Apr 27, 201608:49 AMArt Beat

Art Beat

Apr 27, 2016 - 08:49 AM
Art Beat

This goes beyond art; it is about making something happen.”

Richard Reilly, Metropolis Collective’s owner, is describing his gallery and performance space.  The question of “making what happen?” can be answered in a visit to the space tucked between store fronts on Mechanicsburg’s Main Street.  But I’ll save you the suspense, Reilly’s intention with the space is to shake things up.  By his own estimation of things, “Everywhere you go, there are splintered subcultures, and it is our intention to give them a place to find each other.

In the heart of quintessential “small town America,” a little under four years ago, an artists’ collective, gallery and performance space for the family-friendly, punk-rock set sprung fitfully to life.  And on a recent showing’s opening night, the space was a bustling fray of music aficionados of all ages and other appreciators of the regional art scene.

Just inside the front door, a checkered black-and -white tile path shoots straight through the front gallery, and the walls of this particular exhibit are pocked with paint-stained canvases depicting the show’s misanthropic bent.

The show is called Hard Boiled: An Art Tribute to Pulp Novels and B Movies, and it certainly does not disappoint.  A fist-sized bag of white powder is stabbed to a canvas suggesting a nefarious narrative, while other paintings cover a variety of provocative and bloody noir themes. Each piece boasts a particularly Lower East Side grit and swagger and leaves you feeling as if staring might somehow lead to a violent end.  I can’t help but feel that the intended effect of the show is to knock you back on your heels and leave you there, feeling alone in navigating the sharp edges of darker emotions…and I love it.

Reilly and Hannah Dobek, the gallery’s manager, have designed the space for metropolitan allure, and they leverage that appeal to fuel a competitive base of artist submissions.  As a gallery and performance space with an ever-growing reputation for taking artistic risks that pay off, Reilly and Dobek have quite a wide variety of art and artists to choose from when considering their next show.

It should be no surprise then that Metropolis’ wild variety of shows have drawn such a diverse group over the past three and a half years.

By Reilly’s own estimation of things, their most popular show has been Circus Sideshow and Carnival Art, which itself became a circus of performers.  The space was crammed with a colorful crowd of nearly 700 gawkers who were treated to performances from jugglers, knife throwers, escape artists, living statues and even a bona fide flea circus with Mechanicsburg’s own mayor, Jack Ritter, as ringmaster.

When asked how he’d chosen that particular theme, Reilly’s response is what you might expect from a man intent on fostering the sense of “artistic community.”

“Lots of people are intimidated by walking into an art gallery, but nobody is intimidated walking into a circus.”

A second space opens up behind the first gallery’s back wall, and it is narrower, an effect not lessened by the fact that an entire wall hides some of the less child-friendly themes coyly behind a sheet, draped from the top of each successive frame.  The sheet obscures a local photographer’s collection of breathtaking Mapplethorpe-esque nudes, the quality of which could easily warrant showings in larger cities.

But why bother with the “parental advisory” effect, you may wonder?  Well, this space does more than mix local art with that of punk-rock musicians; it also leads to a room even deeper in the building, past a very DIY stage (powered by a sound booth of not-so-DIY electronics and a 16-track recorder) to a practice space where children take private lessons in guitar and bass.

Long after a child’s bedtime, the weekends see the focus shift to the space’s main stage to spotlight whichever punk or rock band Reilly has seen fit to book.  If the room is reminiscent of the once stalwart attestation to NYC punk, CBGB’s, that is not surprising in the least given Reilly’s storied past.

The gallery’s – and Reilly’s own – punk-rock aesthetic is the residual effect of living the genuine punk-rock life in 1980s NYC.  He’s played CBGB’s on a number of occasions and even toured for a year as guitarist for The Misfits.  This helps to explain the display of rock music “art”-ifacts hung in the second gallery, like the line of boxy guitars built and painted by Paul Kostabi, a founding member of White Zombie.

Punk and circus and paintings aside, the only persistent theme in the creation of this motley collective is the interest in growing a vibrant arts scene on the main drag in one of the region’s more under-appreciated downtowns.  And, as the email blast for the noir exhibition boasts, visitors to the Metropolis Collective can expect “Dangerous!  Amazing!  Completely Tacky!” and every exclamation point is warranted.

Like them on Facebook and keep an eye out for an ever-evolving and colorful calendar of exhibits and shows, or just stop in on the first and third Sundays to take in an all-ages open mic night.

About This Blog

Art matters from a financial, cultural vibrancy and economic growth perspective, and ultimately it affects the quality of life for those with access to it. It's the visceral impact of the arts that hits hard and lingers long:  the way that an indelible image may worm its imprint into your eye and then mind and then dreams.  The forlorn droop of a melody, and the sign of resignation from a local trumpet player's final note. The unbearably gorgeous and aching silence of the final scene of a film shot in our region.  Every one of these offerings exists here in the midstate, and beats strong with art, and we must support it.

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