WHEN YOU PICTURE AN ART GALLERY, WHAT DO YOU SEE?
WE ENVISION A PUBLIC SPACE, WARM AND INVITING, WHOSE WALLS ARE FILLED WITH LEVITY AND IMAGINATION FUELED BY INCREDIBLE TALENT.
THIS ENVIRONMENT INSPIRES, IGNITES AND PROPELS CREATIVTY IN OTHERS. ALL ARE WELCOME IN THIS SPACE FOR ONE SIMPLE REASON, ART BELONGS TO EVERYONE.
"Although the gallery is contemporary and cutting-edge in its vision, we would encourage even the staunchest traditionalist to take a peek." - Conde nast
So, what’s this place about?
Owners Robert and Megan Lange showcase their own paintings alongside works from a vetted roster of artists they represent. At the risk of pigeon-holing the gallery, I would call the overall style “surrealist hyperrealism,” which is to say that painstakingly masterful techniques are applied to contemporary subjects, with a whopping dose of imagination and soul thrown in. The results are marvelous: from levitating gorillas, to maidens dreaming beneath a pond’s surface, to trompe l’oeil subjects you’ll swear are real. A sign in the doorway says it best: “All are welcome. We’re SO open!”
How’s the space?
No concrete floors, no clinical minimalism, no bourgeois attitude here. This place exudes warmth and inclusiveness. The building itself is a 180-year-old former grain warehouse, with beefy floorboards the color of molasses, and exposed rafters above. Comfortable couches, leather chairs, and a rope swing (yes, you read that right) invite you to settle in and be a part of things. A baby grand piano gets a lot of spontaneous use by visitors heeding the sign, “If you play, please play. If you don’t, please don’t." Two rooms in the 6,000 square foot, two-floor gallery are working artist studios, where signs beckon visitors to sit down, watch, and ask questions.
Any unique events happen here? On a typical daytime visit, the gallery feels terrifically spacious and calm, with rootsie indie acoustics on the playlist. One dynamic exception occurs on the first Friday of each month, when lots of area galleries stay open into the evening, offering up drinks and hors d’oeuvres for what Charlestonians call the “Art Walk." On that night, RLS is elbow-to-elbow indeed, with easily 500 people passing through to sip wine and discuss paintings, or to play with the interactive “stack your own rocks” table upstairs. You’ll see tuxedos, cutoff jean shorts, and spotless Citadel cadet uniforms. Everyone gets to participate, which is really the mission statement of this gallery, in a nutshell: Just show up! You won’t be snubbed! Fire up your inner creative!
The art’s the main thing, of course. How is it?
Pieces run the gamut from diminutive, soft, poetic, and autumnal, to large, bold, buttery, and provocative, all nicely displayed and illuminated, with the occasional paintings propped against walls waiting for a free space. It is a working studio, after all. You’ll often find local artists sitting and chatting, running ideas off each other or critiquing one another’s work. Occasionally Robert and Megan, whose styles are very different, will collaborate on the same painting, with Megan painting a subdued Wyeth-esque landscape, and Robert adding a thoughtfully placed, gregarious, colorful object of his choice, to create a series they call “Better Together.” I love the results: a hummingbird hovering over the stormy ocean, a panda sitting on a dirt road in fog, a monarch butterfly so real it seems to have landed on the painting for a migratory rest.
"I found her to be warm, whip-smart, genuinely enthusiastic, and knowledgable."
Did anyone on staff make an impression?
Curry, the gallery director, has worked here for twelve years with a few interruptions (her husband is a traveling musician). I found her to be warm, whip-smart, genuinely enthusiastic, and knowledgable. She refers to herself as “just a lucky fly on the wall."
At the end of the day, what—or who—is this place best for?
Although the gallery is contemporary and cutting-edge in its vision, I would encourage even the staunchest traditionalist to take a peek. You just might find something you can’t live without. Children are welcome— the gallery hands sketchbooks to every kid who walks through the door.
Words by ALLSTON MCCRADY
Built in 1840, our 6,000 sq ft wearhouse is still sporting original brick walls and wood floors. Willard Hirsch, a famous local sculptor, made the old Robert Henry’s Warehouse building his sculpting studio sometime in the 20s and it has been an art space ever since.
THE FUN STUFF
We have hidden imaginative elements all throughout the gallery. Their only purpose is to activate one's imagination and sense of wonder. Creative enthusiasts of every age and background are welcome to come and discover.
Working with the Halsey Institute, REDUX and the Gibbes Museum, RLS houses visiting artists who are creating exhibits in Charleston. We aim to facilitate creative networks and connect the local art community with the global sphere of contemporary art.