Richard Hooker was surprisingly jovial Thursday evening before the closing reception for his final exhibit at his RTZvegas gallery, which shuts its doors this weekend after eight shows featuring 25 artists.
Normally a gallery closing would be a somber occasion, but there was a celebratory evening ahead: an artist talk and closing reception for Ginger Bruner and Anthony Bondi's Bruner & Bondi: Suspicious Evidence, followed by drinks at the neighboring Mingo, along with a slideshow of Bruner's photography.
It had been a good run at the corner gallery in Art Square starting in December with a show of Hooker's private collection, followed by a series of exhibits featuring up-and-coming artists and more established ones, local and nonlocal. In July, the Weekly choose RTZ as the Valley’s Best New Gallery in its annual Weekly Awards.
But there's more to do for the gallery owner who spent two decades working in city and state arts and cultural departments and organizations, including more than 10 as an urban arts coordinator for the city of Las Vegas. More recently, Hooker been working with a touring company to create cultural tours that will bring Las Vegas visitors Downtown, beginning in 2014. And as an artist working in neon, he’ll be preparing for a show of his own scheduled for next June.
Hooker sounds happy about his experience working directly with artists for shows at RTZ. There was photographer Charles Morgan's color Xerox transfers of celebrated neon signs here, past and present; Scott Grow's outer space-related paintings, prints and conceptual work, including the melted meteorite astronaut sculpture launched into space; a sleep-related exhibit featuring performance and photography; and a group show centered on the idea of home. Following that came a two-month guest-curated show with color portraits of larger-than-life characters by Hollywood artist Garylin Brune, and another guest-curated show with stunning minimalist paintings by Ohio artist Jeffrey Cortland Jones.
"It was an awesome adventure," says Hooker, looking around at his gallery that, in addition to featuring interesting exhibits, quickly became a welcome gathering space in the Downtown Arts District. "It was a great transition for me after 20 years working in the public sector and a great platform to move forward. I'm excited."