CULTURE KLASH: Art Anomaly

By on March 14, 2018

Asymbol shut its doors, but the appetite for its art continues to grow

Asymbol co-founder Travis Rice at the gallery’s closing party. (Kali Collado)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – After almost 10 years of adventure-inspired art, Asymbol has pulled the plug. But first, owner Travis Rice and company threw a going away party that underscored the interest and following Asymbol amassed over a decade. The Scott Lane gallery was packed with people, craft cocktails, a rainbow spread of chromatic food, music, discounted art and the overwhelming sense that an era was ending. Snowboarders and artists from across the West traveled to the gallery to pay homage and celebrate new beginnings. 

“This thing started 10 years ago as an idea of being able to tell the stories we thought were culturally relevant to the place we came from,” Rice said to the 100-person crowd. Indeed, among Jackson Hole’s Western galleries and pricey contemporary art houses, Asymbol was an anomaly. Loose and adventurous, it was rooted in the snowboard lifestyle and mountain culture.

Asymbol gave burgeoning and established artists a local and global platform to share their work with a snow sports audience. Rice said it was the artists who helped “fuel the flame of Asymbol.”

“The authenticity of trying to share the talents of people that do put themselves out there through the arts kind of seeped into the rest of the relationships we created over the past 10 years,” he said.

Opening its doors in 2009 as an online showroom, Asymbol offered art created for and by snowboarders, skateboarders and surfers. Rice teamed up with artist Mike Parillo to bring the vision and culture to life.

In its infancy, Asymbol hosted pop-ups in Teton Artlab and collaborate with other local galleries. For the first run of prints, Asymbol worked closely with a printmaking studio in San Diego, said Ashley Rice, CEO and creative director. All the genesis pieces were printed there and the artists even flew to California to sign the original runs.

“We weren’t quite sure we wanted to be a production house or not,” she said.

But in 2011 Asymbol moved from the digital realm to the physical and opened a printing studio on Deer Drive after an “amazing first strong collection.” Rice and crew bought their own printmaking equipment and did everything in-house from then on out.

“We wanted more control, freedom and creativity,” Ashley said.

By 2014 the gallery outgrew its Deer Drive space and moved to the Pink Garter Plaza on Town Square. The printing press found a home in the downstairs of the building and the gallery added a retail component in a shared space with Jackson Treehouse.

Asymbol’s rank of artists grew. By closing time, the gallery had a roster of more than 30 artists. Photographers including Lindsey Ross and Jimmy Chin were regulars. James Johnson shared his Native American heritage with the world through the lens of snowboarding. Jamie Lynn showed his work on canvases, not just snowboard topsheets. Snowboard pioneer Bryan Iguchi was given an outlet for his painting and grew into an integral part of the gallery.     

“A piece of his narrative is in the core body of everything we do,” Rice said of Iguchi.

In 2016 the gallery moved again, this time to Scott Lane. Community and artist outreach coordinator Josi Stephens said it was to refocus the gallery, bringing the printing equipment and studio space back to the forefront. The gallery stuck to its unconventional roots and showed art in a way unlike anywhere else in Jackson. 

“Travis and Mike put together this thing to create a bridge between [the audience] and the art and the artist,” Stephens said. “What a magical endeavor and what an amazing, amazing idea.”

The town and artists were open to new ventures and people like Travis Rice who put themselves out there helped nourish the alternative art scene.

“This is crazy, nobody thought it would last, even a little bit,” Stephens said at Friday’s event.

In its closing, the gallery has received an outpouring of support. When word spread about the final night, online orders soared. Now Asymbol is sitting on more than 1,000 orders, Ashley said.

There’s been such a strong appetite, she said, locals who didn’t get everything pre-closing can still “pop your head in” through the end of March and pick up a piece of framed work or whatever is in stock. “We’re closing, but the dream and the art and what we represent is not done. We love this thing so much and it’s such a pure and honest endeavor.”

“The Final Chapter” are the words embossed on the window of Asymbol during its last month. Each employee is on to new projects and new endeavors and Rice hinted that with the closing of Asymbol means bigger and better things. “Sometimes you have to prune the tree to keep it healthy,” he said. “I’m just pleased that there’s no downbeat with where we’re going.”

Rice said he hopes the artists and community that have come together and been a part of Asymbol will continue to create and keep the momentum going. “I’m really looking forward to where the baton ends up,” he said

Although the gallery is closing, it doesn’t mean everything it fostered and created goes away, Ashley said. “We are still going to help [the artists] get their work to people, just not in the same hub.They’re still doing what they’re doing.”

From the start, Asymbol was a family-run small business. That never changed. “We kept this dream alive because we appreciated and accepted every customer,” Ashley said. “If you love something you have to support it.”

Asymbol was always about the artists. At its very core and name, Asymbol assembled a family of artists and highlighted their most symbolic pieces. The sentiment was ever-present on Friday as the family came together one last time.   

“It’s been a decade and as we put on the window it’s the final chapter,” Rice said. “It’s definitely, certainly not over. This will not be the last time we speak.”

 

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