Artist Khari Turner in front of two of his paintings at the opening of his solo show at Voss Gallery in May. Photo by Amy Tam.

It’s an event that most gallery owners daydream about: a sold-out show. 

Ashley Voss, the owner, and curator of Voss Gallery at the corner of 24th and Bartlett had her first with Khari Turner’s current exhibit “Hella Water.” 

The exhibit’s 12 paintings sold within 6 hours, and the show had not yet opened.  You can still see them, until this Saturday. (The gallery is open from 12 to 6 p.m.) 

“This show is insane, because there were 100 people on the list” to buy the 12 works, Voss said, recalling the incessant emails and phone ringing on May 21, when the show opened.

How to choose who gets the work? Voss struck a balance between prioritizing local collectors and those who had supported her in the past, while also encouraging new buyers.

Ashley Voss of Voss Gallery in front of two paintings by the artist Khari Turner, whose paintings have been on view since mid-May. The solo show closes tomorrow. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

Under usual circumstances, Voss posts the works online and creates a print to sell alongside the art. Under normal circumstances at the gallery opening, she is busy talking with people and encouraging them to purchase works of art. But this was not a normal circumstance. At the opening, she joked with the artist about not knowing what to do. For the first time, she was able to simply relax and talk to people about the art, not worrying about sales. 

Turner, a 29-year-old artist from Milwaukee, WI, and a current MFA graduate student at Columbia University, said this exhibit is influenced by his connection with hip-hop and rap. 

He likes the works to be ambiguous, so that many different people can relate to his work. 

Khari Turner
Flamboastin’, 2021
Acrylic, Oil, Ink, Charcoal, Sand, & Water from the Pacific Ocean, Lower Manhattan Harbor, Lake Michigan, & the Milwaukee River on Pape
30 x 22 in

The paintings, with titles such as “Ballin Outta Control,” “Can’t F**k With Me,” and “Never Talk Down,” come from songs by E-40 and Too $hort, both Bay Area rappers Turner grew up listening to. 

His work “celebrates black beauty,” says Voss, and the prices run from $1,800 to $13,500.

“The work is a lot about emotion and just being able to feel it … People will see the work and not know exactly what I’m going for, but they’ll feel it, one way or another,” he said.  

Voss believes people resonate with Turner’s work because of the nature of what has been going on socially and politically in the past year. 

Turner told Voss that in creating these paintings, his job “is to put the paint in certain spots, and then the paintings paint themselves, depending upon the minerals in the water, the salt, and the sand.” The artist incorporated water collected from places including the Pacific Ocean, Manhattan Harbor and Lake Michigan. He mixes the water with paint to create cracks and movement in the artwork. 

Khari Turner
Gettin It, 2021
Acrylic, Oil, Ink, Charcoal, Sand, & Water from the Pacific Ocean, Lower Manhattan Harbor, Lake Michigan, & the Milwaukee River on Canvas
60 x 48 x 1.5 in

Tajae Brown, 22, stopped in at the gallery on Friday to check out the paintings. For Brown, the use of sand and water has a “nice healing element to it, and makes it feel almost like it’s real and very present.” 

Brown said she was surprised to walk into the gallery and see images celebrating black beauty. “It’s very new,” she said. 

Mazin Jamal, who came into the gallery with Brown, said he feels Black noses and lips have historically been demonized and viewed as lesser, so “the fact that they are highlighted in this beautiful way makes the art feel healing, especially with what has been happening.” 

Back in August, Turner had a small piece in a group exhibition at Voss Gallery, which sold quickly. Noticing his popularity, Voss decided to book a solo show of his work, straying away from her tendency to focus on local Bay Area artists. 

The attention “Hella Water” has received has brought attention to the gallery and elevated the artists she works with. On Friday, she was working on shipping a large painting to China from a previous show that she had just recently sold.

Turner’s twelve works will be shipped to places such as the United Kingdom, New York, China, and Maryland. Others will stay here. 

“It’s definitely going to be hard to top this show,” says Voss. 

Gallery Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 12 to 6 p.m. or by appointment.
Address: 3344 24th Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

Gallery website

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Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys working at the intersection of art and politics, and focusing on the stories of individuals to reveal larger themes.

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