5 Q’s with Alisha Funkhouser

5 Q’s with Alisha Funkhouser

For this Edition of 5 Q’s, we chat with our very own Alisha Funkhouser, HP Art+Gallery Director, about her recent jaunt around LA. Alisha visits the area about once or twice a year to check out what’s going on, meet new artists, peep new gallery or installation trends, and get some inspiration. This trip, she skipped the major institutions and focused on some independent/artist-run spaces.

1. Tell us a bit about what spaces you hit. Which were your favorites?

This one ended up being a quick, kind of last minute trip and I crammed in as many gallery visits as physically possible in just two and a half days in LA! The spaces I was able to hit were Smart Objects, François Ghebaly, Night Gallery, Art + Practice, New Image Art, Nonaka-Hill, Phil Gallery, and Potts. Ghebaly and Night Gallery are always on my list every time I visit LA. They always have excellent exhibitions and big, beautiful gallery spaces. Plus they are right next door to each other which is super convenient when you’re spending most of your time in LA stuck in traffic. Some of my real faves were the more unconventional artist run spaces that were tucked away in unassuming strip malls like Nonaka-Hill, which is in a space that was once a dry cleaners. They still have the original “Best Cleaners” sign-up out front, which I LOVE, and the inside has been transformed into a beautiful gallery space that exhibits work specifically by modern and contemporary Japanese artists (so rad!).

Nonaka-Hill Gallery


Phil Gallery was another cool artist run space kind of hidden between a taco stand, a beauty salon and a laundromat. There was also Potts, which is in an old plumbing supply shop. With Potts, the gallery exists in the old storefront of the building and the family owned plumbing parts shop still runs out of the back of the building. Potts has really embraced the plumbing side of the building and they have a great little “history of plumbing art” on their website.

Potts Gallery


I also really loved Small Objects, located in a tiny, awkward little space right off of Sunset Blvd. Chadwick, the founder, originally rented out the space temporarily so he could put on an exhibition of his work. Once his exhibition was over all his homies who were artists also started having their exhibitions in the space and it all kind of snowballed from there and 5 years later Smart Objects is still going strong. It was really inspiring to see so many DIY galleries like these existing in all kinds of unconventional spaces throughout the city. I would love to see more of this kind of spirit and spaces like these in Reno!

2. What artists/exhibitions did you encounter that were really cool?

Oh boy! There were so many good ones!! I was really stoked to see Katherine Lyons’s exhibition “Memory of a Monolith” at New Image. I’ve followed her work online for a while and her paintings were a million times more lush and amazing in person. 

Katherine Lyons at New Image Art


Cynthia Daignault’s massive exhibition of black and white “Elegy” paintings at Night Gallery was really cool to see in person and I loved the contrast between her work and the bright neon colors of Michael Berryhill’s exhibition, “Romancing the Stoned” in the smaller gallery space at Night Gallery.

Cynthia Daignault at Night Gallery


Michael Berry Hill at Night Gallery


My mind was blown by Sayer Gomez’s hyper realistic paintings and parking stanchion sculptures made out of cardboard and foam at Ghebaly! The detail in this work was insane. 

Sayer Gomez at Ghebaly


Ross Caliendo’s exhibition, “ The Devil’s Compost”, was also excellent and another one that I’m glad I got to see up close in person.


Ross Caliendo at Phil Gallery


I was also lucky to make it to the opening reception for Stephen Towns’s “Ruminations and a Reckoning” and Ramsess’ “The Gathering” at Art + Practice. Both exhibitions had monumental quilt pieces that were absolutely breathtaking and heart wrenching. Upon entering the exhibition space the first piece you see is Towns’s “Birth of a Nation”, which is suspended above a mound of soil and depicts a black woman nursing a white infant while standing against the first official American Flag. This piece definitely set the tone for both exhibitions. Then as you navigate the space and make your way into Ramsess’ exhibition the final piece you see is “The Gathering”, an enormous quilt depicting a modern day Last Supper with Trevon Martin seated at the center. This was a very emotional show and it was hard not to get completely absorbed in the intricate details of these powerful works which act as memorials to the equally intricate and significant histories of individuals who have often been oppressed, cast aside, and overlooked as a result of race and/or gender.

Steven Towns at Art + Practice


Ramsess at Art + Practice


3. We heard you met Halloween anti-hero Michael Meyers?

Yes! Coincidentally, while grabbing coffee and pastries in Pasadena one morning I was lucky enough to stumble across the house where part of the original 1978 Halloween movie was filmed. It was right around the corner from the coffee and pastry shops and I think it’s a physical therapy office or something now. I probably wouldn’t have recognized it if “The Real” Michael Myers himself wasn’t standing out front on the porch. He was definitely a lot more chill than I would have expected and was handing out business cards and allowing passers by to pose next to him for photos. He did creepily hover behind my friend and I for a good couple for minutes as we started to walk away and I felt instantly spooked out. Definitely one of my Fave LA celebrity sightings to date!

Michael Myers at his house from the 1978 film, Halloween


4. What were some installation trends or themes or techniques that you noticed? Any you’d like to bring to Holland?

One installation that stood out was Derek Paul Jack Boyle’s show, Den, at Smart Objects. For this exhibition, Boyle covered the gallery floor in black carpet with these carpet covered mounds/lumps scattered throughout the space. By doing this, Boyle was able to choreograph the way in which gallery visitors moved through the gallery to view his paintings. This was super effective in a small broken up space like Smart Objects and really played off of the theme of his paintings in a great way that made the whole experience more interactive and playful. I always love it when artists consider the entire gallery space they are exhibiting in and I think this was a great example of an artist that did just that. He didn’t just hang work on the white gallery walls and call it done but he was able to take it one step further and transformed the space in a way that made the viewer feel as though they were walking through one of his paintings.

Derek Paul Jack Boyle at Smart Objects


5. You visited a space called Art + Practice. Can you tell us about this space and your experience there?

I was super excited to finally make it to Art + Practice as they have been on my radar for a while now. Art + Practice is a rad non-profit arts org that has a focus on supporting the needs of foster youth in the community through providing education and life-skills training, paid internships, and housing opportunities. They also have a beautiful exhibition space consisting of two big galleries and provide the community with free access to excellent museum-curated contemporary art exhibitions that primarily highlight work by artists of color. As I mentioned before, I visited during the opening reception of their current exhibitions for artists Steven Towns and Ramsess and the space was bustling with a diverse crowd of folks. Both exhibitions were stunning and were co-curated by Art + Practice and Cecilia Wichmann of the Baltimore Museum of Art. I also loved their education gallery which was located in a tiny space as you entered/exited the building. This space gave visitors a chance to delve deeper into the main exhibitions and gave a more in depth history behind the two major installation pieces by Towns and Ramsess. There was also a little interactive station where visitors could contribute to a community designed quilt.

Art + Practice education gallery