Circle Back – One year into the Santa Fe Art Scene, Kiyomi Baird’s OTA Contemporary is on a roll

May 2018

Santa Fe Reporter

Iris McLister

Canyon Road’s OTA Contemporary has been open since May 2017, but to call it a year old is somewhat deceptive. “It took us nine months to just get past the historic board, and another three months to do demo and construction,” gallery owner Kiyomi Baird tells SFR. “Altogether it was a year to even get the door open.”

Unlike galleries that preceded it, OTA (pronounced oh-tah) has no rugged cowboys in the window, no wintry, adobe-dotted landscapes. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything with an overtly Southwestern slant, or even anything representational for that matter. The gallery is sleek and minimal, wired for high-tech audio and lighting, evincing a wholly non-artsy-craftsy modernity which is refreshingly unusual for Santa Fe’s historic arts district. To mark its anniversary, Beginnings II, which opens this Friday, showcases metal sculptures by Robert Koch and 2-D works by Baird, who is both gallery owner and gallery artist. “Robert is really into texture and patterns,” says Baird. “That’s what I’m into also, so it’s kind of like we’re speaking the same language.”

OTA Contemporary is just a saunter down from Gerald Peters Gallery on Paseo de Peralta, right at the entrance of Canyon Road. “The most common question we get,” Baird says with a laugh, “is probably ‘What color are the walls?’ and ‘How do you get the floors to look like that?'” (Super White by Benjamin Moore; cement polished multiple times to achieve a high gloss, in case you were wondering.) Anyone who’s worked in galleries expects these kinds of sometimes annoyingly not-remotely-related-to-art-sales questions, but Baird sounds undaunted. “If a person comes in and the environment speaks to them, then that’s the first step. That’s what I want, for people to get in touch with their curiosity.”

The gallery’s roster is diverse and draws from regional and out-of-state artists alike. The main requirement, says Baird, is that “artists have a voice that’s developed, and their philosophy is in line with ours.” Baird’s exhibition history belays a strong penchant for abstraction, exemplified in shows like last fall’s Enigma, in which the texturally and colorfully playful paintings of Nola Zirin acted as surprisingly sublime counterparts to August Muth’s holographic works.