Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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When the three owners of the gallery on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles opened the doors to Nick van Woert's new exhibition, "Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In," they were a bit nervous. The recognizable name OHWOW had been stricken from the door, and their names writ large on a flag above: Moran Bondaroff. It was official. "When I saw our new name for the first time in The New York Times, I was like, 'Oh my god,'" says Mills Moran, who owns the gallery with his brother Al Moran and Aaron Bondaroff. However strange the new moniker looked, Mills was quick to point out that the change wasn't an easy decision. OHWOW began in 2008 as an art book publisher focusing on Downtown New York culture with a renegade gallery in Miami. It has since become a formidable white-walled gallery in West Hollywood, with a strong roster of artists including Jacolby Satterwhite, Diana Al- Hadid, Agathe Snow, George Herms and the estate of Robert Mapplethorpe. Through its evolution, the gallery has always had a penchant for vital group shows. "I think ultimately we looked at the name and development of the brand, its ruthless origins and how we've changed as a gallery, compared to the early days in Miami when our programming had more of a free-form, non-specific set of objectives," says Mills. "Then, when we moved to L.A., we started representing artists in a more traditional manner so we felt like the name didn't reflect how we were operating." Al clarifies that while the gallery has grown up since those woolly early years, "we're still true to our founding ethos—open-mindedness, community, bringing people in and having them funnel through this platform that we built." He continues: "Those early days set a tone—and it remains intact. It's still about open-mindedness and keeping things interesting and fluid, it's just a little bit tighter than before." Bondaroff concurs that the gallery will stick to its guns, referring to their Internet radio station, KNOW WAVE, as an example of their continued commitment to experimentation. The station broadcasts live from a hub in New York where Bondaroff lives most of the time. Artists, curators and other gallery friends like Jeanette Hayes, Lucien Smith and Kembra Pfahler are invited to guest host music and talk shows. "We wanted to connect more deeply with creative people—in addition to our relationships with artists through the gallery shows," says Bondaroff. "We also feel that using Internet radio is a way to archive conversations with people who are involved with the gallery." Bondaroff notes that the more inclusive L.A. community inspired his approach with KNOW WAVE. "I was spending more time in L.A., and I think the way people create these little pockets of ideas and get things done is great," he says. "When I came back to New York, I brought some of that energy and just started reaching out to a lot of people. With the name change, I think KNOW WAVE now plays a bigger part for us as this free- form platform of creativity." When the trio planted the new Moran Bondaroff flag, they simultaneously announced a new project in Detroit. After a friend purchased a 50,000-square-foot cathedral (for $6,700), he gave the gallery free reign to schedule a year's worth of exhibitions and projects. Detroit is the first step in the program with projects in New Orleans and Havana to follow. "We were having conversations about what else we can do with the gallery to keep things moving forward," says Al. "We're developing residencies in different cities that open up possibilities to meet new people —artists, curators and patrons. Printed Matter is coming on, and they're going to develop printed exhibitions from their collection of books in dialogue with the exhibitions we'll have in each city." No matter where Moran Bondaroff travels, the fact remains that the gallery is a vibrant player in the L.A. art world landscape. And names aside, there will always be a bit of that "oh wow" factor intact. 218 CULTURED There's plenty of OHWOW factor at the newly rebranded Moran Bondaroff. BY MAXWELL WILLIAMS PORTRAIT BY CURTIS BUCHANAN THE NAME OF THE GAME

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