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Jennifer Kleven to close her art gallery

Jennifer Kleven (COURTESY)
Jennifer Kleven (COURTESY)

Call it beginner’s luck — or a stroke of genius. Either way, it took only a year after completing her BFA at UNLV for artist/photographer Jennifer Kleven to open her own gallery — and in the process helped put the “arts” in then-barely-year-old Emergency Arts. With the December 2010 opening of Kleven Contemporary and its first exhibit (Ballad of Barker, by fellow UNLV graduate and collage artist Nico Holmes-Gull), Kleven masterminded a string of acclaimed and well-produced art shows that helped lure both art connoisseurs from the Arts District to Fremont East and curious Beat customers deeper into the Emergency Arts complex.

But in those two years, the gallery has distracted Klevens from her own work. Though she’s shown her photography twice over the past year — last March’s Urban Naturalism at her EA neighbor, Counterspace, and the currently open Vestiges (which she produced with fellow shutterbug Krystal Ramirez) at UNLV’s Jesse Metcalf Gallery — Kleven has had to mostly trade creativity for curation.

As such, the appropriately named The End and Shit, a show by L.A.-based artist Kyla Hansen (who will be at the Feb. 22 opening), will be the 18th and final exhibit at Kleven Contemporary, due to close March 30 so Kleven can get back to her art. “I really miss spending time in my studio cutting things up and putting them back together,” she says via e-mail. “I miss taking trips to shoot and I miss seeing the results. Soon, I won’t miss those things.

CityLife: So, why close?

Jennifer Kleven: The closure of my gallery did not come lightly. I've been thinking about my own art, my finances, my artists and my community, and while the later two are incredibly important to me, I ultimately decided that focusing my attention towards my own art would be best for me at this time. After almost two and a half years of curating contemporary, thought-provoking work in the hopes that the community would come out and view the art, my work has suffered and been placed on the back burner. Now is the time to complete [the] series, start new projects and invest in my own practices while devising a new plan for another exhibition space.

Why close the space with The End and Shit? And was the title coincidental or not?

Kyla Hansen is a classmate of mine from UNLV. We studied together during our last BFA year and really developed a great friendship. She recently graduated from Claremont College with her MFA and while she was in school, I really wanted her to do a show, but it’s so difficult to even think about solo exhibits while taking classes and preparing work for your thesis that we postponed for after graduation. We selected this date about eight months ago, during a time when closing was not even a thought in my mind. She told me the title about a month ago and then I told her that her exhibit would be my last. We giggled at the title, but when you are as close as we are, I guess we telecommunicated.

Kyla is a new, inventive and interesting artist that people should really keep their eye on. She was just named one of Modern Painters [magazine’s] “24 Artists to Watch in 2013” and I really encourage people to take their advice.

I wanted to go off with a strong exhibit to help guide my future curatorial endeavors.

What inspired Vestiges? 

Krystal Ramirez and myself are photographers and I think for both of us, we have have diverted away from straight photography, something we both enjoy so much. Vestiges was a way for us to go back to our roots and show work that we’ve never exhibited before. I try to capture moments with my photography that highlight the absurd things people do to each other and their surroundings. I like the mundane and my seven images in Vestiges are a grouping of photos that I’ve developed over the course of 3 years. I shoot medium-format film and scan the images into the computer, do a little cleaning up and then print. I love the translation that you get with film. The quality is different than shooting digital and I love the process of shooting with my twin lens.

Was Emergency Arts a great location? Has it legitimately spread the visual arts scene beyond the Arts District?

Emergency Arts was a great starting point for me. It gave me the opportunity to enact my post-college plan of opening a gallery. There is a diverse crowd that wanders through the building during the day. However, during the First Friday event, our turnout has been very low. Which was always surprising to me because Emergency Arts is a lot calmer than the 18B arts district on First Friday.

Emergency Arts has definitely spread the arts scene beyond the Arts District, but I think people really need to remember that there is lots of art outside the Arts District and Emergency Arts, all of which deserve attention. Downtown Las Vegas is not the only place to see art.