Oliver Francis Gallery shakes things up

Kevin Ruben Jacobs opened the gallery last June in an old building at 209 S. Peak, hoping to present shows that challenge the viewer.
Kevin Jacobs Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Kevin Jacobs Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Kevin Rubén Jacobs introduces himself as Oliver Francis of Oliver Francis Gallery in a promotional YouTube video. In reality, Jacobs is a 23-year-old curator who always seems to be laughing at a joke no one else gets.

He opened Oliver Francis Gallery, in an old building at 209 S. Peak, last June with the goal of shaking up the Dallas art scene and presenting shows that are challenging to the viewer.

“I love when people have to stop and think about something,” he says. “I don’t like passivity. ”

Jacobs was a philosophy major at the University of Texas at Arlington in 2009 when he decided to add a second major in art. He became frustrated with the art program, and eventually dropped the double major and graduated with a philosophy degree.

“So, I don’t have an art degree,” he says before bursting into that trademark laughter. Art has become the focus of his budding career, however. An internship at the Goss-Michael Foundation led to a fulltime job as exhibitions manager and collections assistant.

Through Oliver Francis, he is doing his part to create the art scene he wants to see in Dallas. There are plenty of opportunities to see great, established artists at the Nasher and the Dallas Museum of Art, for example.

“What about students?” Jacobs says. “What about emerging artists?”

Jacobs accepts shows only from artists whose work excites his sensibilities, and he’s not interested in whether it is marketable. He pays $500 a month for the space on Peak, and he lives at home with his parents in North Richland Hills.

“I don’t know why more people don’t do this,” he says. “This place is so cheap. Why don’t more people go in on a space like this?”

Last month Oliver Francis opened “Emphaticalism” from Michelle Rawlings, an MFA candidate in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Jacobs also is working on a museum in a room behind his office at the gallery, inspired by SMU professor Michael Corris’s Free Museum of Dallas. Jacobs toyed with naming it “The Freeer Museum,” but opted finally for The Orthodox. He didn’t explain that name, but we sense some irony there.

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