Art in a Box curate collections by sending art in boxes

If you’d like to become an art collector but don’t know where to begin, Compound Gallery’s Art in a Box subscription service may be for you.

The North Oakland-based gallery and artist studio has shipped over 2000 works of art by Bay Area artists worldwide since starting the program in 2009.  Husband and wife team Matt and Lena Reynoso own the Compound Gallery and curate Art in a Box, which is intended to showcase Compound’s studio artists and transform the way people collect art.

Most art media are represented in the service, as long as the artwork fits inside an 11” x 17” x 3” box. “Some artists have done sculptures that almost collapse down to fit in the box and subscribers can assemble them when they get them,” Matt said. “Some printmakers do small editions of prints, there are paintings and letterpress prints, etchings, engravings.”

Subscribers are asked to list three adjectives describing their art taste. Matt and Lena then look at available work and curate each box accordingly. Local subscribers can pick up their monthly package at the Compound Gallery for $40 per month. Shipping within the US is $50 per month, while international subscribers will pay $60 per month.

Some Art in a Box artists use it as a way to experiment and test new concepts. Oakland-based collage artist Zach Clark has been a Compound Gallery artist for three years but sent out his first Art in a Box piece last month. “I was always really interested in what was happening with Art in a Box, but in the past I made really big work, so I started moving to smaller and edition-based work,” Clark said.

Steve Ferrera is a sculptor, glass blower and digital artist. He typically creates large works, but has sent around a dozen smaller pieces with Art in a Box. “I’ve started going into smaller pieces and that has been a lot of fun because I don’t have to get so obsessive compulsive about building them, which is nice,” he said. “It’s kind of a way to work a little faster and smaller.”

Masako Miki, one of the very first Art in a Box artists, connected with the Compound Gallery after emailing the Reynosos her portfolio. “I wanted to do some sort of collaboration with a local gallery and they were looking for artists at the time, so they just took me and that was the beginning of it,” she said.

Miki moved from Japan to the Bay Area almost 20 years ago and in her art she uses animal motifs drawn on Nepalese paper to examine cultural identity issues. “My work is pretty narrative and deals with the psychological experience of adjustment and assimilation,” she said. “Art in a Box to me is always about experimenting, so I can work on a smaller scale and I can kind of see how color works on particular papers.”

Interactivity with an audience and other creators is another way artists use Art in a Box. Clare Szydlowski makes collages using a laser cutter and various paper types like Home Depot paint samples. “I think a big part of being an artist is exhibiting and showing your work,” Szydlowski said. “If you don’t have somewhere to bring it, you don’t get that feedback. Here you do – whether it be the Art in a Box artists, the people in the gallery, or even in Facebook because they post the work on Facebook and you’ll see comments.”

Art in a Box artists are required to produce at least one artwork per month. “Once a month we have to give a small piece, so it almost forces me to do something new,” Miki said. “But then people are paying for it, so you want to do something that’s presentable and has some substance to it. It’s a good pressure, in a way, and I enjoy it.”

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