Home is Where the Art Is
opened at Hellion Gallery
this week, and its reception is set to begin at 6pm this evening. Hellion’s first show was last year during Comic-Con, and this celebration marks one year since the gallery, which began in Portland and also has a location in Japan, started showing off art to San Diegans. Fitting perfectly with the title of the show and gallery owner Matt Wagner’s love of promoting artists from all over the world, Home is Where the Art Is features clusters of art curated by various galleries and curators from each of Hellion’s cities, using its proximity to Comic-Con’s madness to shine a light on art from multiple regions. The curators are many, and San Diego’s epic list includes Subtext Gallery, Double Break and Tocayo. The show will be open for viewing until this Sunday, July 15th, everyday from 11am to 7pm, so check it out tonight or this weekend!
We interviewed Matt Wagner about Hellion Gallery’s mission, and its one-year-old location in San Diego:
What propelled you to open Hellion after curating at other galleries?
Working for other galleries was a great experience. I think I learned from both the negative and positive parts of those jobs. Ultimately I have a vision for what I want to show and who I want to work with. That vision didn’t always mesh with the folks I curated for in the past, so the only way to do what I wanted to do was to become completely independent.
I specialize in undiscovered and unnoticed artists from around the world, which also happens to be a niche not really being filled elsewhere. Focusing on integrity and honesty in promoting art is one of my top priorities. Part of that philosophy is education. Helping artists to manage their careers and navigate the difficulties of developing their style is important to me. Sadly, reality does sometimes intrude. Not every artist is going to have sold-out shows and be featured on magazine covers. But that’s OK! They can have a long, fulfilling career ahead of them if they focus on the quality of their work and don’t get distracted by chasing after trends and mass appeal. An artist’s true motivations always come across in the finished piece. There’s a real depth to work that is true to an artist’s sensibilities and viewpoint, but if they become too focused on what other people are doing, the work starts to ring hollow. It’s common sense, but common sense can get lost when you are jockeying for position in the art world. The ultimate reward for me is seeing an artist grow and change and build a stellar body of work. Then it’s up to me to find art lovers who will appreciate it and are willing to compensate them for all that work.
Where was the first Hellion?
Portland, Oregon. My home. I have moved a couple times since opening in 2010, because I kept outgrowing my spaces.
What caused you to expand? Why Portland, Tokyo and San Diego?
Portland is my home and it’s where I first started curating. Hellion Portland is my nest and my personal clubhouse. I love Portland.
As for Japan, I have been traveling there for 13 years now. My earliest trips were out of a general interest in the art and culture of Tokyo, and then by chance I would encounter groups of artists that blew my mind. Talented, hard working, unique, humble… and eager to explore the States. It was difficult at first to convince some of the artists and galleries to take a chance on a random foreigner, but years of building relationships and my reputation have changed that. Now I regularly bring undiscovered Japanese artists to show their work in Portland, and Portland artists to show their work in Japan. It’s a cultural exchange really. I love Japan.
As part of that whole experience, I have just finished writing a book, chronicling the independent creative spirit that thrives in Tokyo, and spotlighting some of the people and places that embody that spirit. The book is titled “The Tall Trees of Tokyo”, and will be out late summer or early fall from Overcup Press.
San Diego is another extension of this idea. It was a natural progression that relied on chance encounters and good people. Kerry Law is my partner in San Diego. Without him, Hellion San Diego would not be happening. He had a space and a desire to do something new and help out some incredible artists. I wanted another venue to showcase the artists that I work with and to make connections with San Diego artists. I’ve been so impressed with the support Hellion has gotten and with the quality of artists I’ve met. I have already incorporated several of them into shows here, in Portland, and in Tokyo. I am a believer in San Diego. There is some serious talent in this town. I love San Diego.
Are you planning to expand to other locations?
Hmmmmm… No plans but things just tend to happen sometimes. I am game for anything. Life is short.