The right to form a cooperative isn't exclusive to hippies selling organic squash gourds and locally harvested apples. People squashing the gourds and smearing applesauce across canvas can, and have, formed their own co-ops. And they're pretty fucking cool. Robert Chaney, Institute of Contemporary Art exhibitions coordinator and registrar, is a member and finance director of Vox Populi (Latin for "voice of the people"), a nonprofit cooperative gallery. Since 1988, Vox has exposed and supported emerging artists through monthly exhibitions, gallery talks, performances and lectures.
Street: Tell us a little bit about Vox.
Robert Chaney: It's a cooperative gallery, so the artists run the space. Every artist that's a part of Vox has a role there, whether it's fundraising, events planning, managing the exhibition spaces. We each pay a monthly fee that collectively pays for the space.
Street: What is Vox's mission?
RC: It's supposed to be a starting-off point for artists. When they're done with graduate school it's a place to go and be guaranteed an exhibition once a year. You're only allowed to stay with Vox for 10 years because of that purpose - it's for that initial step for getting their work seen by press and other galleries.
Street: How would you describe your art?
RC: My works are graphic drawings that are minimal urban landscapes. I also do Polaroid photographs that are a similar composition. And occasionally I'll show these collages that I make from LIFE magazines, but those are more personal pieces that I give to people and ask them to send back so I can display them.
Street: What's the most unusual project you've been involved in?
RC: I curated a show Scarab based upon artwork inspired by heavy metal bands. It was at a small space that doesn't exist anymore called the Project Room. There was a school desk by this artist Alexander Ho - it was like what he would have done in high school with all these scribbles in pencil and these carving would rumble with this soundtrack he set up. I did an installation in the bathroom called Green Hell - all these speakers suspended like lily pads from the ceiling. There was a little video montage of guitar solos and an audio track that would thunder when you were in bathroom.
Street: What effect does being a co-op have on the art shown at Vox?
RC: At a private gallery you are expected to be selling things. At Vox you don't need to worry about sales . I think in general there's a little bit more freedom to try different things. At a private gallery you're cultivating a taste. So if you're doing something that people like you're encouraged to continue doing that. At Vox you don't need to worry about that - you can go from doing color field paintings to an installation like putting candy on the floor. It can be really inconsistent in a good way.
Street: Anything that crazy happening at Vox this month?
RC: One of this month's artists is Matt Suib, a video artist. He's going to project onto the windows of Vox and it's intended to be viewed from the outside at night as much as it is from the inside. He's also doing these installations in an adjacent abandoned building with projections on those windows, so there will be animation going across all these windows and buildings near Vox.