One fault of a talented artist is the tendency to stay within his or her own comfort zone. Had Joel Spencer been one of those people, he would’ve taken the concept of his former art gallery, 222 Imperial, and duplicated it after its 2012 close. Instead, he’s returned with 222 Space, a gallery he and local artist and partner Nova May call a micro gallery.
“222 Space is a drop in a bucket compared to [Imperial],” says Spencer, whose sculptural work includes the submarine at Life Is Beautiful’s 2015 art motel, and whose former gallery spanned 1,000 square feet and featured the likes of artists such as Gina Quaranto of the now-shuttered Blackbird Studios and Giovanni Morales, a Brett Wesley Gallery regular.
But space confinement isn’t something Spencer or May see as a barrier. It’s an opportunity. It’s a challenge. And in some senses, it’s even a game.
“Just playing with the parameters of a certain square foot, a certain logistic has been a lot of fun,” Spencer says. “Thinking what can we accomplish in there? What can we fit in there? What can we manage and how will that affect the way art is perceived?”
Creating interactive experiences is a focal point of 222 Space. Spencer sees the gallery as something of an “experiment,” and his latest exhibit, FUMES, is in a way, the hypothesis.
“FUMES is very whimsical, and open to interpretation,” May, the artist behind the “Love Locket” sculpture in front of Container Park, says. “It could be a political piece, it could be a light, funny piece. It’s all really in the eye of the beholder when you look at it.”
With the art being so exposed, so in your face, you’re compelled to touch it, and that’s exactly what Spencer and May are going for.
Spencer adds to that by explaining the piece is about “the release of imagery into the atmosphere, a purging of ideas and concepts.”
One look at the exhibit and you’ll get the whole “purging” deal. 222 Space is unique in the way visitors are encouraged to view the art. Situated just behind a glass door, the focal piece of FUMES is ethereal in appearance and double-take worthy. With the art being so exposed, so in your face, you’re compelled to touch it, and that’s exactly what Spencer and May are going for.
“If this particular installation was in a bigger space, people would be having their hands behind their back,” Spencer says. “They wouldn’t even think to touch it because it would look so museum-esque and so off limits.”
May says they’re crafting an interactive experience that blurs “the lines between performance art and visual art.” Viewers becoming a part of that performance is a goal of 222 Space, she says. One example of this is a past exhibit Spencer did at Trifecta Gallery called Subtraction. “[It] was probably one of the neatest installation pieces I’ve ever seen,” she says. “That was kind of the inspiration for the gallery in a lot of ways.”
In the exhibit, Spencer covered a room from floor to ceiling in stickers. Visitors were then encouraged to peel them off and put them on a canvas, an activity Spencer probably reveled in (“I like to kind of play the fly on the wall, and let the people really immerse [themselves] in the exhibit and see what they do,” he says.). A time lapse of the entire experience later surfaced, which showed how willing and eager people were to participate.
Similar to that exhibit, you won’t have to sit on your hands at 222 Space either. “I think that in some ways, it’s like [fulfilling] the long dream to be able to bring art and make it really accessible and open to people,” May says.
With a six-month lease, 222 Space is mapping out some unique experiences that will vary from month to month, according to May. Whether they’ll continue after that time is still up in the air, but Spencer already has his mind trained on what the end result should be.
“I would like to accomplish six months of really unique, beautiful works and interactive experiences for people to enjoy. That’s it. That’s my entire goal,” he says.
FUMES at 222 Space
Showing now until January 29. At the Arts Factory. 222space.com, 107 E. Charleston Blvd, Suite 222, 702-979-0303. Viewings (outside the glass door) available anytime. To view the exhibit inside call to book an appointment.