>From Jan 2007:
Whether driving or walking through Ballard, the Scandinavian neighborhood on the Northwest corner of Seattle in which I live, I still crack a grin when thinking, beyond its neighborly normalcy which include for example: a packed Denny’s on a Sunday morning, a Safeway grocery store that at anytime could insight a riot with the amount of people that walk in and out, and a Starbucks so small and congested that it could be confused with a bedroom filled to the brim with clothes where the only way in or out is a landing strip of carpet; that perhaps this small area, with its constant flow of visitors and unique store fronts, boutiques and art galleries could be considered a possible modernizer within the art community.
Therefore, having had come across an advertisement in Juxtapoz, a nationally known art and culture magazine, of a local art gallery called OKOK I knew I had to make it my mission to go check it out seeing as how I am always fascinated when anything locally is presented nationally plus I knew that anything new in my neighborhood would be a sight to see.
OKOK Gallery is the brainchild of Charlie Kitchings and his wife, Amanda both 26. The couple who were owners of a revolutionary toy store of the same name in Capitol Hill, another Seattle locale, decided last June to expand their developing toy and retail empire into a gallery and move to my own expanding Ballard bohemian district.
My first thought as I came upon the gallery was that if I blink I might just miss it. Unlike many of the other galleries in Ballard and the surrounding Seattle metropolitan area, OKOK Gallery, even though situated squarely at the corner near the end of Ballard Avenue in a renovated auto body garage seamlessly huddling away from the rest of the other boutiques and stores like a high school outcast, does not stand out until you enter it.
Once I made my way through the open garage door, I felt as if I had been transported to an art gallery that would be more appropriate in New York City, rather than my small neighborhood. With its spacious half store half gallery presentation which provides generous roaming room both in front and in back with its three-walled white box gallery which I thought could rarely be possible for an auto body garage; yet they ultimately have made it work.
I then continue meandering around viewing the walls on both sides which displays rows of Kitching’s unique toys – if you could call them toys – that includes a Lego boxed set of all four members of the Sex Pistols, three-dimensional loony form action figures by Jim Woodring and Jeremy Fish ostensibly yearning to be bought. Along with a near life-size figure of a black teddy bear, by an artist solely named Kubrick, with a skull and crossbones on its stomach with the phrase “Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die”. Beyond the abundant amount of collectable toys and figurines, OKOK also sells tee-shirts with artistic prints, distinctive house wares, stationary and a variety of urban art books discussing the works of a cornucopia of artists which includes the likes of Andy Warhol, Jeremy Fish, Stephen Short, and the Japanese pop art revisionist, Yoshitomoto Nara, just to name a few.
Currently featured inside OKOK’s white box this month is paintings by Seattle artist Tra Selhtrow (aka Grant Barnhart). According to the gallery’s website, Selhtrow’s “Sincere Intentions” exhibition, draws out art where “Each work features a central animal protagonist surrounded by graphite rendering of fleeting thoughts, memories and text, collectively becoming a sort of botched mythology, or Darwinian nightmare.”
In as much as I would like to think that Ballard has reached the top artistic tier for a real gallery like many other major cities, the truth is that this up and coming Seattle neighborhood is a hard place because not many in the art crowd consistently visit beyond the occasional opening. However, as an intermediate art connoisseur who loves experiencing and learning about art and understanding the different facets and mediums art has to offer, both Selhtrow’s work and OKOK elicits quite the presentation.
As a result, I believe OKOK Gallery will succeed where its neighborly predecessors have tried and failed. This gallery is definitely a sight to see.
Tra Selhtrow’s “Sincere Intentions” (www.traselhtrow.com) 5107 Ballard Avenue NW, Seattle, WA 98107 (www.weareokok.com) Hours: Tuesdays – Thursdays noon to 7 pm; Fridays – Saturdays noon – 8pm; Sundays, 11am – 5pm.