Gallery Hijinks, one of the Mission’s newest galleries, is transforming into a psychedelic pop-art wonderland this Saturday, when it opens an exhibit for New York-based collage artist Sebastian Wahl.
In its third solo artist show since opening last July, the gallery will display Wahl’s multilayered mixed-media resin collages. Many are titled “Kaleidoscope Eye,” in reference to their circular repetitions of pictures.
“It’s always exciting to see this place transform,” said gallery owner Jillian Mackintosh, 25. “The show right now is organic and inspired by nature, so I can’t wait to see it as this pop with color.”
Hijinks is part of a new trend in galleries that have opened in the Mission District in the last year. Nicole Cresenzi, gallery assistant at the Mission Cultural Center, which has been around since 1977, said that owners are attracted to the neighborhood because its word-of-mouth nature allows them to create a conceptually-based D.I.Y space.
“A lot of project spaces are about selling a different discourse than the ones you see downtown,” said Cresenzi. “The banker in the suit in the financial district isn’t necessarily going to buy into it.”
Hijinks distinguishes itself by making its windows pop. For the Wahl show, for example, the artist will install two vinyl eye stickers with pupils made of mirrored kaleidoscopes.
“The gallery will look like it’s staring at you,” Mackintosh said. “It’s a way for people to experience a visual message without coming in. If someone chooses to come in, they are taking that experience one step further.”
Mackintosh, who has a business and marketing degree from San Francisco State, and her boyfriend, designer Joe Lumbroso, started the gallery to showcase emerging artists. Mackintosh already had experience working for several galleries in San Francisco, including Peter Lick and White Walls, one of San Francisco’s most prominent urban art galleries.
At the time they discovered the space at 21st and Bryant streets, Mackintosh and Lumbroso weren’t even looking to rent, only discussing the idea. After exploring the space, they decided to go ahead, and snagged it.
Mackintosh said she is glad that she found a neighborhood so supportive and diverse, despite the high cost of the commercial space. She believes the gallery brings a youthful and approachable vibe that aims to distinguish itself from galleries that are confined to a certain group of people.
The name Hijinks, meaning merry-making or shenanigans, is what Mackintosh hopes people will indulge in inside. The 350-square-foot interior is less intimidating and “museum-esque” than larger spaces, she said.
“When people walk into the gallery, there’s nowhere to hide. Most people who come, come into the gallery because you can see all the work from the outside.”
In contrast, Andres Guerrero, owner of the Guerrero Gallery, which opened last spring at at 2700 19th Street, believes that breathability in a gallery is an important quality for exhibiting an artist’s work.
“I want to cater to the artist’s needs,” Guerrero said. “There are a lot of artists who have ideas of installations and want to work bigger. The space caters to all that.”
Guerrero’s gallery is currently showing 33 artists in an exhibit called “Nothing to Say,” where text is juxtaposed with pieces of work to illustrate that art should speak for itself. Its goal is to facilitate a visual/literal dialogue with the viewer, Guerrero said.
The exhibit features collages of folded money, a wood and steel sculpture, neon lighting fixtures, pencil sketches, oil paintings and an installation by Boston’s Boys and Girls Club.
The textual theme, Guerrero said, was inspired by his longtime interest in graffiti.
An artist himself, Guerrero said that displaying all different kinds of media challenges his own beliefs regarding art.
“You want art to produce banter and dialogue, and present something stimulating,” he said.
Unlike Mackintosh, Guerrero believes an open warehouse ambiance is most conducive to viewing and displaying art.
“When someone comes in here, they can see more examples of who an artist is,” Guerrero said. “And that’s a good thing.”
Despite his experience as owner of White Walls, Guerrero is still discovering his curatorial purpose. The enthusiasm of his neighbor galleries—Steve Wolf at 2747 19th Street and Southern Exposure at 3030 20th Street—and the historical and cultural relevance of the area make the Mission an environment conducive to viewing art, he said.
As far as his location being far from foot traffic, he’s not worried.
“People follow artists. They’re seeking out the work. They make [the gallery] a destination.”
Guerrero considered the SOMA district when looking for a space to rent, but found his current place on 19th and Bryant after a friend who lived in the building informed him of the soon-to-be vacant space.
It was bigger than what he had imagined, but that forced him to work harder to unite all pieces in a cohesive show.
While Gallery Hijinks and Guerrero Gallery are comfortable with settling into the quieter part of the Mission, Freya Prowe, 39, owner of Slingshot Gallery on Valencia Street, says her central location is a perfect spot for passersby to stop in for an impromptu visit.
Slingshot is a pop-up gallery that opened in November but could be booted at any time if the building is purchased.
The space—on Valencia at 20th Street—used to be a furniture store. When it closed, Prowe and her husband decided to “take advantage of the economy being in the toilet.”
“We popped up quickly, put a bunch of spackle on the walls and some lights up, and we could be gone as soon as we came,” Prowe said. “Because we’re a pop-up, we have the freedom of not having a program, and we’re not constrained by rental agreements. We can show high-quality work that we enjoy.”
Slingshot is currently exhibiting its second show, titled “Temple of Flora,” which displays women and women’s work centered on the theme of flowers. All the artists, including Freya Prowe, Angela Simione and ex-Mission resident Launa Bacon, are women.
The gallery’s name reflects that it is mobile, but Prowe is convinced that its temporary nature will not interfere with her plans for the space. She hopes to install a movie projector that will cast images onto the upper loft room of the gallery. She also plans to construct a wishing well cascading down to a projection of flowing water for the gallery’s next show, “Literati,” an artistic homage to literature.
The new exhibit, opening February 10, will display works from four artists, but Prowe said she avoids presenting work like a collective. Instead, she collaborates with artists to create a theme that empowers their work.
“When a show is put together, a work should strengthen another work. It shouldn’t be like a flea market. It should have a strong voice coming through.”
Prowe isn’t sure where Slingshot gallery will catapult to next, but considers the bad economy a mixed blessing for her business.
“The neighborhood is so word-of-mouth-based, and merchants are so supportive. We’re eyeing other potential spaces in the Mission. We’d love to stay here.”