We had the good fortune of connecting with Gary Paller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Gary, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Once I started painting, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I loved making art, always curious to see how each piece would turn out (I’ve never been an artist who plans his work out before making it, as each piece starts somewhere and evolves into something else). I had no idea how I would make an artistic career. When I received my Master of Fine Arts degree from UCLA, I had no idea how I would ever approach the gallery world. Thanks to Frederick S. Wight (Professor Emeritus) and Richard Sherwood (head of the Board of Trustees at LACMA), I sold a big abstract painting from my thesis show to O’Melveny & Myers LLP in downtown Los Angeles. This success was a big honor, but the early success at the age of 24 somehow scared me. I (foolishly) thought I wasn’t ready to present my artwork to the world. Another one of my professors told me to wait five years to show my work, so I switched gears (for awhile) and went back to painting realism. I hoped to find a job teaching art, but instead found various part-time jobs to support my art habit. The main thing is that I always made time to paint, almost everyday for the past 43 years since graduation.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When Picasso was asked “What is your favorite painting”, his reply was “The one I’m working on now”. I’ve made thousands of paintings and drawings and prints, and my work has evolved and changed many times over the years. I’m proud of all the work that I’ve done (except some of the pieces which I chose to destroy). I always thought color was one of my strengths and also that my work often has a very powerful presence – probably because I have very strong skills in organizing compositions. It’s always been easy for me to make artworks and always enjoyed the challenges of working through the issues of my work. I relish having difficulties and being able to work hard to arrive at good destinations. To me the satisfaction is derived from problem solving.
The commercial aspect of the artworld has been very challenging for me, as it must be for most artists. It was never easy finding galleries to represent my work in Los Angeles, but in travelling and showing my work to dealers in other cities and other countries, I’ve found some very good success, most notably with galleries in Dusseldorf, Zurich, Milan, and elsewhere in europe. Also, having the honor to work collaboratively with Wildwood Press in St Louis since 2012 has been very exciting, satisfying, and rewarding. The lesson learned is perseverance. Whether it’s making your art or trying to market your art or trying to do anything that seems important to you, I believe one of the biggest lessons in life is to not give up on your dreams.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As an artist visiting Houston (in the late 90s) The Menil Collection, The Rothko Chapel, and The Cy Twombly Museum stand out in my memory. I remember enjoying gallery hopping all over, enjoying the different kinds of venues Houston offers. I also enjoyed going to tour NASA and visiting Galveston. I know I had some very good meals there, outdoor barbeque and country cooking, but I’m not sure exactly where that was, and now with the pandemic it’s hard to even recommend anywhere in Los Angeles, because most don’t offer dine in and many have been forced to close.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Kevin Mercier, former owner and director of Brent Gallery in Houston.