Gang of four

Oct 19, 2005 at 12:00 am

No one can accuse the Primary Space Gallery of being ostentatious. Located in a nondescript, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it one-story brick building on the corner of a residential street in Hamtramck, the only evidence of the place’s existence is the small “P” logo etched into the frosted glass windows.

Gallery co-owner Jamie Latendresse says this is a calculated move. “We wanted to create a space that puts a strong focus on the work, where the gallery’s identity drifts into the background. Here, the clients come first and the gallery comes last.”

Judging from the no-frills look of the place, it seems Latendresse and his partner, Carrie Hazel, have succeeded in their vision. The two initially met while working at CPop Gallery, where they became disillusioned with what Latendresse calls that gallery’s “rock ’n’ roll approach.” When a relative of Hazel’s offered some space for rent in the tiny building behind Amicci’s Pizza on Joseph Campau, the two conceived of a space that would be “clean, modern and stark.”

Primary Space opened in June 2003, and has been showcasing the work of emerging artists ever since. The gallery’s current offering, Split Four Ways, runs until the end of October.

Split provides a glimpse into four different and visually complementary artists: Allison Cole, Andrew Hugelier, Colin Johnson and Rachel Salomon. The exhibit is not organized around a unifying theme; rather, Hazel selected a variety of works and media that she felt would harmonize well.

Best known for her silk-screened comics, Cole crafts images in paper collage with ink detail. Her contributions to Split focus on birds and trees, using the layering technique of collage to create a subtle 3-D effect.

Hugelier is a Detroit-area artist and frequent Primary Space exhibitor. For this show, he presents a group of oil-on-panel paintings that combine the human form with design elements. According to Latendresse, Hugelier drew his inspiration for this collection from “maternal themes, the image of the caregiver.” His works meld organic images of animals clinging to the female body with stylized calligraphic lettering.

Johnson’s works are acrylic-on-wood paintings that merge blob-like cartoon figures with such natural elements as trees and flowers. His characters are intricately shaded, achieving a degree of detail that is, Latendresse says, seldom seen on wood pieces of this size.

Perhaps the most innovative use of material in this exhibit, however, is Brooklyn-based artist Rachel Salomon’s “Manmats.” Crafted entirely from yarn, the mats are latch-hook rug portraits of men’s faces modeled after past relationships and various male archetypes. “I like making something lasting out of something fleeting,” Salomon says of the mats. “I like the idea of having something everyday at my feet instead of glorified on the wall. Turning portraits into something commonplace is both a tribute to and mockery of these experiences and the people they represent.”

Ultimately, the work in Split Four Ways reflects a sense of playfulness. The exhibit is part Pop Art, part organic, part tendrils-and-curlicues whimsy — it’s all fresh and low-key. The pieces flourish in the gallery’s minimalist setting, brightening the unadorned white walls and cold concrete floors.

Another interesting tidbit about Primary Space is the gallery’s desire to unite music and art. Its resident DJ, Ginger Snapp (aka Sara Nicholas), gets an early look at each collection of work and composes a background sound track to complement it. The various “Primary Sounds” mixes are available for download on the gallery’s Web site,

For Split, Nicholas combined beats from Aphex Twin, Kid 606, Bjork and Haujobb, among others. When asked to draw a parallel between the audio and the visual for this exhibit, Latendresse says, “This particular mix is a bit more downtempo. It’s subtly challenging, more detail-oriented.

“There’s no big, bouncing beats. You have to pay close attention, or you’ll miss some of it. I think that sense of subtlety and detail is definitely reflected in the exhibit.”

In the end, Latendresse hopes that small galleries like Primary Space will continue to bring the work of emerging artists to a diverse audience. Previous Primary Space patrons, he says, have ranged from Hamtramck grandmothers to wealthy art collectors from the suburbs. In keeping with the gallery’s inclusive ethos, the pieces exhibited in Split Four Ways are priced from $75 to $1000. “There are more than enough venues available for expensive artists,” Latendresse says. “We want to show art that everyone can afford.”


Split Four Ways is at Pr1mary Space Gallery (At 2750 Yemans St., Hamtramck; 313-870-9470), open 7-9 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday; or by appointment. Runs until Oct. 29.

Monica Price is a Metro Times editorial intern. Send comments to [email protected]