Old Louisville window gallery Sheherazade — a small walk-by-only gallery nestled on Magnolia Avenue between Second and Third — is still in its first few months of operation, but it has already had two very interesting shows and will open a third this weekend with Rodolpho Salgado Jr.’s ongoing installation project, “Bubbleguts Enterprizes: The Medicine Cabinet.”
Salgado is a San Bernardino, Calif., native who met his wife — Louisville native and artist Susanna Crum — while they were both attending the graduate program in studio arts at the University of Iowa.
“Bubbleguts” is an ongoing exploration of how we, as a society or individuals, attempt to control, police and “fix” our corporeal forms. Salgado spoke with Insider about the exhibit and his inspirations and methodologies.
The installation features an extensive collection of artifacts related to medicine, the body and industry. Small bottles, brushes and various objects for poking and prodding populate walls that seem like a pharmacy filtered through a lens of bubblegum pop culture with a dash of a reality TV program about hoarders added in.
There are small sculptures of organs in the mix as well.
The installation at Sheherazade is not the exhibit’s first life. It’s part of an ongoing exploration Salgado began while in Iowa.
“I’m still thinking about it, it’s kind of weird and it’s kind of large,” he says.
The first iteration contemplated the same ideas but had a dramatically different implementation.
“It was more like a performative role — there were actual doctors I was playing. I was kind of ‘playing doctor’ without the touching,” he explains. “It was intensive, there was a whole waiting room, you had to fill out paperwork. It was kind of like a roadside attraction.”
Salgado went so far as to diagnose patients with ailments like blinking too much, or over-sensitive funny bones. He prescribed medicine, which he described in the interview as “good old snake oil.”
“It’s definitely in conversation with health care and the absurdities of health care in this country, and the length people go to avoid going to the doctor,” says Salgado. “It’s an archive. Everything on the wall has a number and a place in the collection.”
But there also is a very personal side to his exploration.
“It’s always been kind of driven by my body, and the times my body fails on me and causes embarrassment, or just knowing what’s inside my body but not really understanding how it works,” he says.
“Bubbleguts” was put on hold while Salgado and Crum moved to Louisville, a migration mostly aimed at realizing some big goals they had in mind, namely their plan to start a collaborative, artist-run studio.
That ambition led to Calliope Arts, a Smoketown-based community working space that lets people have access to printmaking tools.
“We have three etching presses and some screen-printing set up, some litho press,” he says. “People pay us a monthly fee to use our facilities. It was important for us to create opportunities for artists in an artist-run space.”
Salgado thinks Louisville needs more artist-run spaces and has been spending a lot of time rehabbing a double-barreled shotgun he and Crum purchased, which houses Calliope. That house, and the subsequent time Salgado has spent there, also is part of how he became interested in diving back into “Bubbleguts.”
“Since I’ve been in Louisville, I’ve gotten really into antique bottle digging, so I bought this old building from 1885 and (started) digging holes in the backyard, finding, like, medicine bottles from pharmacies,” he says. “I just started digging up this really old Victorian trash and thinking about consumer culture and (how) that was one of the first times in this country people would throw things away.”
While the first iteration of the exhibit had a highly performative aspect, this version won’t have that. Salgado does plan to spend time inside the show as he continues to fine tune his conceptual drug store.
“It will probably never be finished … I’ll be in there working, tinkering. You’ll see me in there, it’s not performative, but people in the neighborhood will see me,” he adds.
The location of the gallery, and the way it functions within the Old Louisville neighborhood, also was a spur for the artist to put the piece in public again, and he says that even during installation, it has provided interesting interactions.
“One guy this morning was like, ‘Hey, are you starting to open up some kind of store here,’ and I was like, ‘Kind of.’ It’s why I like that space — people can have that interaction, which is different than a clean, white-box gallery in NuLu or something,” says Salgado.
Salgado’s “art for the people, run by artists” mentality is in line with a big part of Sheherazade’s mission and concept, so “Bubbleguts” is a natural fit.
Sheherazade is a non-commercial project space in an Old Louisville garage run Julie Leidner. Because it is a window gallery, the installations are intended to be viewable night and day from the sidewalks of Magnolia Avenue.
The “Bubbleguts Enterprizes” opening reception is Friday, April 27, from 6-9 p.m. The exhibit continues through June 8. The window gallery is located in a one-car garage on West Magnolia Avenue between Second and Third streets, in the rear of the building at 1401 S. Third St.