Gray­duck takes flight with flour­ish

gallery owner has shows lined up through early 2011

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - By Luke Quin­ton

Step­ping out of the heat and into the new Gray­duck art gallery, you are sur­prised to land in a flour­ish of nat­u­ral light and an air of cool white­ness, piqued with col­or­ful can­vases that line the walls.

Sit­ting just off South First Street, west of the moon tower on Mon­roe Street, Gray­duck is at the edge of a minia­ture strip of shops but tran­scends its store­front. The Cshaped gallery of about 1,300 square feet is a pleas­ingly min­i­mal­ist space with stained-con­crete floors and a high ceil­ing, all lighted from above by a row of roof-level win­dows.

There is a sense of fresh­ness about the place, con­verted from the bones of New West Records, into a mod­ern room for stag­ing art. The de­sign sits at the cross-sec­tion of in­dus­trial stu­dio space and do-it-your­self min­i­mal­ism — ware­house-chic, if you will.

Owner and cu­ra­tor — “gal­lerist,” I dis­cover, is the mod­ern term — Jill Schroeder emits a sim­i­lar vibe of stylish calm. She beams when talk­ing about what most ex­cites her in her new en­ter­prise: the in­ter­ac­tion with artists whose work she ad­mires. A na­tive of Min­nesota, where she stud­ied stu­dio art and art his­tory, Schroeder and her boyfriend, a para­medic with the City of Austin, came here on some­thing of a whim. Four years later, af­ter a stint vol­un­teer­ing at the Blan­ton Mu­seum of Art and jobs with mar­ket­ing firms, it seems clear that Schroeder has launched into her cho­sen ca­reer.

May’s open­ing night helped set Gray­duck on the right foot. Asked how many at­tended, Schroeder thinks and won­ders aloud, “How many peo­ple do you think can fit in here?” They opened to a packed house.

And packed for good rea­son. The inaugural show was a force­ful pair­ing of dis­tinc­tive works that com­ple­ment one an­other. J. Ha­ley’s large paint-marker draw­ings of cars, er­ratic sketches, re­ally, with sar­cas­tic ac­com­pa­ny­ing ti­tles (“Up­graded Sus­pen­sion” on an old bea­tup van, for ex­am­ple) were coun­tered by L. Re­nee Nuñez’s clever and col­or­ful ex­plo­rations of en­dan­gered plant species, with del­i­cately com­plex lay­ers. The first ex­hibit showed a con­fi­dence of color and ideas. “There’s def­i­nitely an en­ergy there,” Schroeder says.

Gray­duck is a nec­es­sary ad­di­tion to Austin’s

gallery scene, with new shows booked monthly, through early 2011. Schroeder, who is some­what re­served, be­comes an­i­mated as she de­scribes a re­cent trip to Den­ton to see new works. She grins, re­call­ing the long drive home with an un­gainly stack of can­vases stretch­ing into her back seat.

En­ter­ing what Schroeder calls the re­tail room, she apol­o­gizes — “I sold a few pieces and they took them right off the wall” — but the tiny room is full of smaller, play­ful gems such as a cot­ton tote bag screen-printed with the im­age of a plas­tic bag.

“Each time we have a show ... I’ll just keep on adding work; smaller pieces that are less ex­pen­sive. I’m try­ing to keep ev­ery­thing un­der $200 in this room so peo­ple can af­ford to buy art if they can’t af­ford to buy the things out in the (main) room.”

The first show felt vi­brant and eclec­tic. Af­ter May’s grand open­ing, Gray­duck has just tran­si­tioned to a brand-new ex­hibit, “Ob­jec­tiv­ity,” ex­pand­ing slightly out of Austin, with two Den­ton artists, Scott Wright and Jen­nifer Leigh Jones, and Na­dine Y. Naka­nis and An­nie Feld­meier Adams, of Chicago. “Ob­jec­tiv­ity” is on view through July 25.

Laura Skeld­ing

Jill Schroeder, who opened Gray­duck Gallery in South Austin in May, stands next to a piece ti­tled ‘Pa­rade of Days.’

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