Cleo the Gallery: Contemporary art gallery space now open in Savannah

AS OWNER AND head curator of Cleo the Gallery, Jeanette McCune envisioned a new atmosphere with a rotating library where people can view contemporary art, read novels and contemplate life. An alternating selection of three to four publications from the owner’s personal library of artists’ books, magazines, catalogs, poetry books and novels will be in the space over a two-week period in tangent with the work being shown.

The name “Cleo” was “a decision based on a super gorgeous, old French New Wave film, the girl’s a bit of a brat, but also more than anything the style of movement. Ágnes Varta is a true legend,” McCune said.

“The name was based on a lot of different things, “Ágnes Varta Cléo from 5 to 7” is one of my favorite films of all time, so I think that had something to do with it. I think also, a singular name for, what right now is a business run by a single person resonated with me a bit. Knowing that I would be adjusting myself as Jeanette the owner of Cleo, but people also being, “are you Cleo?” “yeah, I pretty much am Cleo,” McCune said.

Located in Abode Studios near the makers community, is the quiet and calm 280 sq. ft. space, which currently has pretty pink floors and white walls with lit neon sculptures and gridded geometric pieces on display for the time being. Cleo, was a space created to house contemporary artists’ beautiful work and give new opportunities to lesser-known artists, McCune said.

“Cleo the Gallery’s mission is to serve artists, dismissing the predilection towards a favor economy in the art world and helping support the livelihoods of under exhibited artists as a radical redefinition of the balance of power between gallery and artist,” she said. “This includes paying each artist exhibiting a percentage of the value of their pieces upfront as ‘rent’ for the time spent in the space and offering financial and in some cases physical, support in transporting the work to the space as the budget allows.”

Two artists are currently exhibiting their work at the gallery through Nov. 24 –Esther Ruiz and Devin Rutz. Esther Ruiz, a Los Angeles-based sculptor who primarily works with glowing neon pieces and Devin Rutz, a SCAD alum living in New York. The overall theme of the exhibit is distinct geometry architecture relaying a personal experience.

“Her [Esther Ruiz] stuff glows it’s so soothing and something to be experienced that totally puts you in the right headspace to see what that feeling is, attached to a certain experience,” McCune said. “Which otherwise could be considered just an abstract lovely form. But to have her talk about it, it’s much more about pieces in her mental landscape. That she is trying to re-render a situation, so that she understands it in terms of color texture, feeling, or all of that.”

Rutz creates, “really gorgeous, super vibrant guided patterned pieces where it’s an obsessive pattern with a little bit of chaos, with a few little mentions to reality, like a lemon here, little ant there, flower there, a little bit of an organized chaos feeling to it,” McCune said.

The next show at Cleo will be with Anna Breininger and Tom Henry, opening on Dec. 10.

“We believe in transparency and as such, will be publishing on our website the allocation of funds for each exhibition cycle at the close of the show,” McCune said. “I am proud to say that for this first show we were able to pay both artists 7% of the value of their work for showing in our space.”