Control Room: New downtown art space

IMG_2006Art is hard. I think so, anyway.

Not hard to create, really — although creating art is much harder than most people probably think — but often hard to know how you’re supposed to interact with. Sometimes, of course, that’s the point; a lot of art is meant to challenge your idea of what art is supposed to be. And sometimes, for any number of reasons, art can be so intimidating that we get turned off by it altogether. When I was a kid going to museums — and I’m sure I’m not alone here — I was so frequently warned not to touch the art that I developed the notion that good art was, well, untouchable. Meant to be looked at from afar but never interacted with in a meaningful way.

It’s a problem startup galleries like Control Room are trying to solve. For many young artists, breaking into any city’s art scene is about as easy as giving individual baths to a roomful of cats without getting the floor wet. And any local art scene can seem impenetrable to the common consumer of art. Control Room, a small space on 7th Street just west of Alameda (the Wholesale District, maybe? I dunno, exactly), attempts to welcome both casual art enthusiasts like myself and serious early-career artists looking for a place to get their work seen.

Read more, along with pics both artsy and fartsy, after the jump.

Phoomp!
Phoomp!

In the center of Control Room’s floor is a tactile piece called Phoomp, which consists of a clear plastic tube, a firing pin, and a foam ball. It’s designed to be played with — and once people get over their initial apprehension, that’s exactly what happens. By pushing the firing pin, you can fire the ball across the room (usually into the calves of someone looking at another piece of art). Phoomp is a good example of the space’s mission of creating a community where new artists can get viewers to interact with their work in a meaningful way, according to its founders, William Kaminski and Evelena Ruether.

Control Room patrons check out "Sink to Hell," a piece about suicide and fame.
Control Room patrons check out "Sink to Hell," a piece about suicide and fame.

There are lots of alternative art spaces, they say, but even with those in place, a lot of early-career artists get a feeling of inaccessibility in trying to get a foothold in the local arts scene. And in a struggling economy it’s even worse. “The art market is the first thing to go down the toilet when the economy takes a dive,” Kaminski told me. One of Control Room’s most important goals is to provide a space for local talent that’s looking for a place to ply their trade during a time when opportunity is hard to come by.

Two control room patrons examine an awesome piece whose name I totally forget.
Two control room patrons examine an awesome piece whose name I totally forget.

Kaminski lives in the same building as Control Room — right in back of the display space. Ruether lived there before him, and one of the walls is still magnetized from one of her artistic experiments with magnetic paint. It’s an odd space for a pair of artists to live an work — after 6 PM the street is a ghost town. The night I visited, the only other human presence was about four guys surround a nighttime taco stand. But Control Room was milling. The space is in a challenging location, but as such it can’t help but stand out. I don’t get to small galleries much; I’ll admit to being a little intimidated, and I’m sure I’m not alone. But I’m hoping places like Control Room can change that.

Control Room is planning several smaller events throughout February and March. Visit the gallery here, where you can find contact info.

V.H. 1, oil on canvas. Also, awesome.
"V.H. 1," oil on canvas. Also, awesome.

One Reply to “Control Room: New downtown art space”

  1. 7th west of Alameda–that’s near where (up on 6th street) Jim Fittipaldi’s art salons and life drawing nights used to go down, and where I once found myself bellying up to the speakeasy bar next to Huell Howser while artists sketched a bunch of semi-nude models clad in Egyptian-style accessories (they did a different theme every week). And in a parking lot at 7th and Alameda was where my fire-performance crew used to convene every Wednesday night to practice fire-spinning. Sounds like Control Room is a bit down the street from there. Suffice to say–it’s a good area for art.

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