At Royal NoneSuch, an Artist Talk Gets Lively with Chess and Animation

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Installation image of 'Touch Move' exhibition at Royal NoneSuch Gallery, with works by Richard Zimmerman, Emma Spertus, and Bessie Kunath. (Courtesy of Royal NoneSuch)

Artist talks are whatever, right? The settings don’t usually help: darkened auditoriums with a 75-percent chance of also being stuffy. The acoustics are often strange, if not terrible. Talks themselves can be hit or miss, but invariably any interesting lines of thought pulled from an artist’s presentation are quickly obliterated by the Q&As that follow. You know how it goes: “This isn’t really a question, but more of an observation...”

Thankfully, this Saturday’s artist talk at Oakland’s Royal NoneSuch Gallery, in conjunction with the wonderful group show Touch Move, takes things to an entirely new level, darkened auditorium be damned.

Emma Spertus, 'International Distributors,' 2017.
Emma Spertus, 'International Distributors,' 2017. (Sarah Hotchkiss/KQED)

But first, some context. Chances are, if you’re frequent stroller of Telegraph Ave, you’ve noticed a new window dressing along the block, a bright red frame around RNG's storefront locale. That’s a new piece from artist Emma Spertus, welcoming visitors into a three-person show (Bessie Kunath and Richard Zimmerman round out the trio) made via long-distance collaboration. Tied together by experiments in paper, display and scale, Touch Move is one of the most engaging groups shows I’ve seen this year.

For Saturday’s event, Spertus and Kunath join the exhibition’s organizer, artist Lisa Rybovich Crallé, for a conversation about their work, which all sounds ordinary enough. But simultaneously, RNG plays host to a timed chess match, to be live-animated by Zimmerman and projected onto the gallery’s street-facing window, outlined by Spertus’ red frame.

Bessie Kunath, 'Breaking Away,' 2017.
Bessie Kunath, 'Breaking Away,' 2017. (Courtesy of Royal NoneSuch)

That’s right: timed chess, live animation, a three-way conversation and the backdrop of a fantastic group show. Oh, and the whole event is called “Wood Pushers,” an insult lobbed at inexperienced (and possibly unimaginative) chess players. Based on my expectations for the liveliness of this experience, it’s a bit of a misnomer, but as far as understatements go, a charming one.


"Wood Pushers" takes place at Oakland's Royal NoneSuch Gallery (4321 Telegraph Ave.) on Saturday, Sept. 17, 6-7:30pm. For more information, click here.