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Taking the Offramp to art

A gallery opens doors to artists who might otherwise not be seen.

September 17, 2013|By Kirk Silsbee
  • Quinton Bemiller's "Signal" (2013) is part of the Fifth Anniversary Group Exhibition at the Offramp Gallery in Pasadena.
Quinton Bemiller's "Signal" (2013)… (Courtesy of Offramp…)

When it comes to art openings, Southern California audiences have a shared experience. It usually involves driving a fair distance and arriving at the exhibition space with an attendant amount of stress. Once inside, a visitor is often greeted by steely-eyed art-types in mandatory black attire, each one with a different agenda to advance. Crowds milling about the gallery make it nearly impossible to engage the work in any meaningful way. Invariably, reception-goers will be on their feet the whole time.

A Sunday afternoon reception at the Offramp Gallery in Pasadena was a welcome contrast.

Sundresses and shorts could be seen on the sizable backyard lawn and children romped around while drinks and goodies were dispensed as saxophonist Julie Miwa's quintet played Thelonious Monk tunes. A new wooden deck with seating allows viewers to sit and relax before taking a second or third turn around the show space.

Husband and wife Chas Alexander and Jane Chafin operate Offramp in their home, a historic building that they've modified to accommodate exhibiting.

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“We used to be a house that had a gallery,” Alexander says. “Now it's a gallery that happens to be surrounded by a residence,” Chafin adds. “We've made modifications that allow us to show larger work and it's kind of a statement: We're here and we're going to stay here.”

Artist Susan Sironi, who is represented in the Offramp show, “Fifth Anniversary Exhibition,” sums up the gallery as her “comfort zone,” a far cry from more commerce-directed galleries.

“It's the first gallery I've had a long-term relationship with,” she says from her Pasadena home. “I don't find the level of severe judgment of yourself and your work that I do at other spaces.”

Sironi modifies books with elaborate cutouts and overlays, transforming the volumes into different entities altogether. Her association with Chafin began as serendipity, somehow indicative of Chafin's personable relationship to her artists.

“A friend of mine was at California Pizza Kitchen,” Sironi recounts, “and she started talking to Jane, who mentioned that she had just opened a gallery and was looking for a book artist. My friend connected her with me and I've been showing at Offramp ever since.”

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