Wait, Where are You Located Again?: Pentagon Gallery

Yolanda Green

WizardDuel - Jesse Avina & Michael Garcia, Wizard Duel Collaboration for 'Fight Night' at Octagon gallery, 2011

When trying to decide what gallery to see this weekend, you’ll first look to see where they’re located, if there’s parking available, or if the place is accessible through public transportation. Through this routine preparation, you may be surprised to find that some galleries don’t have a location.

How is that possible? Well, with Facebook, Tumblr, and YouTube, people have found it easy to run businesses without a permanent location. The same goes for the art world. After all, with more and more artists utilizing the internet and finding alternative methods to showcase their work, the concept of running an entire gallery without a space makes sense. Some work with different established galleries and community organizations to showcase art and others simply run their gallery online. I was able to explore both cases as well the opinions of two gallery managers about how the art scene is affected by this current trend.

Michael Garcia first founded Pentagon as an apartment gallery, first located in Pilsen and then in Humboldt Park. But only recently did he decide to abandon running the gallery in his apartment. “I didn’t want to have to juggle having a domestic situation at the same time of having a business,” he explained. After making that decision, things became much more manageable. “I can have a home. For me personally, it’s made my life better. You have to have people in your home once a month. It could be up to a hundred people and it’s a disaster afterwards…I was like ‘this is ridiculous!’”

Level Eater 1, Luke Willard Installation, Box fort with golden axe on sega genesis at Co-Prosperity Sphere, 2010

Now, Pentagon plans to collaborate with various other galleries and organizations to put on art shows. Just recently Pentagon opened a reception for an annual show in collaboration with Co-Prosperity Sphere called “Level Eater.” The show displays artists that are influenced by fantasy and science fiction. That, of course, was not the first and certainly not the last showing featuring such a unique genre.

“When I go to a gallery space, I always want to expect something new,” Garcia explains. “So when I really get into curating a show, I try to do that…I like digital culture. I like video games. I like science fiction. I like fantasy… I like those alternative cultures because they have a lot of diversity and there are a lot of ways that people engage with them. So I always look for that in artwork and it’s kind of a jumping point.”

Without a space, however, a gallery would need the resources, such as a solid and reliable network, in order to keep the business functional. Fortunately, Garcia believes that Chicago is a great place to gain those resources and make a mark in the art community. “I was raised in Chicago pretty much my whole life…I honestly don’t feel that in order to validate myself as an artist or curator that I need to move somewhere else. The people that I work with own up to the city. They own it. The show I’m doing with Co-Prosperity Sphere – they own up to the city, they own up to the Southside and they bring people there. It creates a community and that’s really important.”

Jason Gabriel, Dichroma at Pentagon gallery 2, 2010

Garcia also states that because Pentagon doesn’t have a location, he is able to focus on gallery management instead of preparing and setting up the space. But there are downsides. A set space makes it easier for people to know about the gallery, as well as shows and events. But in order to counteract that, the internet plays a large part in marketing Pentagon and spreading the word. Having a good circle of friends helps, especially those that are both online and offline supporters. “I’m just glad that Chicago is a community that says ‘you know what? This is something that I can offer to a friend. Let’s do it. I believe in what they’re doing. Let’s support each other.’”

You can learn more about Pentagon at pentagongallery.tumblr.com.

Editor’s note: This article began as a Random Gallery Spotlight selection, however, it sparked this new discussion that we will continue in Part 2.