A gallery with a different vision

A gallery with a different vision
Gallery director Carl Smith stands with a piece by artist Mike Parillo, left, in the new CES Contemporary in downtown Laguna.
(Don Leach, Coastline Pilot)

A new gallery has popped up at 480 Ocean Ave., and it’s serving up art for different tastes in town.

CES Contemporary offers contemporary art that’s a far cry from the seaside landscapes and marine life paintings seen in Coast Highway showrooms.


“One of the main points I’m trying to drive home with the work that I’m showing in the gallery … [is that] there is another side of the art world that is under-represented in our town,” owner Carl Smith said.

Mike Parillo is the first artist on display in the exhibit “Reckless Optimism.” Known for his creative work for action sports companies, he shows his edge and love of color in artworks that have almost a psychedelic quality.


“They are a narrative that depicts the complicated journey of an individual though success and failure, and the fantasies and distractions along the way,” Parillo said in an email. “These works are all personal to me and share distinct uncertainties, dreams and emotion from my personal experience. Although the bright and somewhat aggressive palette used in this show may appeal to action sports enthusiasts, this body of work was inspired by something much more personal.”

Smith met Parillo while they were both working at Volcom and was immediately drawn to his colleague’s work. He made Parillo a promise that when he had the means, he would represent him and help him cultivate a career.

“Overall, it comes across as a very contemporary outpouring of color and narrative that relates to themes within his personal life and contemporary culture,” Smith, 36, said of his friend’s work.

Smith, a Laguna native, was most recently the creative director at the sunglasses company Electric Visual before going freelance. He started doing graphic design work for Volcom at age 18 and moved to Prague when he was 21 to pursue a job. The six-month stint turned into eight years, during which Smith realized his adoration of the contemporary arts scene.


He experimented with large-format oil painting and showed his artwork at galleries all over the Czech Republic.

That’s where he fell in love with the idea of finding undiscovered artists and nurturing them, he said.

Lagunans might be familiar with Smith, who had a showroom in the canyon — Carl E. Smith Art & Design — where he held shows about four times a year. When a spot opened up on Ocean Avenue, he decided it was time to tackle a traditional gallery setting with his artists.

He represents the majority of artists who will show at the space. However, he will have special guest artists as well, he said.


“Reckless Optimism” runs through Dec. 2.

For more information, visit or call (949) 547-1716.;

Twitter: @joannaclay; @MichaelMillerHB

If You Go

What: “Reckless Optimism”

Where: CES Contemporary, 480 Ocean Ave., Suite A, Laguna Beach

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, and by appointment through Dec. 2

Cost: Free

Information: (949) 547-1716 or