For this week’s artist interview I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Kruse and Pena, the artists that were in the Merlino Art gallery. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch their first names (I think they mentioned them once, but I didn’t quite hear them).
What drew me into this gallery (other than the huge crowd of students outside) was probably the way that both the artists seemed relaxed and welcoming. Kruse and Pena have probably been the easiest artists I’ve spoken to this semester; they were open, friendly and always seemed to joke with one another and the student interviewing them. At first I thought they must have been friends for a long time– like before college?– until they told us all that they met each other in their classes and had pretty much hated each other to begin with (they would always try to out do the other, they even had a small rivalry while doing this project) but were now friends. Both are bachelors and are looking to start their masters next year. They were really eager in finding out what people had to say about their gallery as well– they would kind of pointed people out and went around in a circle asking our thoughts.
When I first walked into the gallery i felt like I was walking down the streets of some urban street rather than observing a gallery. It reminded me a lot of my hometown, Modesto, with all the graffiti, the car bumpers and papers all about the floor. However, at a closer looked, one can see that there were also framed works of art hanging on the walls, covering the graffiti as well– almost symbolizing what graffiti does: one covers another’s art with their own. I also really liked the vivid colors that were all about the gallery. There was no single white space left on the walls, nearly everything was covered with some sort of different color. There was almost every single medium used n the gallery as well; it all ranged from spray pant, to print making, to sculpting in the sense of the sign they had destroyed and fixed up that was placed in the back wall of the gallery.
Both Kruse and Pena agreed that with this gallery they wanted to “make space something”. From the inspiration from their common roots (Pena: Long Beach/ Compton, Kruse: San Francisco) they began working to change the dynamics and put their own urban spin on the gallery scene– a gallery vs street concept. Everything in the gallery has a purpose (other than Pena’s green book exam that he received a D on). It was supposed to be a mock for the real world. The trash on the floor was meant to help create an environment while the bumpers by the doors were meant to be some sort of frame for the gallery. It had taken them 3 months to make this piece and then 15 hours for installment (with only 1 pizza break). Another little interesting thing was the name, 5620. They wouldn’t tell us exactly what it meant but only said it was the numbers of a location where they work together. That was all they told us, the rest was secret.
As stated above, both artist come from similar backgrounds. They had both grown up messing around with art in urban cities but had not become serious with becoming artists util in college. For instance, Pena began as a psychology major (Kruse did as well but unfortunately I didn’t hear what his original major was). Once they were in college had they realized that what they truly wanted to do was make art.
“What better way to do stuff [art] than to fuck shit up,”
Lastly, I really liked how this gallery was different from the traditional/ formal galleries that we usually see every week– not to say this gallery wasn’t “formal” in a sense but that it differs from the typical gallery style.
Overall, I really enjoyed this gallery. I felt I was able to relate to this one more than all the others I had viewed due to my background and growing up in a place much similar to both Kruse and Pena’s homes. I would highly recommend this gallery to anyone, you can truly see the tie and dedication put into it.