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Kevin Rubén Jacobs: The Believer

In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 30 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Mark Graham. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

With so many large walls in need of decorating, an ornate painting of a park in autumn will fetch a hearty premium in Dallas, so long as the frame matches the end table and the creator's name is known, or at least pronounceable.

Let's be clear: That type of art doesn't interest Kevin Rubén Jacobs.

The 23-year-old owner of Oliver Francis Gallery, Jacobs got his degree in philosophy, has never been to Houston, lives with his parents and was 18 before stepping foot in his first museum, the Dallas Museum of Art. "I can remember seeing a Christopher Wool piece and a [Bruce] Nauman neon. At the time I thought they were ridiculous," he says.

"They left me scratching my head, but they stuck with me."

The addiction took hold. Every opening, every showing: He was there. Paychecks went toward art books. Scraps of spare time were invested in research. While still in college, he opened his own gallery, Oliver Francis Gallery, a self-funded endeavor that's now a year old. In that time it's served as an experimental petri dish while giving a boost and shelter for work by early-career contemporary artists.

The last exhibition at O.F.G. put that vision on display: Designed by local sculptor Jeff Gibbons, the unified work parted into two different viewing experiences. Initially one encountered a steampunk-conjured contraption that whirled and churned, chugging and thrusting metal rods forward. Its extremities pushed through the gallery's dividing wall.

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One room over, they jiggled a large, beige canvas hypnotically so it shook and warbled like the hips of a strung out hula dancer. It was called Boylet Toilet, and in Jacobs' space, its raw, gritty energy made perfect sense.

"A space like this, and the art that gets shown, could connect elsewhere, like Berlin, London, New York," says Jacobs. "I want to start a dialogue with the international art world. I know that what we offer is of that caliber."

If there's a venue in Dallas where that conversation is possible, where challenging ideas and abstract thoughts could mingle and carry themselves across continents, it starts here, where art isn't seen as a stagnant heirloom or an appreciating investment: It's life's most inspirational extract, and it's meant to be shared.

See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.

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