Friday, Feb. 3, 2012 | 10:25 a.m.
It’s always a little heartbreaking when a local gallery closes, but the temporary (or maybe permanent) shuttering of Downtown's 222 Imperial brings more tug to the heartstrings, because of the great collection of shows—open to anyone who wanted to participate—that owner Joel Spencer brought in.
Not only were the exhibit themes fun to rally around—ice cream, “geek,” skeletons—they came unrestricted, meaning all interpretations were welcome and artists of all skill levels could participate. Additionally, Spencer offered themed photo ops in conjunction with the exhibits. That’s a lot of fun breaking up the seriousness of art, even (and maybe especially) for full-time artists.
The very colorful Ice Cream Pop exhibit, held in the middle of a hot summer, brought in paintings of Bomb Pops, Push-Ups and ice cream cones, ice cream narratives and takes that were innocent, sensual and overtly sexual. Geek brought everything from depictions of nerds and monsters to Star Wars references. And the last exhibit, Spittoon Saloon, which closed at the end of December brought fantastic imagery of the rugged and Wild West.
Spencer says the space is now in the hands of Theatre 7’s Derek Stonebarger, but Spencer might host a few shows in the space’s front gallery once construction is completed. Spencer says he’s also interested in finding a larger space, maybe something outdoors on First Fridays: “I’ll be back with a vengeance in awhile. I still have some really good shows in my back pocket that I want to get out there.”