OHWOW Heads out West, Interview with Al Moran- For Your Art (March 2011)
A. Moret interviews Al Moran co-founder of OHWOW, a gallery, publisher and creative community that fosters the careers of emerging and established artists. After establishing gallery spaces and retail locations in Miami and New York City, OHWOW has decided to move out West. Al Moran reflects on life in Los Angeles the new opportunities it has already afforded his gallery space. A. Moret: What prompted the decision to open a gallery in Los Angeles?
Al Moran: I had been flirting with the idea of opening a second gallery location for about a year. There's a great energy in L.A. at the moment. It feels right being out here for reasons I can't exactly articulate. I'm eager to establish a dialogue between our artists and the city of Los Angeles. The city has such a rich history in contemporary art and I'm excited about plugging into the cultural timeline of L.A. and making a significant mark on it.
A. Moret: How did you determine which neighborhood was best for OHWOW?
Al Moran: The neighborhood was an afterthought. I was looking for a perfect space. If this space were in Downtown or Chinatown or anywhere else in Hollywood, for that matter I would have taken it. The space really dictates what we are able to do at the end of the day, location played such a minor role in this. It's incredibly fortunate that I found the perfect space where I found it. I couldn't have planned it better.
A. Moret: Did the history of the art community surrounding La Cienega Boulevard intrigue you?
Al Moran: I am very aware of what went on a few blocks down from me on La Cienega in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. In no way am I making a direct comparison between that and what I'm doing, but it is something that I do take into consideration. There's a distinct attitude that defines OHWOW. This attitude is certainly inspired by personalities that challenged the status quo and ended up making history.
A. Moret: As a gallery owner on the East Coast, what has your perception been of Los Angeles? Have your thoughts about L.A. changed since you opened your gallery?
Al Moran: This Saturday will be our first exhibition in our permanent home, but so far the city has welcomed us with open arms. I've received tons of support from the community and don't expect that to change. I need to be out here a bit longer before making an educated comment on the art scene as whole in L.A.; but from the months I've been here, I've been energized and impressed by what's happening in the art scene.
A. Moret: What do you feel are the major differences between the gallery circuits in New York and in Los Angeles?
Al Moran: The main difference is that in L.A. you can get away with more. It's liberating for the artists and galleries. The astronomical rents in N.Y.C. make it difficult to throw caution in the wind and experiment. All too often, it seems, economics play a greater role in dictating what art is exhibited and where it's shown in N.Y.C. L.A. is more open and flexible. That's a good thing for both emerging artists, just trying to find their voice, as well as established artists who want to break new ground.
A. Moret: Scott Campbell (a New York based artist) is inaugurating OHWOW with its first LA show Noblesse Oblige running March 19 through April 22. How will this show set the tone for future exhibitions? What qualities were you looking for in your building your artist roster? Are you hoping to integrate East and West Coast sensibilities in your gallery?
Al Moran: Most of the artists that we work with at the moment are N.Y.C. based. That's our core. That being said, it is important for the gallery to establish a two-way conversation between the East and West coasts. I'm not in any rush to pick up an "L.A. artist" just for the sake of doing it. It has to be natural and the right fit. I am eager to dive deep into the LA scene absorb the culture and see where that leads.
A. Moret: Finally, to satisfy my own curiosity, what inspired the name of your gallery?
Al Moran: As far as the name...when developing this project, everyone would comment, "oh, wow" whenever Aaron Bondaroff or I mentioned our plans. It's part of almost everyone's vocabulary. At some point in the day, 99% of the people I know will say it. So, Aaron and I thought it was a great idea to name the project OHWOW. It's like we're already in your head; and from a branding perspective, it worked out wonderfully! There was no way this was going to be called Moran & Bondaroff or Bondaroff & Moran. No chance.