Black and white images of men in various stages of undress ushered guests into Lucky Gallery where artist Alix Sorrell waited to pass out the silly sex sketches she had been creating on pink stock paper all night. Visitors sipped PBR and pondered the relationship between a couple mid-coital in the pencil sketches on the back wall before peeking into a shadow-box sculpture of two people getting it on in a Bushwick bodega. This was the scene at the opening of Lucky’s erotica exhibition, Daily Porn, last February. What was clear from the never-ending stream of people entering the gallery, was that this show, like several others over the past year at Lucky, was shaping up to be a success. What was unclear, was that it would be one of Lucky’s last.
“My landlord sold the building,” explains gallery director Laura Arena. “I actually really expected it to take a lot longer than it did, but in like a month and a half, my lease got terminated.”
Tomorrow night, July 30, marks the closing night of the gallery’s latest, and final, show Arc Angle. The closing party, which includes lots of booze, bands and artsy entertainment, promises to be a bittersweet event for Arena. “I am sad,” she says. “I also kind of feel like it’s an opportunity for me to take what I’ve learned and start over again. I’m trying to be positive about it. At first I wasn’t, but when it’s circumstances you can’t control, you kind of have to.”
Located on Richards Street in Red Hook, Lucky looks and feels more like a living room than an art gallery and exhibits both unconventional and underrepresented artwork, which has distinguished it amidst the neighborhood’s burgeoning art landscape. (Other nearby galleries include WORK gallery, Kentler International Drawing Space, and the Arena-recommended i made an art) “People do experience the shows in a different way than if you were to have white walls and put up pictures,” Arena says. “I wanted to run a gallery that gave people a voice that didn’t necessarily have an audience. My main goal was to get people who don’t go to institutions of art on a regular basis.”
Arena opened this latest incarnation of Lucky Gallery in May 2009–her landlord Ed Rosko previously ran the gallery for seven years. The circumstances under which she opened were, ironically, pretty unlucky. She opened the gallery with the idea that her then boyfriend would run the business side of it. “I met this Romanian artist the summer before I opened the gallery,” Arena explains. “I wanted to get him to New York, and so I wanted to have a job for him. He came, and three weeks later we broke up, and he left.”
When the relationship dust settled, Lucky was left.
Turning people on to Lucky took about four months, Arena says. By August of last year buzz about the space began reverberating beyond Brooklyn, starting with the show Honey I Shrunk Red Hook, an homage to the cult-classic film from the 80s, by artists Luis Blackaller and Andy Cavatorta.
“We set up a living room in front of the gallery, and photographed people front and back and then they made wooden dolls with this laser-cutting coordinate system,” Arena says. “Then they built a wooden replica of the block surrounding the gallery, so these people populated the streets. It was completely to scale. The beauty behind the project was that the people we photographed were a pretty good slice of Red Hook.”
Taking a slice out of Red Hook got Lucky noticed, but it was an exhibition about author Walt Whitman this past winter that really won people over and became emblematic of the gallery’s high-low approach to art and pop culture. Wearing Whitman’s Words: A Typographic Exploration opened in December and flooded the small space with people. “It became so crowded, I had to go outside to get around to the other end of the gallery,” Arena says. The show centered on graphic design and showcased the works of nine designers each asked to interpret a passage from Whitman’s work Leaves of Grass. The visual interpretations were then screened on to T-shirts and displayed inside the gallery to illustrate the effect imagery can have on written words.
Lucky went from T-shirts to tagging for its most extreme exhibition Anatomically Incorrect, (pictured above) a collaborative show of street artists, including 12-year-old Red Hook resident Maxwell Perisol, who began making street art at age 11. Each artist created anatomy artwork on the gallery’s walls, floor and ceiling.
“I really enjoy transforming the gallery,” Arena says. “It’s almost like making a large installation of my choosing.”
Arena says Lucky won’t likely be her last foray in the art world. She’s considering opening another gallery overseas. Fingers crossed of course.
Text by Jordan Galloway sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Lucky Gallery.