Visual Vernacular: Gallerist Apama Mackey
Vibrant, vivacious, and victorious in all artistic aspects is Apama Mackey. Founder and director of The MOD - Museum of Drawing, owner of Apama Mackey Gallery, and avid art collector, Mackey has dedicated much of her time to the promotion and exhibition of contemporary art and her curatorial eye helps bring interesting, boundary-pushing shows to Houston.
Usually when there is a considerable lull in the arts during the summer, Mackey provides viewers a chance to see numerous visual takes on politics and culture wildly happening all around us. Apama Mackey Gallery will celebrate their opening with an exhibition charged with the current cultural topics of politics. POLL(ITICS) 2016 / THE DOCUMENTARY is a cornucopia of pieces that comment on the dystopia known as modern politics, grappling with topics such as movements and disturbances in such a childish manner. Photography, painting, and print all collide to describe the current election sentiment of “anything goes.”
Housed in the same space as the gallery is the MOD - Museum of Modern Drawing featuring the exhibition by The Panik Collective. This creative crew includes painters, sculptors, musicians, mathematicians and curators dividing time among multiple exhibition projects and public actions as designed on their website. Mackey took the time to tell us a bit about her personal connection to art and how this has expanded to her gallery space.
Free Press Houston: How did you become so involved in art?
Apama Mackey: Maybe it’s more interesting for me to answer when I first became aware of the concept of art and its significance because I was not really exposed to it until I started traveling as an adult. I remember visiting one of the museums at The Smithsonian when I was in my early twenties and someone telling a guard, “My nephew could do that, why is it here?” The guard replied, “Well, your nephew didn’t do it though, did he?” That idea alone made me look at art more closely.
FPH: Were there any particular artists or exhibitions that made you want to get involved into the arts past just being a viewer?
Mackey: The exhibit at my home. Before we knew it, my (then) husband and I had amassed a collection that filled every corner and we loved coming home to it. Every piece had a story and took us to a destination; like watching your own home movies through paintings and sculptures. I didn’t want to do anything else but research and learn about artists and share their work. Selling and buying is a state of mind. Being a storyteller and conservator of something you believe in is internal and perhaps being just a viewer never interested me.
FPH: What is the concept behind your gallery? What types of work do you mainly focus on exhibiting?
Mackey: The gallery is unapologetically figurative and narrative in concept. I’ve always been drawn to true draftsmanship in drawing, as well as one who is a painter’s painter. Music and art for me are one; the lyrics to a song are often a painting in my mind. It works the other way as well. Think of it as how important an album cover is. It engraves the image in your mind.
The Panik Collective, “Space Oddity.” Courtesy of The Panik Collective and The Museum of Drawing, Houston.
FPH: What makes you gravitate towards an artist? Asthetic? Concept? Or both?
Mackey: Such crazy emotions cover this series of questions. I will always gravitate to anything that evokes nostalgia and anonymity. I also adore a real telling: the telling of political conditions, the telling of heartache, the telling that cannot speak through words is sometime best. To me, the process and the finite attention to detail will be very important. If a piece is done well, the narration and figuration can apply to anyone. The image I see does not have to be someone or something the artist has a connection to, it can be just an image left to the imagination of the viewer. It’s not easy to pull off. Anonymity of the subject has to come from a documentary perspective. In music terms, everyone has wanted “Jesse’s Girl.” Jesse or the gender doesn’t matter, we’ve all been there.
FPH: Tell me about your upcoming exhibitions in your space.
Mackey: I actually have two exhibits: The Museum of Drawing is housed at the gallery. The MOD is showing The Panik Collective, curated by Matt Kennedy of La Luz de Jesus in LA. These are intellectuals to a fault creating work that will be lost on you if you don’t pay attention. The show is skewed album covers to diaries to mini social uprisings, even if it is their own private joke. They’re also unveiling a new piece that I haven’t seen in person yet called #thanksforyoursupport. Very topical on today’s state of elections. Within all this work, one piece stood out. They sent a blurry abstract, which I didn’t want to hang, but its Matt’s “show,” so to speak, so I reluctantly hung it, I even had to ask which way it went. I took a photo of it and it cut me in the back of the knees. I immediately saw Jeff Buckley’s Grace album cover. Track 6 turns 22 this August.
The Apama Mackey Gallery is showing a group show called POLL(ITICS) 2016. It’s a definite documentary on all that is happening today. It’s a basic outcry of reactions in many forms such as prints, posters, memorabilia, stickers, photography and distorted social media “results.” I’ve never wanted shock appeal at the gallery. The work stands on its own, it’s been thought out, curated and carefully placed with purpose. Here I am though, staring at the walls of SHOCK APPEAL, because nothing in this election stands on its own or has been thought out and carefully placed. As one of my artists in the show, Kevin Bradley of Church of Type, kindly states in his prints, “it’s a Shit Show and you are all welcome.”
Church of Type, “Shit Show,” 2016. Courtesy of Kevin Bradley, Church of Type and Apama Mackey Gallery.
FPH: How can art, such as in your upcoming exhibition, make a political impact on the current climate in our country?
Mackey: I am going to hand this to street artists in particular. Yes, we still have taggers and will always have taggers but street work is loved by the younger generations and has matured to acceptance by the masses. Taggers turned print makers can finally get their message out. It is now even SOLD in commercial galleries. Who would have thought this? Street artists have used their voice in the only way society, as a whole, can pay attention. We drive by the work every day and whether you enjoy it, believe in it, take note of it or disgust in it, it is there and you have seen it. Growing up, politics was for older people. We had MTV and rides to the mall to worry about. We didn’t have our own phones that took pictures, social media, or even a voice. We didn’t know we could have opinions like this as children. What better age to create socially aware citizens than the generations that are facing the right to vote? Shepherd Fairy’s iconic work in favor of Obama is just one branch of this, although it is the most recognizable reference for this topic. My exhibition POLL(ITICS) is a culmination of reaction by the masses in art.
“POLL(ITICS) 2016 / THE DOCUMENTARY” opens this Saturday, June 11 from 6 pm to 8 pm at Apama Mackey Gallery (628 E 11th Street). The exhibition is in conjunction with the inauguration of The Museum of Drawing Houston — located inside the gallery — exhibiting THE PANIK COLLECTIVE, June 11 through August 31.