Whether he’s in the North Pole for a photo shoot or back packing around the world in 49 days, Reza Aliabadi enjoys stepping out of his comfort zone.
“Being an entrepreneur, coming up with new ideas, taking risks to do different things, it is in my nature,” Aliabadi says. “The [back packing] concept was: I didn’t stay in a single city for two consecutive nights so every morning I left a city for a new one just to prove to myself how diverse the world is.”
In December the architect, who does painting and photography on the side, opened RZLBD Atelier, a multi-disciplinary gallery space in Bayview Village Shopping Centre. Launching the gallery not only marked uncharted territory business-wise since it was vastly different from his architectural practice, but he hopes bringing public awareness to minimalist, modern and contemporary work will also help visitors step out of their own comfort zone he says.
“People don’t know if they should come in or not,” general manager Vanessa Herz says. “I see them standing outside and they kind of just get really uncomfortable and don’t know whether they are allowed to come in or whether they should come in because this space is so unlike conventional galleries with brick walls and dark lighting and classical pieces all over the wall. This really challenges people to step out of their comfort zone and be in a space that’s white and bright and concrete. There’s nothing to hide behind. It’s all just out in the open.”
Dedicated to promoting contemporary art and architecture in mediums like sculpture, painting, crafts, installation and photography, the gallery’s first exhibit was Canadian Arctic: A Visual Diary by Aliabadi himself. The collection ranges from $350 for an unmated and unframed photograph to $2,500 for a big canvass print and showcase his trip to the Arctic along with stops in Iqaluit, Clyde River, Pond Inlet, Baffin Bay and feature shots of 10,000-year-old icebergs. As of Feb. 7 the atelier will house a collection by Amir Sheikhvand called Wearable Structures.
“The level of interaction with art I believe it’s not that intense maybe because it’s not people’s first priority in life, there are things that come first,” Aliabadi says. “But I would say [art] is important because it fills your brain, it fills your mind, it keeps you inspired. This is something all of us need, we don’t just need food on the table, we need to be inspired, we need to motivated.”
The atelier is divided into two complementing rooms: the white-walled gallery space, called The Void, and behind a pivoting door is a backroom, which is painted black, called The Mass.
“I personally thought the North York area deserved another cultural hub,” he says, admitting it was unknown territory for him business wise than his architectural practice. “There’s a lot of artists living in this part of the city and they deserve to have a gallery space to meet to collaborate to discuss to exchange ideas and get exposure so I decided to open this gallery.”
Although they opened on Boxing Day, they held a grand opening gala on Jan. 24.
“It was really successful,” Herz says. “We had a live jazz band, food, drinks, we had about 120 people show up so it was good. We had a great crowd.”
Since opening, they’ve received many proposals from artists and met an artist with many industry connections including internationally-renowned artists and art dealers.
“Meeting this one woman has really put us on the map, not just in Toronto but has also gotten our name out internationally almost because we’ve had the chance to meet so many people so that was a turning point for us, she’s really, really, helped us out,” Herz says.
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