Over course of a nearly a dozen shows in less than a year and a half, Downtown Jax DIY art venue The Space Gallery has been in a constant state of transformation. The capacious, exposed brick gallery has been, at one time or another, an outlet for post-election catharsis, a shadowy house of worship, and a raucous, indoor garage rock festival, among other things. On Friday, April 27th (and on select dates throughout the month of May), the Space Gallery will be transformed for the last time before it’s taken over by a new owner (concept TBA, as of press time).
“It’s fitting. People who came to multiple openings at the gallery would often comment on how different it looked from one show to the next,” says abstract painter and Space Gallery cofounder Wyatt Parlette. “This is one last transformation.”
For “Other Places” Parlette and cofounder Matthew Bennett, as well as Union Art Studios artist Nathan Eckenrode will take a trip down memory lane, each exploring how the loci of their formative years have shaped the present. For Parlette that journey has him layering shades of teal, yellow, and purple on large drop cloth canvasses—a color scheme drawn from holidays and summers spent visiting family New Orleans. The new exhibition also prompted Parlette to tap into his inner-child to construct life-size ramshackle treehouse dwellings.
“I’m an only child. And as such, you’re always looking for outlets for creativity,” Parlette says of channeling the artisan skills of his adolescence. “Tree houses were like second homes to me as a child. I thought that it’d be interesting to bring that to the gallery space.”
Part of the allure of The Space Gallery, both for the artists who’ve shown there and for the patrons who viewed the artist’s works, is the freedom that the space (and its founders) allow the artists for experimentation.
“Usually when you’re coming up with concepts, you’re not thinking, ‘I want to build a life-size tree house coming out of the wall,’” Parlette admits. “But when you have a space like this gallery, you realize anything is accessible. And with the the trust from Matt and [fellow cofounder] Laura [Bennett] that your concept will work visually, you really feel like all the doors are open. It gives you that artistic license to go for it.”
More proof of Space’s ability to embolden can be found in the work Bennett is preparing for “Other Places.” A figurative painter, adept with oil on canvass, Bennett will step outside of his comfort zone for the upcoming installation and invite patrons to step inside a colossal geodesic dome. Bennett’s work for “Other Places” is drawn from his experiences living in Japan, where he found one could feel both confined and unimpeded, often simultaneously.
“[Matt] wanted to push himself and experiment more with this installation,” Parlette says. “Get out of his comfort zone of oil on a panel. The work he’s created is really busy and chaotic. It has a feeling of expanse, but also like it might collapse in at anytime. It’s an exciting departure for him.”
It may seem as though the artist’s behind the artist-run Space Gallery are beginning to spread their proverbial wings just as Space faces its impending demise. As part of the Building Art Program, Parlette and the Bennetts were free to use the building at 120 E. Forsyth until a new buyer was secured. The plan was always, if they had any semblance of success with the Space Gallery, that they’d be kicked out, eventually.
“When we first came into this, we didn’t know if people were going to turn out for shows,” Parlette says. “But people showed up and kept showing up. It’s proof that we do have a thriving art scene [in Jacksonville] and that there are people who want to join in. We’re sad to see it go, but we’re excited to try and do something new.”
*Other Places opening reception is Friday, April 27, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Space Gallery.