MEMOIR OF RYAN CROSS
MEMOIR OF RYAN CROSS, Associate Director of the Barbara Krakow Gallery
On April 29th, I had the great fortune of speaking with Ryan Cross, the associate Director of the Barbara Krakow Gallery in Boston. Knowing hardly anything about the gallery, he was excited to tell me all that he knew about the art in the gallery, the relationship between the gallery and the Back Bay Area, and his relationship to Barbara Krakow herself.
Barbara Krakow established her first art gallery in 1962 in Newton, MA. She then moved to a place in Cambridge, where she partnered with four women. After that, one of the women and Krakow moved to Newbury Street, which for young artists was a very difficult and impressive task. Krakow and her partner separated in 1983, and since then, it has been called the “Barbara Krakow Gallery” on 10 Newbury St.
Since moving with her to Newbury Street, Cross has noticed how interesting it is to observe other art galleries in the Back Bay/ Newbury St area, and how the popularity of these areas have shifted and changed. In earlier times, the area where the gallery is now and has been since 1983 was the "absolute place to be". And while this certainly still true of Newbury St, he has observed the popularity shift more towards the end of Newbury St that is by the Boston Commons and Public Gardens, rather than on their end. "That seems to be where most of the commercial art is, whereas ours is more individual to the artists and contemporary”, he says. Nevertheless, the roots that they have established on Newbury Street are strong, and are only supported more heavily as time goes by. Cross compared their establishment on Newbury St to the kind of shifts that occurred in Chelsea, NY, where artists took advantage of the cheap housing in the meatpacking districts, and then a whole new artistic culture began to thrive and develop out of it.
Cross confidently states that the Barbara Krakow Gallery is an important and established landmark, and that they are fortunate to be in the state that they are in. They are well known regionally, nationally, and internationally, and they constantly have people stopping by when traveling to Boston. They even get many people visiting when they have long layovers, because it is one of the sites they wouldn’t want to miss taking advantage of. He mentioned that he finds that there are not a lot of other places like that in Boston anymore, apart from the most obvious historical sites.
Regarding the art pieces themselves, the majority of the gallery’s contents feature contemporary art in a variety of different mediums. While most of the work features local artists, there are many established national and international artists with their work featured as well.
The bulk of the pieces are “Blue Chip” art installations from the 1960s, which Cross explained to me are pieces of art that are expected to increase in monetary value as time goes by, regardless of the general economic conditions or artistic movements. People like Picasso or Van Gogh would be considered Blue Chip artists, because their art only becomes more economically valuable with time.
Cross helped to describe some of the artistic movements and concepts that are featured in the gallery by describing one of the Blue Chip artists named Frank Poor. Many of his art pieces, like many of the art pieces in the gallery, challenged the general trend of art and created a new artistic movement in their time. Poor’s style involved minimalism and conceptualism, where there is no imagery, and essentially everything is abstract. This went against the pop-art style of art of the time, which was overly image heavy and systematically produced- manufactured art. Artists like Frank Poor thought that that was not what visual art was meant to be, and that art could be conceptual, abstract, and minimal while still having image in it. He wrote manifestos, paragraphs and sentences on what he thought art should be, that many artists followed as well. Cross defined it simply as “an emphasis on the concept behind the art instead of its execution or the end result.
Minimalism is another trend featured in the Barbara Krakow Gallery, and this movement occurred at the same time as Poor’s conceptual and abstract art. It was similar in essence, in that it involved artists taking concepts and, as Cross puts it, "boiling them down to their most finite source”. One example of a piece that Cross loves in the gallery features a single piece of string connected from one wall to another. This was considered a minimalist structure, because the way light travels over the string to the corners of the room make the whole space a part of the art piece. Minimal structural or technical aspects of the piece with a high impact and wider plane or playing field than first meets the eyes describe the heart of the minimalist movement.
It was truly a pleasure to get to speak to Ryan Cross about the Barbara Krakow gallery. Having worked directly with Barbara Krakow for years, he is obviously one of the most connected people to the art of this gallery, and has a very intimate and heartwarming relationship to the work that exists there. He is so knowledgeable and passionate about the different artists that they represent, and you could hear how excited he was to talk to a young college student about the exhibitions. He was especially interested in telling me about their current and upcoming season, featuring more works by Frank Poor, Kay Rosen, and Suara Welitoff. This goes to show that the people supporting the Barbara Krakow gallery are almost like a little family, and they are proud to be doing what they can to ensure the continued success of a contemporary art exhibit in the Back Bay area. I highly recommend that people of al ages, but especially college students or adults who grew up in the 1950s or 60s, take a visit to this gallery. Cross emphasizes how much of a different experience it is for both of these audiences to come to this gallery, but how importantly educational it is regardless.