An article I wrote for the Hackney Citizen – published yesterday.
Behind the façade of a dodgy-looking high-street dental surgery on Chatsworth Road – tacky bright yellow shop signs intact – the Alvarado Gallery is currently hosting its first pop-up exhibition.
The aptly-named Pain at the Dentist is first in a series of four exhibitions which will be held at theme-appropriate locations.
Laura Alvarado, 24, founder of Alvarado Gallery – and a practising artist – intends to curate exhibitions that utilise, rather than mask, the original use of the buildings.
Contrary to the familiar white-walled boxes, this exhibition space intentionally retains certain aspects of the run-down surgery – with paint peeling, albeit rather fashionably, off the gallery walls.
Enthused by the idea that the building has a history within the Chatsworth Road community, Alvarado says: “We have met a lot of people who used to come here. It’s part of the high street. There was a man talking about it yesterday and he was like ‘trust me – it was Pain at the Dentist’.”
Alvarado grew up in north London and after completing an Illustration BA was taken on by the Phoenix Cinema, in East Finchley, to complete a handful of curatorial projects.
With a passion, and knack, for facilitating projects, she decided to continue in the curatorial stead and organise a group show.
Taking risk-assessment advice from her father, a project coordinator, as well as unpaid help from design collective The Work Design, Alvarado began to build up a team to assist her in realising her dream of running a gallery.
Reining in contacts from university, friends of friends, artists she had worked with at Jaguar Shoes and artists she had never met but “brazenly approached in the hope that they would get involved,” Alvarado compiled a list of 24 artists.
She was rather surprised when all of them responded to her email saying that they would like to take part in the first exhibition.
“I was expecting eight, maybe ten, to say yes. But then they all said yes and so it meant coordinating 24 people. Fortunately they were all fantastic to work with.”
A theme of pain runs through the exhibition in a sometimes subtle – and other times crude – manner.
Rob Ryan’s romantic screen print of a bottle filled with Tears I cried over you 1981-9 is at one end of the scale – and a giclée print by Reuben Dangoor, of Being a Dickhead’s Cool Youtube fame, entitled: Red Beard’s Break-up – an illustrated scene with a more sinister edge – is at the other end.
Jamie Brown’s mixed media One Man’s Pleasure is an abstract representation of an idyllic underwater scene. Playing on the idea that one man’s pleasure is another man’s pain – the cheery aesthetic is juxtaposed by a somewhat hidden, darker image.
Brown explains that “within everything wonderful, something sinister – or painful – can be hidden. Look at the olive under the water and you will see that it has a spear going through it.”
Most of the artwork falls within the £35-£350 category. Alvarado says: “I wanted to offer something to the domestic art buyer. People should be able to buy a lovely piece of artwork for their new flat without it costing a fortune.”
Though acutely aware of how the economic climate has affected the art world, she has taken a positive stance on the situation, believing that it is in times of austerity that art and music really flourish.
Without a desire to curate organic, not-for-profit art events – Alvarado is currently not paying herself, or any of her helpers – she may not have noticed the disused dental surgery-cum-art gallery which she has rented the ground floor of for her debut Alvarado Gallery exhibition.
She was cycling past the corner building one evening and remembers: “there was a band playing and hot cider being served and it was packed and everyone was jumping up and down. I thought – this is amazing.”
She spoke to Phil Brunner, the owner of the building – and a set designer for the theatre – and they agreed a very low rent to enable Alverado to display her first pop-up show.
She was delighted by the turnout on the opening night – the torrential rain ceased, the clouds parted and bright sunrays were beaming down over 33 Chatsworth Road.
“I think, touch wood, it’s all been a great success so far,” she concludes. Pain at the Dentist is on until 2 May, open 12pm-6pm Monday – Saturday and 11am – 4pm Sunday.
For more info go to Alvarado Gallery