The MIA Gallery Opens on Main

“The atmosphere is much more the point than what it is you see”, Dr. Samareh explains. What the artists and builders at MIA are trying to achieve is much more ambitious and provocative than the conventional art gallery. They are part of a growing movement trying to literally make art and machines a part of peoples’ lives.

Many of the pieces in the gallery are functional, and serve a practical purpose. At one point, Samareh proceeded to demonstrate the functionality of what looked like an old horse-drawn carriage or a rickshaw, but was really a machine-operated one man carriage. He even plans on equipping it with cup holders and a cooler. He named it Betty. There was an entire wall full of eyes – each with their own depth, shading, and wood gradations – and the patterns and variations were like wallpaper. There was also a hanging indoor canopy that had a very three-dimensional feel.

Dr. Samareh and his crew are not your typical artists, and their training is not typical of the artist’s normal pedigree. Dr. Samareh is an instructor at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and the accompanying members are mostly his students, or graduates of the university. Yes, you heard correctly, Cal Poly.

The members of the MIA gallery team are builders – architects – and they are constantly moving forward. Notice that the word director, and not curator, was used to describe Dr. Samarah’s connection to the gallery. He is their instructor, organizer and mentor, but the group is full of admirable talent. Sho Ikuta, one of the Head Designers, plans and designs the projects before they are built, and Jerry Moreno is a Designer and helps lead production; he builds the projects while ensuring their overall quality during the building process. Many students and artists help with the process as well. Dr. Samareh emphasizes collaboration to create a product. “We thrive on collaborative work. Hardly anything in here is the work of one person”. Like architects and builders of houses, these artists work together to create what can be explained as a blurring of lines between art and living space.

Many of the concepts of the art heretofore explained, though functional, are a little farfetched for the average person to think about using. Although these pieces were riveting and imaginative in their own right, what is more striking were a couple of things that were much simpler: A table and a chair.
The table consisted of a series of planks parallel with each other, coalescing into a narrow base—it created a layered, skeletal and mirrored effect. The idea is to get people familiar with works of art as part of their normal lives.

“I want to take the high brow out of art”, Samareh says. Samareh and the MIA gallery have a futuristic and almost utopian vision of spatial design. Many of the projects they design themselves are designed on computers, and the computers read their designs, and give them to machines to cut out the pieces. Therefore, the computerization and machination technique allows them to broaden their creative horizons. This machine-inspired approach allows for less manual labor and more time to create works of art such as the pieces displayed at the MIA gallery. This creation of dynamic space has been going on for awhile, but the intention here is to bring it into the mainstream.

This is not a fleeting fad. Sho and Samarah believe that this type of technology will be in peoples’ houses soon. Sho even shared with Samareh how he found a three-dimensional printer that was 4000 dollars. All someone has to do is design their furniture, press a button, and they have a table. Artistic expression will be a thing of life and living, not just for the artistically gifted, but also for the normal suburban family. But this inclusive approach makes them, ironically, an oddity in the art world. That is fine, according to Dr. Samareh. “We are the pirates of the art world. We have our own rules”, Dr. Samareh said with a grin.

The MIA gallery will be hosting its exhibit during the Art Walk on February 14th. The main exhibit will occur on the ground floor, and there will be a DJ spinning tunes.

By Andrew Mercado