It was only early evening on Saturday, but the sidewalks on Sunset Blvd. in Echo Park were already littered with ambling hipsters, searching for their first haunt. Sandwiched halfway between Short Stop and Little Joy was a storefront art gallery with a gaping, crimson red mouth framing the doorway, below its sinister smile a floppy tongue mat beckoning me in. Los Angeles art collective Future Tongue celebrated its first birthday with an opening gallery, and across four walls hung art from six of the seven artists they’ve profiled over the last year.
Before Saturday, Future Tongue operated primarily as an online platform, led by Britt Harrison and Justine Jaime. The two women are artists themselves, and founded the collective with the idea of uniting and providing support for the local art community. The artists featured don’t share much in the way of theory or mediums, but one common thread is their dedicated studio practice.
Reflecting on their selection process, Harrison remarked, “We cast our net rather wide because we’re interested in a lot of different styles of art, and most of all we wanted to make sure that we were talking to someone who values their work and was working towards spending a lot of time in the studio. A big part of what we’re trying to do is show how other people make this very challenging financial career happen for themselves in such an expensive city.”
Indeed, the artist profiles on Future Tongue are not your typical write ups. The artists are shadowed in their studios, with Harrison fielding the questions while Jaime’s flawless eye captures the entire process on video. For several minutes, viewers are privy to the inner workings and honed techniques of artists who have sustained what our parents insisted would never amount to a “real career” for decades.
“A lot of artists feel isolated in this huge city and there’s a lot of competition so I think some look at it like there’s only enough space for one person,” Harrison noted.
“One important thing that we’ve learned is that artists want and need a community of other artists to work with, have fun with, and have dialogue with,” Jaime added.
The gallery space is quaint, but I don’t tire of the pieces as I make laps around the room; and as I notice the artists engaging with guests and explaining their work, I realize that Jaime is right. I can’t help gushing over Kim Kei’s elegant and emotional art, and somehow I find myself surprised when she embraces me and tells me how much it means to her that her art makes me feel.
She tells me that it’s not unusual for her to work on the same piece for up to a year, beginning with miniature sculptures that she makes from random materials, before peeling them apart, photographing the process, and ultimately translating it into a painting. The end results are fluid, writhing forms that captivate with their vulnerability.
An 8 ft. tall oil painting on canvas by Nick Brown hangs just to the right of the entrance; it depicts the debilitating landscape of Mt. Baldy, with negative space used to create an atmosphere that feels almost post apocalyptic, sending a shiver down my spine.
Beside his pieces, Deedee Cheriel’s work is also nature-themed, but instead of landscapes she paints whimsical bird people that shimmy over wood panel.
The subjects of Harry Gamboa’s photography are familiar strangers, and captured within his lens lies the tenderness and respect he holds for each man: one, his uncle, and the other a neighborhood figure most often seen pushing a cart. At the back of the gallery beside the bar, Ernesto Yerena’s screen prints pop, and Luna Fox, one of only 300 signed prints, hypnotizes with beady red eyes.
Bri Cirel’s layered, commercial driven art provokes with a dark sense of humor, and calls into questions art’s long held obsession with the naked female form.
Both Harrison and Jaime admit they had no idea the gallery would be such a success, and are excited to see what the future holds for Future Tongue. “We’re hoping to build something together and allow our interests to drive the direction. We’re kind of just taking it step by step to see what’s feasible and where we’re going to be in the next couple of years, but I know that we’re both really passionate about seeing where this can go,” Harrison enthused.
Though known for our creativity, Angelenos also have a reputation of being standoffish and self-involved. The culture of competitiveness that Harrison alluded to is very real. It’s refreshing to see a collective that is founded on community and seeks not only to translate an artist’s language, but to inspire a future generation to create their own.
Future Tongue is holding a closing reception at the gallery on Wednesday, November 11th from 6pm – 10pm.
Can’t get enough?
Future Tongue will be displaying at the Lost Knight in Echo Park for the entire month of December, and adding some additional pieces from the artists’ collections. The opening reception is Dec 5th.