How does a 25th anniversary exhibition come to be?
25 years, really? You gotta have a party.
No. Who would want to come to that?
Lots of people!
And on the conversation goes, where you want a birthday party but play hard to get because you don’t want to seem vain. But the truth is, we made it! And there are many artists to celebrate. Too many, in fact.
Back in 1994, having trouble imagining the gallery carrying on their obstinate aspirations for two years let alone twenty-five, Sean Meredith told The Santa Monica Mirror, “We’re a big ship. I just hope we’re not the Titanic.” Track 16 was launched by the obsessive passion of founder Tom Patchett. His seminal Mainspace exhibitions “Wheels"(1994), "Fool’s Paradise"(1994), and “EATS"(1995) were audacious attempts to look at 20th-century America through not just art, but also its ephemeral and ubiquitous siblings, marketing and advertising: a Mark Tansey painting was on the wall near a Bambi Airstream trailer; Mike Kelley’s Banners were hung above a Coney Island mechanical laughing lady; a sixteen-foot-high fiberglass waitress from Freddie’s in Orange County stood as a sentry to the gallery where, upon entering, you were next greeted by half-a-dozen Claus Oldenburg popsicles. The results were loved… and despised.
After guiding "Man Ray: Paris>LA” an exhibition collaboration between Track 16 and Robert Berman Gallery, Pilar Perez became the director of Track 16 for the next five years. She helmed, among many exhibitions, an early retrospective of Manuel Ocampo, an important survey of contemporary Cuban art, and “At the Curve of the World,” an ambitious exhibition of women artists. Laurie Steelink, who had been the gallery’s registrar, began her 14-year tenure as gallery director in 2002. Steelink excelled at working closely with brilliant independent minded artists: David L. Forbes, Simone Gad, Linda Sibio, Le Dernier Cri, Scott Williams, Alan Sondheim, Johanna Went, Gee Vaucher, Mondongo, the Institute for Figuring, and on and on.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Metro, using eminent domain, evicted Track 16 from Bergamot Station to build the Expo Line train station. The gallery found brief refuge on the Hayden Tract in Culver City. Somewhat burnt out from the seventeen year manic pace of exhibitions and events, they moved at a slower pace. The gallery held only a few exhibitions and concentrated public programing on the theater that they built out of their warehouse's loading dock. They presented plays, performance art, music, and film in all stages of development. The Culver City warehouse was, in the end, limiting. So when Patchett invited Meredith to become his partner and the director in 2017, the first thing discussed was moving the gallery. Meredith was bewitched by a space on the 10th floor of the Bendix Building in the Fashion District of downtown L.A. The location seemed quite outlandish. Then Bendix head Steve Hirsh revealed that one gallery, PØST, had recently moved into the building. Track 16 committed to moving in late 2017 not knowing the building would soon have a cultural explosion that now hosts 12 galleries with more planned move in. As the third director of Track 16, Meredith says, “There is no complex philosophy. A beehive does what it does, as does a gallery. And that’s a wonderful thing.”
With its peripatetic and experimental history, the gallery has shown hundreds of artists, some that it would go on to have longer relationships with and others that came and went. Track 16 operates slightly more like a traditional gallery now but its spirit of breaking with tradition and attempting to raise hell remains. Over fifty artists will be shown in an attempt to reflect, celebrate, and embody the hundreds of artists who have displayed work over the years. All of the artworks are being culled from the original exhibitions.