From the street to the living room

In an arts-heavy town, they're the true backstreet boys.

Last week, Alex Amador and Chris Kane launched the Dax Gallery on Randolph Street, a short thoroughfare tucked behind the Lab and the Camp in Costa Mesa's alternative shopping district. And fittingly, the gallery's first show, "For Love of Dreams: Romancing Evolution," focuses on street-style art — the owners' attempt to bring an urban flavor down the block from South Coast Plaza.

Among the pieces in the show are a statue by RISK of Hello Kitty with the Rolling Stones' tongue logo over her mouth, a canvas by the Ultravelvet Collection featuring a "Donkey Kong" level juxtaposed over a photograph of a scantily clad woman, and a black-and-white image of Frank Sinatra created by Greg Auerbach out of news clippings about the singer.

Amador, a managing partner for the screen-printing company Massive Prints, and Kane, who represents artists through Tarheel Art Management, met on the L.A. art scene. With the canvases still being hung at the Dax Gallery, the owners spoke with the Daily Pilot about their plans and the fine line between high art and pop culture. The following are excerpts from the conversation:


In your press material, you talk a lot about L.A. or New York or San Francisco being centers for street art. Do you think street art is that prevalent in Orange County?

Amador: In the brands that are up here in Orange County, I think it's prevalent. But they're having to reach out to some of the bigger cities. A lot of the brands I work with that look for inspiration travel to New York, L.A., Paris to find, you know, what's next.

Do you see any real trends going on right now in the street-art community?

Kane: Yeah. I mean, I would say the people that were doing illegal work and undercover work in the past 10, 15, 20 years are now transferring what they were doing on the streets to different mediums, as far as canvas, wood, metal — just different mediums that they're bringing into the galleries now.

Instead of having a piece that they spend all night doing, a mural on this beautiful work of art, they're now transferring it onto a piece that can actually be sold and enjoyed in someone's house forever. So, you know, usually the buff man comes by and can buff it the next day, can buff it a month later.

That's the beauty of street art — you never know when it was gonna go away. And now they're starting to transfer that into pieces that can be viewed in museums, in art galleries, in people's homes, forever.

Amador: It's accepted more in the community as well.

Kane: People that normally had their Warhols and their Rothkos and all these other Picassos and everything, they're now starting to put the Shepard Faireys, the Banksys, the Retnas, up with that on the same wall in their house or in their gallery. So it's really kind of taken to another level now.

I guess you see that with a lot of forms of art. Just look at rock and roll or R&B; or a lot of kinds of music — it starts out being seen as low art, and now we have the Rolling Stones in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Kane: Absolutely. Same as independent films. You know, independent films that started off, that are really low-budget films, the Roger Corman-esque films that start as these B movies, are now jumping into — all the celebrities want to do independent films because the writing is so much better.

Even though they're not big blockbuster Michael Bay movies, they have some heart and soul to them. And so they want to be a part of that. And that's the same as in the art community. They're kind of — even your abstract artists and your fine artists are now doing stuff that's a little out of the box.

In the press materials, there was a line there — you called this area right here in Costa Mesa "the heart of Costa Mesa's hipster district." Curious, how do you define hip, or how do you define a hipster, in this day and age?

Amador: Me being from around here and growing up, you know, you have the Peninsula, where there's a lot of the surf community. You have Huntington Beach, which is the surf community as well. This area, I believe, is kind of where you have a little bit more style, a little bit more fashion, people mimicking L.A., even down to the restaurants that we have that are working here.

A lot of the trends that worked in L.A., such as the Umami Burger, the things that are being brought to the Lab and the Camp, are places that have worked in L.A. for four or five years. ... This area is a perfect hub, too, because you're in between Newport and Laguna, Huntington — this is kind of a central area that is still close enough to reach out to the coastal community.

Kane: And actually, [we] consider these two malls anti-malls. I like that word, "anti," and I think that ties into the hipster, because anything hip and cool is anti-whatever the norm is. So, you know, being an anti-mall is having not your big JCPenney and your whatever stores there. They're cool little boutique stores, which are kind of giving the finger to the bigger department stores and saying, "Hey, we're a small little rock-and-roll brand that has its own storefront here in these anti-malls."

Let's talk a little about your background. Has either one of you ever been an artist yourself?

Amador: Not really.

Kane: I draw fat stick figures.

Have you ever done graffiti at all?

Amador: No.

Kane: I have terrible can control. Terrible. You know, I work with a lot of artists and they want me to fill in the black, or whatever — you know, they're doing a big mural. And once they see me mess it up a couple of times, they don't ask me to do it anymore.

When you approached your artists for this show, were all of them OK right at the beginning with doing the kind of work they do, but on canvas as opposed to in a public place?

Kane: Yeah. You know, we didn't include that many graffiti artists, like true-nature graffiti kind of artists, into it. I use the term "fine street artists" because they're muralists that are starting to kind of transfer to canvases and everything.

Everybody was OK with it because the type of artists that I work with have already crossed that bridge. They're already showing in other galleries. They're already selling work and have a big collector base already. So they're already kind of past that "we don't want to sell out, we don't want our picture taken" — that part of it.

Dax Gallery

Where: 2951 Randolph St., Costa Mesa

Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday


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