The Oliver Francis Gallery was founded by artist, curator, competitive powerlifter, disk golf competitor and all-around enigmatic guy, Kevin Rubén Jacobs. A philosophy major and graduate of The University of Texas at Arlington, Jacobs cut his teeth in the art world working for nonprofit arts organization the Goss Michael Foundation, and within a couple of years, he began hosting some of the most original art experiences in Dallas.
“That was kind of the point, we all started off at UTA and one night decided to go see the Dallas galleries," Jacobs says of his inspiration for the gallery. "After that night, I knew something had to be different.”
With a progressive program for OFG that challenged the white wine-drenched culture of Dallas' Design District, Jacobs became a touted tastemaker and unassuming wunderkind of the hip art world of his own making. With the gallery, situated on Peak Street on the outskirts of Deep Ellum, Jacobs allied himself with a group of young, energetic artists, most of whom were recently back from prestigious East Coast graduate programs, all seething to turn Dallas art culture upside down.
Artists such as Arthur Pena, Francisco Moreno, Michelle Rawlings and Jeff Zilm were key to the gallery’s early success. Over the next six years since its opening, OFG’s program changed the Dallas art landscape and showcased artists that today are represented by international art dealers and collected by major institutions.
“My early success with artists was getting them seen by other galleries," Jacobs says. "OFG was that springboard; that was the role of the gallery.”
Ten years and two galleries later, including Jacob’s space in Berlin, Pushkin and Gogol, OFG is back in Dallas. The gallery reopened in a new location in Fair Park on July 10. Moreno is once again the artist whose work is displayed on Jacobs' first show in the space. It almost feels like a victory lap for Jacobs after Moreno’s large-scale work, "Chapel," was acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art in 2019. Moreno’s show, Demons, runs through Sept. 4, 2021.
“My early success with artists was getting them seen by other galleries .... OFG was that springboard; that was the role of the gallery.” – Kevin Rubén Jacobs, of the artists he's exhibited
The new space carries the traditionally laid-back Fair Park art vibes previously held by Beefhaus and Angstrom Gallery, and remains otherwise nontraditional.
“OFG is a place where you see art you wouldn’t see elsewhere,” Jacobs says.
The art can be challenging, but Jacobs seeks out art that's always interesting and imaginative. The new space is concise and seems more of the type of spot you'd find in Los Angeles or New York, which is a good thing. The gallery's comeback was prompted by a mixture of opportunity and Jacobs' unyielding competitive nature.
“I don’t really know if I completely identify with being a curator or being a gallerist," Jacobs says. "My attitude is I want OFG to stand tall, but I also want that kind of movement all around me. I find it energetic; I want other galleries to notch it up!”
Jacobs' enthusiasm for the work is contagious and just what one would expect from a competitive powerlifter, who once turned his art gallery into a powerlifting training gym. That’s just his nature: Whatever Jacobs decides to do, he's all in. It’s a much-needed fresh breath of air for Fair Park, after Beefhaus shut down and 500X Gallery moved across town last year.
Jacobs is excited to be back representing his brood.
“It’s hard to stay still when you surround yourself with really creative people," he says.