Despite his tall and lean stature, Nathan Cartwright, curator and owner of the Hive Gallery & Studio at 729 Spring St., has to stand at the very top of a wobbly stepladder, where the words DO NOT STAND are clearly posted. He does this to paint the remaining details on a series of intricate “glyphs” along the coved ‘parapet’ of the upper wall. Nathan, along with his colony of buzzing artists, has been hard at work every day for the past two months on The New Avatars of Hive Land, a collection of strange, mystical stone gargoyles that watch over the lobby.
Each person-sized statue, painted by a different resident Hive artist on a foam cutout, represents the respective painters higher self. Nathan’s avatar, the Big Bee above the entrance, protects the “Compound Eye of Existence”, a layered projection of eyeballs and tripiness by Michael Allen, who is currently on-tour with Warpaint and responsible for the bands signature visuals. Hive Land is one of the main attractions at a special event being held at the upcoming Downtown LA Art Walk on April 4th.
“It’s like a Hall of Olympians…like these [statues] are some of our best warriors,” says Nathan with a smiling moustache. “But instead it’s the Hall of Honey”
One of the first art galleries to pop up in DTLA, Hive celebrates its exciting past, present and future at the Hive Ten Year Anniversary, which features eye catching installations, live DJ spinning, live painting and even a birthday cake. Besides the New Avatars of Hive Land, there will be a Family Reunion that brings past residency artists together with new Hive dwellers. Best Of The Hive will feature established or recognizable artists that started as unknown ‘larvae’ in the buzzing 3000 square/foot space.
The first 100 attendees to the April 4th celebration also get free goodies including Royal Jelly 2 DVDs, chronicling past shows, video art pieces and interviews with the artists who have called the gallery home.
“We’ve done a show every month since our opening in 2005.” Cartwright recalls. “The way I got discovered was at the grand opening of the Art Walk (in 2004). I did an event on the roof of a parking lot. And we had all this projection, performances and I had all these featured artists, many of them well known around the world.” This brought Nathans artistic and organizational talent to the spotlight. It also caught the attention of LA Art Walk founder Burt Green, who encouraged Nathan to get his band of merry artists into a permanent space, which eventually became Hive.
“I think that’s the big thing to remember,” says Cartwright. “That back in 2005, NO ONE was here. The big incentive for building owners was to bring galleries here…pioneering into a seemingly rough neighborhood, and [artists and gallery owners] take the brunt of the craziness.” However, despite perceived danger, patrons would flock by the thousands from all over Los Angeles County and beyond for a night of art, which gradually warmed people to the idea of moving downtown.
“We need to remember that art is what makes any living environment special…knowing there’s new things to see on a regular basis. Not just bars and food.” In spit of the Hive’s long running popularity, Cartwright sees a worrisome trend of galleries closing shop in the Historic Core. “ This all started from the galleries that were here and making their mark at the time.”
Nathan Cartwright – Photo by Keri Freeman
In the middle of the interview, two teenage skateboarders checked out some of the pieces on display. One of Hive Gallery & Studio’s main philosophies is Art for the People; exemplified by affordable pricing, eye catching visuals and the often-humorous work on display. Unlike the white-wall gallery next door, which displayed abstract art that would require an art school degree to enjoy, Hive artwork tends to be figurative (resembles people) or narrative (tells a story) and draws you in immediately with “very repulsive or very attractive” imagery. Some of the artists even employ pop-culture characters and symbols like McDonalds, Disney, X-Men, Star Wars and other instantly recognizable symbols or fictional characters, bringing in a broader audience. Such practices might be called ‘pandering’ in certain artistic circles.
Nathan disagrees. “I think it’s the perfect drug. You want people hooked, you want people getting excited.” He relates the story of his app designer (currently programming a digital Hive Tarot Deck). “That gentleman had never been to a gallery before. He didn’t really care; he’s a programmer guy. But when he walked in here he was like ‘this is so cool!’”.
With over 200 artists on display for the 10th anniversary, Nathan highlighted a few of his picks for Art Walkers to look out for:
- Peter Goode – featured artist, “an unknown but good painter” from LA that does a lot of fairy tale inspired works.
- Chinacat663 – featured artist from the East Coast, she makes art that is ‘cute with a darkside’.
- Jay Salvador – draws bigheaded cartoon caricatures of your favorite video game, TV and movie characters. He’s currently “selling the s__t out of” his Emo Friends exhibit.
- Meirav Haber – resident at the Hive for over 10 years, she’s popular for her gothic marionettes, jewelry and bird sculptures, sometimes using actual skeletons.
- Andrew Danielsen – specializes in painting cityscapes and imperfect LA sunsets. He can be found at the very back of the space, where Nathan keeps some of his “best stuff”.
- Daisuke Okamoto – with his very finely detailed drawings that harkens to the cybernetic artworks of H.R. Geiger, Okamoto’s style is very recognizable in Los Angeles and Tokyo. You’ve probably seen at least one Okamoto T-shirt or street art poster around town, making you say, “Ohhh, it’s THAT guy! I like him.”
- Tslil Tsemet – fairly new addition to the gallery, her X-Rated renderings are both repulsive and attractive at once, enticing the viewer to stay awhile and absorb the hidden messages within her style of imperfect nakedness.
- Pop Swap – see the work of ‘exchange artists’ that have traded spaces with Hive regulars to show you new art from Spain, Germany, South Africa and others.
The Hive Gallery & Studio celebrates its 10 Year Anniversary during the April 2015 Downtown Art Walk on Saturday the 4th from 8PM – 11PM. Food will be provided by Karma (not free, but dee-licious!) and Hive patrons get 10% off drinks at nearby Peking Tavern. There is a $5 suggested donation on opening day, and the show continues until May 2nd. 729 South Spring Street, Los Angeles CA, 90014 – FMI:THEHIVEGALLERY.COM