Shockboxx Vibes – Quarantine Style
Shockboxx, Hermosa Beach
Written by Genie Davis
Just closed, the solo show by Shockboxx program artist Kymm Swank did not disappoint. Vibrant and visceral abstracts are often a signature at the gallery, where recent shows, both group and solo, have offered a kinetic energy that feels synonymous with the gallery’s style.
Swank’s Was There Any Reason That You Could Not Have Accepted Full-Time Work Each Workday? was one Shockboxx had planned several months ago; and while several in-quarantine group shows were successful, putting up a solo show seemed a bit risky to gallery owner Mike Collins.
However, the artist’s approach was as daring as her work, “No way we postpone this. We are going live,” she told Collins.
“This is an example of the attitude we love with all of our artists. They are ready to take risks. For Kymm’s show we had everything up on Artsy, and ready to go live before we hosted the opening on Zoom. We had a great turnout for her reception with people logging in from as nearby as Hermosa Beach and as far away as New York City,” Collins reports
The show is still viewable on Artsy; Swank also held gallery hours open by appointment for the run of the show. With its roll-up door and plenty of light and space, the gallery was proof that if you show it, they will still come – albeit in more limited numbers.
“Kymm has been a mainstay at the gallery since the beginning, and her solo show here is something we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. This show actually benefitted from quarantine, in that she was able to put 100 percent of her focus into creating new works for this show. The main piece in the show is her largest work to date 5ft x 19ft.”
In orange, blue, red, and black, these abstract works are a swirl of motion and primary color, visual tornados. They are tumultuous and blossoming with possibility; marks made in the pieces resemble a combination of street art graffiti and Japanese calligraphy.
“Watching Kymm challenge herself with this work, being able to provide the space and support to watch it come to life has been a blast. She knocked it out of the park with the new works for this show. She answered the challenge of hosting her opening on Zoom, and the outpouring of in-person visitors has been awesome,” Collins asserts.
The energy of the images is palpable both through Zoom and in person; there is a depth to the works that feels highly textural. In short, cutting edge: a vibe Shockboxx has been presenting since it opened in April 2017.
“We set out with the mission to reach outside the South Bay and become part of the larger art dialogue going on in Los Angeles and beyond. From our first show through what we do now, we’ve been successful in attracting both artists and art patrons, first from all around Los Angeles, and now from around the country. The mission hasn’t changed since COVID-19,” Collins explains. “If anything, the mission is proving even more successful with how we’ve adapted during quarantine. We have been putting up international calls for group shows, using the CAFÉ system, and have heard from artists just how much they appreciate the galleries that are staying active during this time.”
Presentation has changed, of course. There are no opening receptions or artist talks IRL. “We switched to hosting our openings on Zoom. The first show we opened that way was a group show, and we weren’t really sure how it would go. I went down to the gallery and was in there alone hosting the opening. We were blown away with the response.”
Around 150 people logged on to hear the artists speak about their work. “Several people reached out to say that they actually enjoyed the virtual component so much that they hope we keep it up after we go back to ‘normal.’ The pattern keeps repeating, and we will surely keep this going.”
Along with Zoom, the gallery is using Instagram Live throughout the run of their shows. “The artists involved are always happy to jump on for a quick interview,” Collins reports. “We’ve also been working with a local architecture photographer who is creating 3D Interactive scans of our shows. The finished product is a virtual version of the gallery with clickable links to our Artsy profile where all the works are offered for sale.”
But in-person viewing is not forgotten in the airy gallery, which allows appointments to come in and see the work. “The day-to-day flow for seeing shows in person seems to be pretty typical. People are happy to mask up and come support the shows,” he attests.
The artist run gallery has an inclusive attitude. Their core group of artists make up what Collins refers to as “The Program.” He notes “We like to be the place that everybody involved feels free to be experimental and take risks.”
For Collins, finding the artists he wants to exhibit seems to just happen. “We have a certain vibe that seems to transcend one particular style, but if you put us all together, it makes sense. The core of that group makes up our Program and we’d be nowhere without them,” Collins says. “Their belief and commitment to this little gallery in Hermosa Beach is the only reason we are still standing. We’ve been finding new artists to work with through our group shows.”
That the gallery is thriving during the pandemic – and in a location that has always been off the beaten track, and known more as one that, pre-Shockboxx, tended to skew towards beach-scene art and sunset photographs – is a credit to the eclectic and compelling work of the artists that Collins shows.
Culling artists globally, virtually, Collins says the gallery has met a few artists that “fit the vibe so well that we’ve scooped them up and into our roster. We’ve expanded beyond our core program artists to add a few from San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and New York.”
Like Swank, they’re sure to offer innovative, immersive works.