Artist Republic for Tomorrow (AR4T), a gallery showcasing the work of youth culture artists, will celebrate its first birthday next month.
It’s a big deal in a time where the opening of a gallery is a leap of faith, especially one that caters to young artists and, presumably, young collectors who have come of age as surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders. In a gallery town not entirely at ease with contemporary, let alone street or slope inspired art, AR4T tries to define itself outside the niche occupied by a few upstarts including surf artists of any stripe.
Unlike the action sports industry, adept at integrating the output of artists passionate about board sports into commercial products, Torrey Cook, founder of AR4T, wants to offer a place to showcase pure artistic pursuits as well as integrate the gallery into the Laguna Beach art scene. She joined and is an active participant in the First Thursday Art Walk.
She maintains that artists and snowboarders, skiers and skateboarders, can lead connected lives. In Mammoth Mountain’s snowboard park, for example, skiers and boarders carve through an outdoor gallery created by Cook and friends to honor Jeffrey Lyn Anderson, a Mammoth local and professional snowboarder who fell to his death at age 23 in 2003.
The project gave birth to AR4T and later a smaller show titled “I am Snowboarding.” Conceived as a tribute to Anderson and support for the ensuing Jeffrey Lyn Anderson memorial skateboarding park, the show illustrated a collaboration between artists and photographers whose combined pieces include collages and a sculpture. “The project has traveled throughout and outside of the United Stated. Core pieces, all donated by the artists, are not for sale. Giclees or other prints are for sale instead,” explained Cook.
She has assembled a tight circle of artists and friends, some of whom still date to the Mammoth project. “The gallery supports a team atmosphere. Friends bring in more artists and collectors and that helps everybody,” said photographer Danny Zapalac, 38, of Long Beach, whose photograph was originally paired with a painting by his friend Brian Iguchi.
Currently the gallery features “Silence,” an exhibition of photographs curated by photographer Cheyenne Ellis, of Malibu. Ellis’ choices emphasize the lyrical, and in an image of a shot deer half buried in show by Czech photographer Stepanka, poignant manifestations of silence. “Torrey is pushing toward young and emerging talent and is trying to give artists a chance who haven’t been accepted on a wide scale yet,” said Ellis, 32. “I would love to do many other shows with her in the future.”
A trained journalist, sporadic artist and mother of 4-year-old Levi, Cook, 34, of San Juan Capistrano, resembles a one-woman band. Her husband Brian helps out in the gallery, where he is a financial partner, and works as a Vans accounts manager. “I get lots of satisfaction putting shows together and do all my own book keeping, advertising, sales and public relations, but also have volunteer assistants that come and help out,” she said. “I put in much more than a 40-hour week.”
What sets AR4T apart is the variety of art it supports. Where one might naturally expect striations of graffiti and street-art inspired work, Cook created shows appealing to children, such as the Holiday Show with artist and legendary snowboarder Jamie Lynn, and paintings that cross the line between studio art and commercial/advertising design.
Costa Mesa artist Ben Brough, 32, mixes cartoons and elements of abstraction, on display at his first solo show in July. Thereafter, he curated a themed show based on movies. “Torrey is made to be a gallerist. She is supportive of what we do and really helps getting it out there,” he said.