Residing in LA for the last twelve years, Brisbane born gallerist Om Bleicher has personified a new era for Australia’s global identity. The antiquated notion of “Aussies” as hard-living crocodile wrestlers weaned on a diet of raw meat and beer is in dire need of an upgrade, and Bleicher is helping to reverse this stereotype.
While many see Los Angeles as a haven for all things filmic (acting, directing or producing), Bleicher offers another take, reaffirming the city’s diversity and cultural life beyond the silver screen.
Like many antipodeans, his path to LA was a patchwork of happenstance and adventure. Before arriving in the U.S., Om was at entry level with his visual art career in Australia. Focusing on underground art events at alternative venues, he began to achieve more success with sound art and musical projects.
He says, “I received an Australia council grant, and I was also chosen for the Noise Media Festival, launching my projects and interviews on major Australian media outlets across the country. When I came to America, the visual art took off and I moved more into composition for film and sound art performances that related to my visual art shows.”
“I’m not entirely sure as to how I ended up as a gallerist. Certain artists struck me when I was exhibiting and navigating the LA art scene that didn’t have strong representation. I started helping them out with business matters and it snowballed into representation and private dealing. I eventually opened my Santa Monica gallery “Bleicher/Golightly” , and more recently the “LA Bleicher La Brea gallery”.”
Bleicher’s achievements are certainly a far stretch from his humble beginnings in North Queensland where he did not even own a television, relying only on his imagination for entertainment. “To fit in, I’d make up television shows to tell the other kids at school every week. I have been creating, drawing and making art ever since I was able hold a pen, and I’m fairly self-taught. I studied psychology and philosophy, and got my fine art education from helping my partner at the time with his art school assignments. “
When pressed about his distinct art choices, Om reveals, “The artists that I choose are unique in their ability to blend contentious art world boundaries, particularly high brow and lower brow art boundaries. I like work that blends the contemporary and the traditional, with a psychological element in tow.
I have been following artists that are difficult to place in other galleries because of their cross-disciplinary or deep psychological aspects. At one time their work was not ‘cool’ enough for the low brow galleries, but had too many accessible, expressive, or low brow elements in their work for conceptual galleries. [My] gallery attempts to push traditional gallery convention, and consequently experiment with exhibits beyond usual linear catalog shows.”
Of his own work, Bleicher elaborates, “I make paintings and mixed media sculptural painting combinations. I’m interested in the way that thoughts and emotions interact. I layer my canvases first with conceptual sketches, then an expressionist painting in response, followed by more drawing in response to the paint, until it builds up to a point that feels finished and balanced. My work has the same naïve, raw elements as many contemporary self-taught artists, however it is coupled with highly academic thinking from a non-fine-art background.”
As a tip for Australians new to the U.S., particularly artists trying to make their mark, he explains, “There is not much of a market in the US art world on the basis of being an Australian artist…unless you are an Aboriginal artist. You will need to build a collector base over here. Come stay here and get out to openings and meet people. Become a familiar face to gallerists and collectors.
In regards to recommending LA galleries, Bleicher notes big international and national spaces like Gagosian, ACE, Patrick Painter, Blum and Poe, LA Louver. “These are huge commercial galleries often with spaces the size of museums. There are also highly respected staples like Jack Rutberg and Courtier Gallery; these are true believers who represent and hold collections of important historical artists.”
Why LA over NYC, or any other US city for art? Bleicher underscores the west coast’s diversity. “Los Angeles is the wild west and melting pot of the art world. The strong entertainment industry and the influx of buyers as a result truly proves that LA art galleries can get away with showing work outside of traditional fine art doctrines. At the cost of some iffy pieces, it leads to very interesting pockets, techniques and voices emerging from the wild lands.”
In the face of world recession and overt US nepotism, Om is doing something right. As a testament to his success, he has two galleries in LA, one in Santa Monica (XTZ) and another on Labrea Ave. in West Hollywood.
Future shows at Bleicher’s spaces in August and September include: painter Julia Schwartz’s glacier-like landscapes at the La Brea gallery, Courtney Reid in October and Gay Summer Rick in August (a straight bloke who paints).
Click here for more photos of“Om Bleicher” and his galleries.
By Craig Stephens.
Craig Stephens is a Los Angeles based freelance writer from Sydney (Drummoyne) and has been living in the U.S. since 99′. More about him “here”.