House of Art
By Sarah Bennett
David Leapman’s Contemporary Artist Space exhibits its second show
From the street, David Leapman’s house looks like many of the other off-white stucco structures on the modest-yet-well-groomed block in Riverside’s Canyon Crest neighborhood. But an out of place fluorescent green front door—hidden from street view by the house’s side-facing entrance—warns that this is not your average suburban home and Leapman is no ordinary suburbanite.
Leapman is an internationally celebrated London-bred painter who moved to Riverside with his family in 2007. And his nice house with a full artist’s studio and a lap pool that overlooks the University of California Riverside campus also happens to double as Contemporary Artist Space—Leapman’s sometime gallery where he curates local shows with a contemporary British connection.
This month, CAS will host its third show, “Doubt,” featuring 15 artists from both Southern California and the U.K. who responded to a series of quotes on the exhibition’s eponymous theme. The final works will be showcased in Leapman’s entryway, living room, kitchen and—for the one video entry—on a TV in the downstairs den, next to his teenage sons’ Rock Band setup.
“Having a gallery in a residential situation is actually very unusual for Riverside, but they’re kind of normal in London,” says Leapman, who won a John Moores Award and was a member of the Young British Artists movement of the 1990s. “When I came here, I realized there was plenty of room to live and have a gallery. And while you’re getting situated in a new city waiting for responses from museums and galleries, what else can you do? It seemed pretty obvious and beneficial for me to take control in that respect.”
Leapman first turned his house into CAS for a solo exhibition in 2008 and since then he has opened the space only one other time—for a 2009 group show in which he presented local and London artists’ responses to the idea of “fate and freewill.”
The open prompt resulted in everything from performance art to traditional painting to an outdoor installation and brought a diversity of artists to Riverside that is not often achieved. Though the city’s contemporary art scene isn’t exactly on the international map, Leapman’s connections across the pond are building an otherwise nonexistent bridge and helping to infuse local culture with glimpses of the European art world.
“David’s arrival here was kind of like a rock dropping into a pond and the ripples went out,” says photographer Doug McCulloh, who’s piece “Google Image Search: ‘Doubt’—Any Size, No Filter” will be featured in “Doubt.” “Who else in this state is getting pop artists from London and mixing them with local Southern California artists and putting in a house? No one.”
Art around the world is often found in a variety of non-gallery type spaces (street art, anyone?), but by placing works inside not just any unconventional space, but a lived-in home does something different. Domesticating what is usually placed on stark white walls in sterile gallery environments makes the pieces more accessible and in many ways helps art lovers draw that connection between looking at a work and purchasing it.
“There are so many people who love art and to show them how a piece of work looks like in an ordinary domestic situation should be an encouragement,” Leapman says. In thinking of this encouragement, he is reminded of a well-off classmate of his at Goldsmiths College who kept a Lucian Freud painting in his kitchen. “The way I was able to engage with that painting was way beyond my expectations of what looking at a piece of art in a domestic space could be because it was a kitchen and not a museum. It was an unknown experience to me,” he says. “I hope we can enable people to have that kind of experience.”
“Doubt” at Contemporary Art Space; 27petalthinkers.wordpress.com.