OHWOW galleries exude a feeling of innovation. The spaces specialize in exhibitions, special projects and publications that initially adopted a street art aesthetic and later evolved to encompass progressive and experimental projects. OHWOW is on the one hand weighty in content and on the other, truly cool. This cache may also be attributed to OHWOW’s presence in three major US cities: Miami, New York and Los Angeles.
Established in 2008 by Al Moran and Aaron Bondaroff, the aim of OHWOW is “to encourage artistic innovation and provide a platform for progressive art of all media, featuring both emerging and established artists’ work.”
We take a look at a slice of their diverse program in all three cities.
written by Claire Breukel
OHWOW MIAMI: MICHAEL GENOVESE
Michael Genovese is a breath of fresh air.
His ability to engage public participation is uncanny and he uses this engagement to both inform and fuel his work. His solo exhibition “It’s Not the Heat, it’s the Humility” opened
in OHWOW, Miami in 2009, and focused on creating a collective discourse by not only integrating text sourced from the general public, but also engaging his audience in a physical obstacle course within the space.
In his “P.S.” series, Genovese painstakingly etched large metal plates with text collected from a four year long public project that invites people to share and write down their opinions and ideas. The text is engraved delicately on to the reflective plates, so the audience is invited to step in to read while being mirrored in the work. In conjunction with these plates Genovese strategically placed sculptures throughout the gallery so that they suggested a playground or obstacle course. And on opening night that’s is exactly what it became.
Genovese is incredibly adept at engaging (and creating) social situations that embrace multi-
culturalism in a way that is both genuine and truthful. He is currently preparing for an upcoming
not-to-be-missed solo exhibition at OHWOW Los Angeles in fall 2012.
OHWOW LOS ANGELES: JOSÉ PARLÁ
José Parlá is an artist obsessed with surface working with paint, mono-transfers and installation. At first his work appears too close to the abstractionists and therefore feels “done”, however on closer inspection the layers of texture reveal text, remnants of wheat-pasted posters, as well as layers of other architectural surfaces. His works explore visual communication, more specifically Parlá investigates the “concept of psychogeography”, recreating contemporary modes of mark making that, through their layering, allude to human experience and a suggested history. Parlá’s solo exhibition “Character Gestures “ opens on September 9th at OHWOW Los Angeles.
OHWOW NEW YORK: RETAIL THERAPY
Then there are the publications…
OHWOW features a combination
of art publications with sassy titles such as “From the Silence of Duchamp to the Noise of Boys”,
the first book of poetry by Michael David Quattlebaum, Jr.; Dan Colen’s “PEANUTS”; “I Want A Little Sugar in My Bowl” by NYC artist Terence Koh and “Fuck Friends”
by another New York-based artist Leo Fitzpatrick featuring collaborations between Fitzpatrick and a number of his artist friends and peers.
OHWOW bookstore NYCThe 150 square foot OHWOW retail space is designed by Rafael de Cárdenas, founder of Architecture At Large, who is renowned for using light color and pattern to create mood. In this vein, de Cárdenas has created a black and white tile floor as well as a patterned wall overlaid with a myriad of bookshelves that are backed in plain white, some allowing the wall pattern behind to show through, and others echoing the shape of a staircase. The shop is truly an art installation lit by large florescent strip lights affixed to its jet-black ceiling. The overall effect is like stepping in to another time zone that is too sophisticated in design to be psychedelic…but it has a similar effect.
This fits OHWOW’s vision to create “a heterotopic arena for cultural projects.” What does heterotopic mean? Heterotopia is a concept created by the philosopher Michel Foucault to describe “other spaces”. OHWOW galleries are certainly “other” in a landscape that, in contrast, is filled with many duller and less tantalizing commercial galleries.
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Claire Breukel is a Contemporary art curator and writer based in New York and Miami. She is interested in artwork that falls out of conventional modes of exhibition.