A Perfect Number: Dana Depew Collects 19 Artists at Red Space

This weekend, one of Northeast Ohio's most respected artists and gallerists makes his long-awaited return to curating. Opening this Friday, Nov. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m., Dana Depew's latest incarnation of 19, a group exhibition at Red Space inside Hotcards' World Headquarters, features an all-star roster of the area's robust talent in the visual arts.

More about that in a moment, but first, a bit of historical context.

Once upon a time, Tremont was widely considered to be the most active and fastest growing sector of Greater Cleveland's art community. During that time, Depew was a big reason for the community's revival (or gentrification, depending on your viewpoint). In 2001, he opened Asterisk gallery on Professor Avenue in the heart of Tremont. For the better part of a decade, Asterisk's programming showcased local and regional art; during its run, Asterisk was a can't-miss stop on Tremont's Art Walk. After Asterisk closed its doors in 2010, Tremont's Art Walks were never the same.

After shuttering Asterisk, Depew focused on producing his own work. Before opening his gallery, Depew studied sculpture at Kent State University. You can see his signature work all over town — from his Suess-like lights in the parking lot of 78th Street Studios and his reclaimed signage at the various Melt and Big Fun locations, to his guerilla birdhouse project found all over town. Depew's work has made a serious and lasting mark across our community's visual landscape.

Just a little more than a year ago, he created an installation of reclaimed materials in homage to London's Crystal Palace for Everything All At Once at MOCA Cleveland. Before that, he created an entire exhibition of work inspired by Fox 8's former anchor Wilma Smith. His work often has a very intelligent sense of humor, frequently making clever art historical references. It's through this humor that his intelligence is most obvious ­— and his work most accessible.

Over the past four years, Depew has stepped away from curating large-scale group exhibitions. This weekend marks the seventh incarnation of the 19 show, and the first since Asterisk closed.

"For each (19) exhibition, I select regional artists who worked in a wide variety of fields such as sculpture, painting, photography, mixed media and video installation," says Depew. "The common bond between all the participating artists is that they lived, worked or had some tie to Northeast Ohio. I felt this would give a true and accurate gauge of the quality and richness of contemporary art currently being produced in the region."

The 19 participating artists include Tom Bartel, Lissa Bockrath, Jeffry Chiplis, Ron Copeland, Matthew Dibble, Scott Goss, Brandon Juhasz, Mark Keffer, Michael Loderstedt, Doug Meyer, Jason K. Milburn, Dana Oldfather, Jenniffer Omaitz, Edward Raffel, Eric Rippert, Dan Tranberg, Mark Slankard, Grace Summanen and Laila Voss.

"The selected artists have the freedom to exhibit any work they feel comfortable with," adds Depew. "I usually do not know what each artist is going to exhibit until they drop off their work prior to the opening. With such a large grouping of artists in various mediums, the challenge is to make it all fit aesthetically with the intent of creating a cohesive and balanced exhibition."

With such a high-caliber roster, Depew shouldn't have anything to worry about. Based on the artists' individual reputations alone, this should be one of the year's best shows. "I truly believe Cleveland is experiencing a history-making renaissance, and I want to do anything in my power to ensure it continues," promises Hotcards' president and CEO John Gadd. "It's going to take all of us doing our small parts to make something great happen on a monumental scale. Cleveland is chock-full of incredible entrepreneurs and civic-minded folks taking this town to a place it's never been, and the world is taking notice. No surprise LeBron wanted to come home!"

The show is free and open to the public.

Opening reception Friday, Nov. 7, 6 to 9 p.m. at Red Space Gallery, 2400 Superior Ave., 216-241-4040, facebook.com/redspacecle.

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