On a recent bright and cold afternoon I stood inside the new Great Jones Gallery (GJG), located in the Pound Arts building on Capitol Hill, and watched Seattle-based artist Marin Burnett assemble the pieces of her debut solo show, Ascension.
Pulling from her experience as a Black woman with deep roots in the South, much of the exhibition is based around the river baptisms she witnessed growing up. Drawn first with pastels and then blown up into a giclée print, she composed six portraits of Black women dressed in white in various stages of baptism: a woman being blessed in water, a woman ascending toward the sky. She sees the ritual less in a strictly religious way, but more as an allegory for rebirth and Black folks' belief in a higher power to overcome hardship.
"It's not just about God," said Burnett. "It's about escapism."
The divine installation will be the first inside of Great Jones Gallery, which occupies the exact same studio that once hosted The Factory, curator Timothy Rysdyke's gallery that now sets up shop in Museum of Museums. After renting out the space to artists to use as a studio during the pandemic, Rysdyke then teamed up with curator and critic Leah St. Lawrence to found Great Jones earlier this year. And this Friday from 7-11 pm, Burnett's Ascension opening party will double as the official grand opening to the new iteration of the space on Capitol Hill.
In an interview, Rysdyke said The Factory, with its local and emerging artist-centric curation, will continue over at MoM. That said, there are still ghostly threads that connect The Factory to the space. For example, Great Jones' name is also very much an Andy Warhol product (The Factory is named after Warhol's). In 1983, the Pop Art progenitor rented out a property on 57 Great Jones Street in Noho to famed artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who used the space as a studio and residence until his death in 1988. Warhol is a hard one to shake.
But to welcome in a new era, Rysdyke and St. Lawrence are lightly renovating the gallery—painting the floor, adding brick to the far wall, and other minor alterations. "I want people to come in and feel like they are in a different space," said Rysdyke. As for the GJG's focus, both founders said they'd like to bring more out-of-town artists while also continuing to support local artists like Burnett. They are also opening up the space for rentals by area arts groups, having recently hosted a fundraiser for The Seattle Project and served as a filming location for a GiiiRLBAND Productions video during their renovation phase.
"I want to stay as open to anything and everything," said St. Lawrence, who encouraged artists with an interest in the space to reach out. "I really want [Great Jones Gallery] to be driven by people who are drawn to it."
Rysdyke and St. Lawrence plan to rotate shows every two or three months to give more time for artists to show their work. In the coming weeks, the pair will roll out a patronage model where patrons—called Saints, a reference to Basquiat's famous crown motif—can contribute monthly to support exhibitions and get early access to artwork and shows. Regardless, Rysdyke and St. Lawrence both seem eager to get the space up and running again.
"I do think," said Rysdyke, "there's something that's special about this place."
Great Jones Gallery grand opening and Marin Burnett's Ascension exhibition opens on Friday, March 25 from 7-11 pm. Find more suggested events from The Stranger right here.