Upstairs at the Annex

Artist Loft

New art gallery hides above the bookshelves

By Paula Harris

WALK DOWN Fourth Street in downtown Santa Rosa and you’ll only find one art gallery. Or maybe you won’t find it. The newly opened Upstairs at the Annex, well concealed on the upper floor of Copperfield’s Books on Fourth Street, is currently drawing only about 10 visitors per day. But that doesn’t seem to bother curator Clayton Kadleck.

“I didn’t want [the gallery] to be terribly obvious,” he says.

It’s not. In fact, it melts unobtrusively into the background of the bookstore. You have to climb a flight of stairs to get to there, all the time wondering whether you’re going to end up in the employee lunchroom.

But once you enter the gallery, you find something fairly rare on the Sonoma County scene: work by local 20- and 30-something artists. The gallery’s current exhibit, “Coming Attractions: Sonoma County Artists under 40,” features sculpture, photography, and paintings by emerging artists.

The exhibit includes an abstract hanging metal sculpture by Kenn Ferro of Sebastopol; paintings by Ellen Valentine, who grew up in Sonoma County; and a couple of abstract collage-paintings by Kadleck himself, who also pursues painting. “I wasn’t going to put any of my paintings in this show, but then I changed my mind,” he comments.

Kadleck, 35, who is also the bookstore’s assistant manager, is the brains behind the new gallery, which opened last month. “We had space up there that wasn’t being used, so I thought we could make an art gallery,” he explains.

Enter Kadleck, his buddies, and his mom and dad. They painted the walls and grabbed some cheap but highly effective subdued lighting from IKEA. “I like the way the bulbs cast their own colors on the walls,” Kadleck says.

His father (who works in the trucking biz) came up with the idea of hanging panels of pale-toned material to screen off the art gallery space from the bookstore below. And his mom sewed these eight panels, which are made of muslin.

The result is a small but airy hushed space with a comfortable feel in which to contemplate the work currently on display.

“I wanted [the new art gallery] to be a space of its own,” explains Kadleck, “so that it’s part of the bookstore, yet is an entity of its own as well.” The whole project was done on the cheap, costing less than $1,000 to put together.

Kadleck, who serves as the gallery’s curator, is already actively seeking submissions for the gallery’s second show, which will be open to artists of all ages. Titled “The Condition of Music,” the exhibit will explore the relationship of music and various visual art forms. “I had this quote floating about in my head by art historian Walter Pater,” he says. “It says that ‘All art aspires to the condition of music.’ ”

He is hoping to incorporate live music into the exhibit by featuring a harpist and maybe some piano and song and a small music installation.

The new showcase for local artists is drawing positive comments from some on the arts scene.

“It’s great that there’s another venue for artists and to have something downtown is even better,” says Elisa Baker, ARTrails program coordinator and exhibits curator of the Cultural Arts Council of Sonoma County. “The new space is calling in a public that may not normally get to go to an art gallery. ”

Kadleck does hope that word eventually will spread about his gallery. “It’s the perfect location,” he says. “A great atmosphere.”

From the March 8-14, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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