Art is an idea. If you have a good one, maybe you don’t need actual art. That esoteric notion is a growing conversation in the world of contemporary art. It’s also one that simultaneously fascinates and tickles artists Eamonn Parke and Eli Craven, co-founders of the studio and gallery space Black Hunger.
Maybe, if you have a brilliant idea, that’s all you need, Parke muses.
Parke and Craven — two of the five artists who share the workspace in the back — lead the collaborations that create gallery shows that push ideas of contemporary art with a wink.
“It’s sort of tongue-in-cheek and poking fun at the idea of even having a gallery in the first place,” Parke says.
So, when they celebrate the collective’s one-year anniversary this month, they will do it in their particular way: with an art show that’s not showing art.
The group will wrap up their art — the first time a Black Hunger artist has exhibited at its gallery — and give it away to guests in a grab-bag style.
“One piece per person. Take it home sight unseen,” Craven says. “It will be the first time any art has left the gallery. It’s our one-year birthday, and we thought it would be funny to give presents away instead of receiving them.”
Black Hunger exists in an odd and slightly random location — a concrete block commercial building tucked into the neighborhood near 26th and Breneman streets. It’s been a metal shop, day care and luthier over the years. Parke, Craven and co-founder Maria Chavez took over the space and renovated it during the summer of 2011.
Black Hunger came from the names on the mailbox of the upstairs tenants: Black and Hungerford (of which the “ford” was scraped off). It just sounded good, Chavez says.
“Names can be difficult and sometimes they mean something and other times they don’t,” she says. “We liked it and there are a lot of associations with those two words already.”
Plus the domain name and the Gmail address were available, Craven says.
They invited artists Erin Cunningham and Jonathan Sadler to join them. Sadler left and Elijah Jensen took his place.
They work in a variety of mediums from painting and illustration to sculpture and photography to new media and multimedia.
The artists, who are in their early 30s, often collaborate on projects and show their work around town when they can. Cunningham is a regular at The Basement Gallery. Chavez and Craven did a collaborative installation at Art Space in Eagle and Jensen recently did a double installation at Black Hunger — before he joined the collective — and Bricolage.
The front-room gallery is a kind of art project of its own. The gallery exists to showcase contemporary art from outside Idaho, not to show their own art.
It’s a venue for a certain kind of contemporary art that’s off the radar, by emerging artists, and highly conceptual, Craven says.
Parke and Craven enjoy a small following for their quirky displays.
Once a month they offer “Breakfast at Black Hunger” and between zero and five people will show up. They see exhibits such as “Broken Puppy,” a broken Jeff Koons sculpture of a balloon dog, or “Tenspeed Hero,” a bicycle designed by a Chicago-based group of artists/cyclists.
The whole point is to promote a dialogue about art, not make a sale. For that, it’s been a good year, Parke says.
“Eli and I talk a lot about what it means to curate shows, especially because we’ve never sold anything, and we don’t intend to sell anything,” Parke says. “We don’t to it because we’re professional gallerists. We do it because we have 100-percent creative control, and we don’t feel the need to profit from it. So, we can do things that we think are funny, or funny and smart, or serious and smart, or interesting or provoking in some way.”
© 2012 Idaho Statesman