Street Art and Gritty Surrealism: White Walls and Shooting Gallery's Grand Opening

Justin Giarla in front of Niels Shoe Meulman paintings - copywrite Michael Cuffe 2012-4.jpg
Gallery owner Justin Giarla. Photo by Michael Cuffe.

There could probably be some kind of Party Monster/Peter Gatien type of profiling if someone ever made a documentary about Justin Giarla's scandalous career as a curator. Giarla ran nightclubs around the city for 10 years before opening up the Shooting Gallery in the Tenderloin in 2003, selling drugs to pay his rent and bills before being convicted in 2004.

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He managed to reopen Shooting Gallery within that year and since then has opened three more reputed, forward-thinking galleries -- White Walls, Gallery Three, and 941 Geary. This year, he's celebrating his 10th year as a curator with the grand opening of a new space for the first two of his gallery family, Shooting Gallery and White Walls. As per his usual, the new 5,000 square foot space is rooted in the Tenderloin at 886 Geary. Giarla first brought his gallery to the neighborhood in 2002 not only because of the cheap rent but because the grittier environment lent itself to the off-kilter work he was showing. "Low-brow," pop surrealism, street art, and eventually his annual gun show, that, at the time, wasn't on the stuffier downtown galleries' shortlist. A lot of this stuff has become wildly popular and acceptable gallery fare in recent years, but Giarla continues to invite innovative work into his collections. The new location will contain two project spaces for non-traditional exhibitions through which Giarla hopes to bring international attention to local artists.

The new White Walls and Shooting Gallery is opening with emerging S.F. artists Charmaine Olivia and Chad Hasegawa. The former is notable for the otherworldly line work in her illustrations and painted portraits; the latter is known for the aggressively colorful, bold paint brush strokes he lends to murals and large-scale canvases and installations. The project spaces will reflect Giarla's devotion to street art, showing work by renowned London street artists Word to Mother and Sickboy.

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Charmaine Olivia

A man with nightlife sensibilities, the gallery patriarch likes to hold longer, later gallery openings with time to let loose. His events attract a variety of the more eclectic patrons and artists of San Francisco's art community, and tend to get crowded. It's a particular scene homegrown in a particular neighborhood, and definitely worth checking out.

The grand opening is this Saturday, February 9 from 7-11 p.m. at White Walls, 886 Geary, S.F. Admission is free.

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