Interview: Frank Maresca of New York City Outsider Art Gallery Ricco/Maresca

One of the greatest things about ILevel is getting to know our clients over many years. We’re fortunate to work with, and learn from, many talented people. The renowned Chelsea art gallery Ricco/Maresca has been an ILevel client for not just years, but decades, and we’re still inspired by their eye for great art.

We recently got a chance to chat with Frank Maresca, co-founder of Ricco/Maresca, about how he started the gallery, what he looks for in art, and what’s hanging on his walls at home; we know you’ll find him as inspiring as we do!

How did you come to start Ricco/Maresca?

I started Ricco/Maresca Gallery with Roger Ricco back in 1979. As I’m saying it, I find it hard to believe. We started in a little 500-square-foot, third-floor loft space on West 27th Street, right on the fringe of Manhattan’s flower district. Neither Roger or I had a clue as to what we were doing…the only thing we knew was that whatever it was, we loved doing it. We each put in a small amount of money and renovated the space, and then put in another equally small amount of money and bought as much art as we could with this limited budget.

We were lucky enough to have a good friend, and art pioneer by the name of Burt Hemphill, who was incredibly generous and just gave us his address book to copy. The book was filled with all the right names and addresses. Another friend, who was a top graphic designer, designed and printed an invitation for what was to be our first show. We mailed it out assuming that absolutely nothing would happen and that no one would come, but much to our surprise everybody came and no one wanted to leave. We found ourselves trying to buy additional beer at ten o’clock at night. The opening started at six and technically ended at eight. However, we still had a crowd at past midnight. At the end of the evening, a high percentage of what we had in the gallery had been sold. We were off and running.

How would you describe the kind of art and artists you have in your gallery?

The gallery is all about crossover…crossover of folk self-taught and outsider art into the contemporary and modern arena. Art of different periods and cultures that can’t live side-by-side with one another, art that is really specific… is not of very much interest to us. What we like best are conversations that dissimilar paintings and objects have with one another. Its all about a voyage or transportation to a place that one has never been to… or a place that one enjoys.

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Why is it so important to make sure the art is hung and arranged properly inside the gallery?

PRESENTATION is everything. It is the point of first contact. I often ask myself, if I were walking down the street, and I were to see a pile of art heaped up by a trash can or in some sort of a chaotic jumble, would I really stop to look and appreciate the art? …I doubt it. I’m sure, however, knowing me that I would be down on my hands and knees routing through the pile hoping to find a treasure. Most people, might look for a moment, but then they would just keep walking. Sometimes art will call attention to itself no matter what the circumstances. Other times, we have to be almost forced to observe. The goal of a dealer and collector should be to present art in such a way that it cannot be ignored. Its part of the educational process, as we all know, having visited any museum.

How has ILevel been helpful in that process?

Ricco/Maresca Gallery has been using ILevel for over twenty years now. We would never consider using anyone else. I guess the point is, that I never think about how an installation is going to happen, or what the aesthetic difficulties and technical problems might be. I know that no matter what they are, ILevel will always tell me that there is no problem.

You publish a magazine, called Fluence. What’s it about?

Fluence is about education. I never want to think of myself as a merchant. A good dealer is, first and foremost, an educator. Fluence is our new, online magazine or as they say, e-zine. It contains stories about art and artists that interest us, and that we want to share with the world. Right now, it is quite small, I would say almost in its infancy. I would like to encourage writers and photographers to contribute, and share words and images on subjects that are related to this thing that we call crossover.

What’s hanging on your walls at home?

Art that I love…perfectly hung, thanks to ILevel.