an exhibition so we invited the artists to show original work as well as their video. The list of artists is extremely solid and well-rounded, we’re really looking forward to this show! If you can’t make it to the opening it will be up all month long closing on August 29th.

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