House + Home Q+A

Rachael Blackburn Cozad continues a KC tradition of showing, selling art in a home setting

Updated: 2013-06-02T02:01:13Z

By ALICE THORSON

The Kansas City Star

After 11 years as director of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Rachael Blackburn Cozad decided to go into business as a private dealer and appraiser. For the past two years, she has run Rachael Cozad Fine Art from her 3,600-square-foot home in Kansas City’s Union Hill neighborhood.

The 12-foot-high walls are filled with works she is handling on consignment as well as pieces by roughly a dozen artists she represents. She also has an extensive personal collection, acquired over the years with her husband, Kanon Cozad, who works as the chief information officer for TranSystems, a national transportation engineering company.

Tell me about this house.

Nobody knows this neighborhood. I’ve wanted this home forever. It was built in the 1980s by Dan Welling, co-founder of the Classic Cup. He put in a cast-iron fireplace from London and a Victorian fountain from J.W. Fiske & Co. ironworks. He also had one of the earliest industrial stoves in a domestic kitchen.

We’ve been here 21/2 years. The structure is brick, and the downspouts are copper. I don’t think you could build this house today. It’s like a big old fortress. From the roof deck we have a view of Liberty Memorial, and we were able to watch the performing arts center go up. There’s a wine cellar in the basement that we plan to expand.

Did you make a lot of changes?

We kept the wallpaper put in by the previous owner. It has a nubby texture and is light sage in color. We did switch out all the lights, including 50 ceiling lightcans from 1984. We got the Murano chandelier in the dining room from Design Within Reach.

And how does it all work with Rachael Cozad Fine Art?

The concept is that clients can come and establish a personal relationship with me and see how the art looks in a house. I want them to tell me what I have that they like, and I will help them get what they want.

There may be collectors who would like to buy a work of art but don’t have access to that New York gallery or that London dealer. I can provide them with that access.

What’s it like dealing from your house?

I have to get used to switching things out constantly. Right now, I have 10 pieces on consignment. They include this 1962 landscape by Roland Peterson, who taught in San Francisco and was known for his outdoor scenes, and a small painting of zinnias in a blue vase by noted Swedish-American painter Birger Sandzen. A couple works are not here. They’re too big.

And you have four George Caleb Bingham paintings on consignment?

I’ve been an appraiser since 1986 and years ago ran into some people with Bingham paintings and we stayed in touch. When I opened Rachel Cozad Fine Art, it all came together. I have four Bingham paintings from four different consignees.

One is this 1837 portrait of the 10-year-old sister of his best friend and lifelong patron, Major James Sidney Rollins. It was Bingham’s first full-length portrait. It’s on hold from an out-of-state museum.

“Baiting the Hook” (ca. 1841) shows a boy fishing at a swimming hole. It was Bingham’s first pure genre painting. I also have “Horse Thief” (1852), which expresses his concern with the problem of vigilante justice. Politics and religion were two of his lifelong interests.

“Portrait of Lewis Allen Dicken (“L.A.D.”) Crenshaw” (ca. 1869) will go to the Springfield Art Museum, where it will join the museum’s portrait of his wife, Fanny Smith Crenshaw.

I know that your parents are artists.

I represent them both. My mom, Linda Blackburn, has developed a vocabulary based on 1940s film noir and bad Arctic sci-fi movies. I have a piece that they painted together in my office, and I have a big painting by my dad, Ed Blackburn, based on a Dean Martin movie still called “Five Card Stud.” Both of them have worked in multiple disciplines, including printmaking, video, sculpture and performance.

You have quite a few works here by Kansas City artists.

That charred painting in the bathroom is a small version of the Json Myers painting in the Kemper Museum’s collection. I have Mike Sinclair’s photographs of the Golden Ox and Worlds of Fun, one of Nora Othic’s rabbits and a video by Barry Anderson. We have six pieces by Archie Scott Gobber and a drawing on vellum by Anne Lindberg. The rooster sculpture is by Tom Corbin.

I also recognize a lot of artists that you showed at the Kemper when you were there.

Yes. There’s a Jill Greenberg polar bear photograph upstairs, and I have “Supervisors” by Ian Davis, who had a show in 2010 at Kemper at the Crossroads. It generated much interest in his paintings in Kansas City and several collectors and museums have acquired his paintings based on that show. He paints really slowly, but I have a relationship with the gallery, Leslie Tonkonow.

The Richard Mosse photograph is from his “Breach” series. He was embedded with American soldiers when they raided Saddam Hussein’s palace. This 2009 photograph shows (Saddam’s) son Uday’s pool. The museum has one from his 2011 “Infra” series (about the conflict in the eastern Congo).

And you have another painting that refers to the Iraq war.

It’s called “Baath Party Headquarters,” and it was painted by Daniel Rich, a German-born artist who makes hard-edged paintings on sintra that refer to current events. He’s made paintings of drones, computer servers and Mubarak’s helicopter.

Tell me about the furnishings in the salon, where your dad’s big painting is displayed.

The chairs were from my grandparents. I remember crawling under them as a child. I had Kansas City Upholstery reupholster them in chartreuse. Kanon picked out the chaise from Design Within Reach, and we found the Le Corbusier chairs at Museo. The table is by Isamu Noguchi.

What are your plans going forward?

I’m going to do twice-yearly exhibits that pair an emerging local or regional artist with a more nationally known name. I’m going to start with Kansas City artist Davin Watne and Angela Fraleigh, who was in the Kemper’s 2007 “Phantasmania” show. I’ll have private openings here that will be casual yet special. I’m thinking about doing a four-session educational series with each show. I’d love to have an artist do a piece with students in my courtyard.

You are following in the footsteps of Dorry Gates, Lennie Berkowitz and Jan Weiner, who were part of a long Kansas City tradition of showing and selling art in a home setting. Does John O’Brien’s announcement that he will close the Dolphin have you thinking about opening a street-level gallery?

It has me thinking about a great many things. I feel like right now the bricks and mortar model is outdated. There are a lot of new models that are possibilities. I don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way. The problem with my current setup is that there is no foot traffic, but I don’t have the burden and stress of overhead.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to athorson@kcstar.com.

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