New subterranean shop makes space for ‘low-brow’ art
Ira Hunter is all about finding niches. When he saw that the west coast didn’t have a magazine covering punk, hardcore and metal music, he got to work on Absolute Underground Magazine, which is now distributed all over Canada and in parts of the U.S..
When he thought the world needed a monthly web-based TV show covering similar ground, he helped launch Absolute Underground TV. And when he saw that local artists could use a place to display and sell their art, he set up a gallery.
“I’m all about the local art and supporting people,” he says. “It’s like the Absolute Underground magazine, giving people their first chance to be published. It’s the same thing, the first chance to have your art in an art show.”
The Absolute Underground Gallery is located in AU’s new storefront in Trounce Alley — and is, quite literally, underground in the lower-level shops just off Government Street. In addition to being a place where local bands can sell their T-shirts and CDs, or hardcore fans can pick up an obscure 7-inch, local artists can also put up their work and make their first sale.
Pop into Absolute Underground’s subterranean space and you’ll see quirky works like rock-god portraits (during my visit, Dimebag Darrell, Marilyn Manson and Slash had all been immortalized in paint), macabre Disney prints and band photography.
While it’s fast becoming a hub for the local community — the space is also home to a photography studio and a video-editing suite for the Absolute Underground TV show — Hunter hopes to attract some tourists and show them a different side of Victoria’s art scene.
“We want them to come and check out the local art, and maybe not your highbrow, fancy art gallery,” he says. “Maybe what was lacking in Victoria a little bit was a lowbrow art gallery…. Like everything I do, I’m just making the art gallery that I would want to go to.”
The gallery has also expanded into doing art shows, such as this weekend’s Black Valentine, which features work from folks like Trust666, Cam Kallos and others.
It’s the third show Absolute Underground has hosted — the previous ones featured art with a Halloween and Christmas theme — and Hunter sees it as a way to draw new people into the space, not to mention a way to have a good time without bugging their neighbours.
“Ideally, we’d like to be throwing shows with bands, but the landlord right away was like, ‘No live music,’” he says. “So we thought we could still have art shows and art show parties. That’s still a way to get new, fresh people to come down all the time, because that’s what we need.”
Given the space has only been open for a few months, Hunter has been trying to get the word out with things like the art shows — and so far, it seems to be working.
“It’s a social experiment, basically,” he says. “We’re seeing what local artists are going to bring their stuff down and what people are going to support the local artists.” M