New Gallery Spotlight: Hinge Gallery

Taylor Madaffari

Cool.  Chic and Cool is simply the only way to describe newcomer Hinge Gallery.  Situated on Chicago and Damen in the Ukrainian Village, this open and ambitious storefront space—with its unassuming yet charming exterior—is decidedly inviting.  Casual and intimate, Hinge promotes emerging contemporary artists of the highest caliber from Chicago and throughout the country.  Although the artists work in media as various as painting, mixed media, prints, sound, video, sculpture, and installation, all of their pieces suit the mission and particular contemporary aesthetic of the gallery.

Hinge believes in supporting professional artists, owner and director Holly Sabin says, who have completed their MFAs and received some notoriety in their young careers.  These artists have, for the most part, little experience in the commercial art world and are largely unrepresented by galleries.

Even though Hinge just opened this past July, it has already accumulated an impressive roster of artists and begun to garner a reputation as a well-curated, easily accessible, and reliable space both for first time and seasoned collectors of contemporary art.

“Hinge is very new, and I’m extremely pleased with how things have progressed,” Sabin says.  “More and more clients are coming in from all over looking for affordable work by emerging artists.”

Hinge Gallery owner and director, Holly Sabin. Photo by Jay Schroeder

They’ve come to the right place.  The gallery’s front two rooms open with a new exhibition every six to eight weeks, and the third room features a constantly rotating selection of work from the usual cache of artists who collaborate with Hinge.  Tucked away in the back is the Print Shop, a small alcove of a room that displays works on paper.  These are the most affordable items in the gallery.

Hinge is currently presenting a joint exhibit of oil paintings by Cole Pierce and prints by Rusty Shackleford.  According to the gallery’s website, Pierce’s series is “based on variations of a triangle grid pattern [and aims] to produce a vibrating optical effect that is a visceral experience, momentarily disrupting the viewer’s spatial intelligence.”  In contrast, Shackleford’s prints are “concerned with the relationship between gesture and the found image.  [He] works intuitively, applying various materials and mediums to found images that he collects from discarded media.”  The show, as Sabin says, is “getting a lot of attention.”

When asked which of the gallery’s exhibits has been her favorite, Sabin, understandably, is indecisive.

“It’s hard to choose a favorite,” she says.  “Every time a new exhibition is installed, I think it’s so strong it will be hard to live up to again.”

Inside Hinge Gallery. Photo by Mathew Stephen Photography

“Sure enough,” she adds, “the next one is just as good.”

Time will tell.  The gallery will debut a new group show on January 14, 2012, featuring work from Charles Mahaffee, MaryKate Maher, Corydon Cowansage, and Brent Houston, as well as a performance piece by Ryan Richey and Chris Lin.  Then, Hinge will collaborate in March with What It Is, an apartment gallery space in Oak Park run by Tom Burtonwood and Holly Holmes, to spotlight the work of What It Is artists.

In addition to hosting exhibits, Hinge also provides supplemental programming that includes openings, artist talks, performance art, workshops, and late-night receptions.  The events—and the gallery’s broad price range—are meant to appeal to a wide variety of interests, to draw new and various people through the front door.  Sabin describes the gallery as a “very laid back space.”

“Everyone is welcome at Hinge,” she says.  “All too often, people assume art is for the few; I do not believe this to be true.”

“I think [the diverse crowd] is actually one of the best things about the Chicago gallery scene in general,” she adds.  “People are very friendly.”

Outside Hinge Gallery. Photo by Mathew Stephen Photography

Indeed, the area seems to have welcomed her with open arms.  Sabin says it feels like the right time and the right place.  The Ukrainian Village is a vibrant and bustling neighborhood and has seen a recent boom in new business.  She hopes Hinge will be the next to thrive, satisfying, as it is, a crucial niche in both the gallery and local communities.

The gallery does appear to be on its way to becoming a fixture in the Ukrainian Village—which is Sabin’s goal.  And it is living up to its name.

“In addition to the aesthetic value of the word in print,” she explains, “it alludes to a door opening or providing a sort of functional role in the mechanics of things.”

And isn’t that exactly what Hinge Gallery accomplishes?

Hinge Gallery is located at 1955 W. Chicago Avenue.  Hours are Wednesday-Friday 12-7 pm and Saturday-Sunday 12-6 pm.  They are also open by appointment and by chance.  Call 312-291-9313 or visit www.hingegallery.com.