Gallerist Crush: Rebecca Camacho

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After two decades as the senior director of Anthony Meier Fine Arts in San Francisco, is branching out on her own. This May, the industry veteran launched her own downtown contemporary art gallery, Rebecca Camacho Presents. In the newly opened 928 square-foot space located at 794 Sutter Street, the gallerist focuses on championing women and local artists, including Oakland-based Sahar Khoury, collage artist of African American girlhood Deborah Roberts, and Leilah Babirye, the Ugandan-born artist who sought asylum status in the United States because of her sexual orientation. Learn more in our Q+A below.

How did you get your start in the art world?

I began as an intern at The Capp Street Project, a site-specific artist residency program in San Francisco. It was a very inspiring program. Artists were given a blank space and allowed to create exhibitions with no formal rules or requirements; the only parameter was that the space be restored to original format at the close of the residency.  It was a finite experience. I saw incredible installations there.

It was through Capp Street that I met Tony Meier; he was on the Board of Directors. I started at Anthony Meier Fine Arts in a part-time assistant role that grew and grew. I ended up working with Tony for 20 years.

What inspired you to make the jump to being a gallery owner and what was the process like to launch your own space?

Working at AMFA I had a direct hand in building the gallery program and profile, I knew how to do this work and I was ready to speak in the first person—so the jump to opening my own space has felt very natural. It was about 6 months after I left AMFA that I decided to open a gallery. I’ve always been most interested in the direct connections with primary artists and audience. I love the long arc of dialogue, seeing years of conversations reflected in artists’ work, building trust and language to be the voice of that work in a larger forum.

My first step was to reach out to artists. Many I had connections to but many I did not; lots of blind emails!  But everyone agreed to meet with me and regardless of whether or not the conversations progressed to working together, we had great visits and those dialogues really helped me shape and fine tune how I wanted to proceed.

A big focus of your new gallery is to champion women and local artists — why was this such an important cause for you personally?

I believe in women and I believe in community. I wouldn’t call them causes! What I’m building is a direct reflection of what I value. Creating a platform and opportunity for women doesn’t mean taking opportunity away from men; there are plenty of men in my program. And championing community doesn’t mean only showing local artists. That’s part of it, but it’s also bringing work in from outside that adds to the conversation, that feeds the local environment by its introduction and participation and engagement.

What are some of the ways you go about discovering new artists?

I’ve kept a list for years of art and artists that interest me. As I follow the thread of those artists, I see overlap with other people that catch my eye—artists curated into shows together, artists who share an aesthetic or sensibility.  So then I add those artists to my list, check them out further. I also ask a lot of people—artists in particular, but curator and collector friends too—who they like, what they’re excited about. I’m never afraid to ask for an introduction.

Tell us about a few of the upcoming artists you’re excited to feature in the gallery.

I have my first year of programming pretty set and am so over the moon with all the artists!  The Fall will feature solo shows with Max Jansons and David Gilbert as well as a three person exhibition with Deborah Roberts, Bethany Collins and Melissa Cody.  Max paints these amazing floral still lives. They bring you in with their beauty. But they’re so much deeper—there are multiple surfaces in the work, a real tactile application of paint. And each element of the arrangement—the individual flowers, the vase, the background—are their own little jewel boxes, intricate renderings of peacock tails, butterflies, Faberge eggs. Really luscious. David Gilbert’s photographs document created environments that have this amazing emotional pull. David has this wondrous ability to imbue everyday scenes with a visceral nostalgia. It’s not always the same emotion, which is imperative, but you always look at his images and respond with all your senses. The three-person show I’m really excited about. The exhibition is centered around artists who take their personal and cultural history and reinvent it in their work. Deborah Roberts is a phenomenal collage artist from Austin. Bethany Collins is a multidisciplinary artist using text and language. And Melissa Cody is  fourth generation Navajo weaver who is re-contextualizing her ancestral practice into a modern discourse.

Which destination is on the top of your travel bucket list and why?

Everywhere is on my list. Seeing the world from different vantage points is the biggest gift. But to begin I would love to explore the countries of my family origin: Eastern Europe; Serbia, Croatia and Russia; Mexico; Scotland.

Best meal in SF?

Grilled fish followed by butter and sugar crepes at Sam’s Grill. Cherry on top is if I get a private dining booth.

Favorite workout?

Hiking in the regional parks with my family.


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