Photo by Rush Varela
THE RISE OF POST-POP ART. One way in which Cartwright supports the artists’ businesses is by charging smaller commission fees, so that artists can sell quality work for lower costs. He also offers incentives: if an artist attends some opening events, he charges them a lower fee. According to Cartwright, this model works because it allows artists to run a business and have interpersonal connections with their clients. “My exhibition studio artists are running smaller businesses out of my larger space,” Cartwright notes. “They also get the benefit of meeting their patrons and press at openings.”
On a broad level, Cartwright operates by taking in artists and nurturing them. One of his biggest hurdles, therefore, is that he has to evaluate a wide range of work, from novice artists to the prolific. “I have to deal with all levels of experience, and learn to be flexible in dealing with a wide variety of people,” he explains. “But all in all it’s a positive experience.” And while turning down some artists is expected, Cartwright emphasizes that it never signals the end of a career. “I’ve learned to say no, but generally when a no is coming from me, the person gets several yes’s as well,” says Cartwright. “If an artist comes in and it doesn’t work for my gallery, it doesn’t mean his or her art is bad or good. It just means it may not work for my gallery.”
True to form, Cartwright also makes it a point to educate artists whenever he can. “When an artist comes to me, they will get invaluable information on what they can do to work for my gallery, or where their work may fit in at other galleries,” he explains. “I want all artists to do well. But most importantly, I need to stand strong on illustrating the importance of an artist to be continually fine-tuning their trade. There is always a better artist, so work hard, get better and be open for critique.”
Resident Artists are vital to the Hive, and Cartwright has a list of criteria when making his selection. “I’m looking for working artists with dedication to their trade, and quality work,” he says. “I like to see that the artists have a certain level of skill in figurative representation.” Cartwright is open to any format for the gallery, from photography and painting, to digital works. But he admits he is especially interested in illustration. “I’m looking for interesting styles in this realm,” he states.
“This often moves towards the zone of surrealism, and more specific to the Southern California style of Pop-Surrealism.”
Although Cartwright does not search for specific themes when selecting exhibitions, he notes that there are certain thematic elements that prevail. For instance, many of the artists tend to convey what he calls an “urban edge” in their work. “We are deep in the heart of Downtown LA. An artist’s environment helps to mold what he or she creates,” says Cartwright. “Artists are inspired by familiar characters and icons, but they create them in new and exciting ways which can often be comical, controversial, dreamy or political.”
Like most other galleries in the area, the monthly Downtown Art Walk is an important aspect of the Hive’s business. Cartwright appreciates the community aspect of the Art Walk, and the diverse clientele the event attracts to his gallery and to Downtown Los Angeles. “The Art Walk is extremely important in bringing the community of LA together,” he says. “It’s invaluable to my resident artists as well because they have regular customers who come and buy their work. Money helps feed the creative machine.” What is particularly important to Cartwright is getting Art Walk visitors to take in and appreciate the work. “All types of people come through the gallery and learn how exciting art really can be,” he says. “I want to spread visual goodness to the masses, and give my attendees a monthly, authentic experience.”
Watching artists develop and blossom is what drives Cartwright. He says, “I’m proud of what a number of artists that I helped start out are doing with their art. I get to see them grow from art infancy to mature adulthood.” The fact that the Hive has lasted for as long as it has is another source of pride for Cartwright. He is thankful for the Hive’s continued impact on Downtown. “I’m proud that I have created a flourishing community of over 30 resident artists, and an exhibitor of up to 100 artists every month in the bustling, evolving New Downtown.”
Cartwright has much to look forward to. Recently voted Best Gallery in LA (LAWeekly), The Hive will also return for the 3rd time to Tokyo, this time participating in Ultra Art Fair (the only American gallery in the show).
The Hive studios are full, with over 35 working/exhibiton artists and has a waiting list for up and coming worker bees. Hive shows are held every 1st Saturday of the month and studio artists are present to sell directly to the gallery’s patrons. In addition, Nathan is showing personal work in Milan, Tokyo and LA and will be in his first Museum show at The Harwood Museum in New Mexico in September. The show is called “The Kings and Queens of Cool”.
Finally, Cartwright is working on a featured show for October 2015 in Tokyo at Alice and Beanstalks Gallery.
The Hive is located at 729 South Spring Street. Hours are 1pm-6pm Wednesday through Saturday, and by appointment Sunday through Tuesday. FMI:HIVEGALLERY.COM