An offbeat gallery is memorialized with an offbeat exhibition.
It's an understatement to say Acme Art Co. was not your typical Short North gallery. Where else could you expect to be greeted on Gallery Hop night by a man wearing a costume that was both bizarre and ugly? Or find a naked man performing self-mutilation in the basement while Native American music played in the background?
The latter performance was one of the most memorable experiences graphic artist Jane Ries ever had at the nonprofit gallery and was one reason she became a committed contributor and board member. As for the costumed man, he was surrealist artist Jim Beoddy in the guise of his frequent alter ego, Goblinhood.
Debuting in 1987, Acme helped to spur the Short North's transformation from a crime-ridden eyesore to an entertainment destination, a change that ultimately priced the gallery out of the neighborhood and led to its 2010 demise. But thanks to Ries and others—including, indirectly, the late Beoddy—the gallery will make a temporary comeback in October with a retrospective exhibition and auction at Franklinton's Vanderelli Room.
“I think when Jim died a couple years ago, that was one of the impetuses that started the whole ball rolling [on the retrospective],” says former Acme board member Michael Kehlmeier. Beoddy's funeral reunited many of the gallery's artists and made them realize how much they missed each other.
Afterward, Ries contacted Kehlmeier and glass artist Andy Hudson, and the three began planning an exhibition that will be as different from ordinary art shows as Acme was from ordinary galleries. In addition to viewing art by Acme alumni, guests will watch old videos from “Café Ashtray,” a performance-art series that got its start in the gallery's basement. In a nod to tarot aficionado Beoddy, they'll also be invited to sit for readings from cards copied from his hand-painted designs.
Ironically, the man most responsible for Acme's existence is likely to play no role whatsoever in its retrospective. Geoffrey Taber founded Acme after a fire destroyed an earlier, eponymous gallery, but after opening the doors, he quickly moved on to other things. Artist Charles Wince, who worked with Taber in Acme's early years, describes him as a man of many interests who became an art entrepreneur simply because a roommate needed a place to display his work. “So Geoff Taber said, ‘Well, hell, I'll just open an art gallery,'” Wince recalls.
Acme became a haven to a slew of unconventional artists. They included Ries, who found inspiration being around a gallery that welcomed not only painters but also poets, performance artists and others. “It brought all these people with unique, different talents together in one place,” Ries says. “You don't get that as much today.”