Can This New Gallery Become the Center of the West Adams Art Scene?

Artist Norm Maxwell in front of his Double Dutch mural outside Gallery 38
Artist Norm Maxwell in front of his Double Dutch mural outside Gallery 38
Teka-Lark Fleming

West Adams is ground zero for cutting-edge, trailblazing, artistic entrepreneurs on South L.A.’s Westside. Zoe's Vintique, an eclectic vintage clothing shop, Delicious Vinyl/Pizza, a hip-hop pizza joint, and the art space O'Gallery are just a few of the hip businesses on Adams Boulevard.

Now Philadelphian Badir McClearly, 31, and Brooklynite Erez Safar, 35, have opened Gallery 38, which combines the worlds of street art and fine art and tries to bring in the surrounding community.

McClearly and Safar met while doing the art series “Culture Bomb” at Safar’s old art space Studio Bancs on Fairfax Avenue, and from there they got a gallery together in Miami for Art Basel. 

Badir McClearly, artist Norm Maxwell and Erez Safar inside Gallery 38.
Badir McClearly, artist Norm Maxwell and Erez Safar inside Gallery 38.
Teka-Lark Fleming

When Safar, an event planner and owner of Bancs Media, saw the future space for Gallery 38 on Adams Boulevard, he called up McClearly, a photographer and writer at ArtAboveReality, and asked if he was interested in teaming on a gallery. McClearly’s response was, “Oh, hell yeah!”

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While neighborhoods sometimes accuse art galleries of setting themselves apart from the neighborhoods that they inhabit, Gallery 38 has been reaching out to the community, and planning an art program where children can create and appreciate art called Gallery 38 Under Eight.

“The dopest quote we got about the [Gallery 38] is when a kid came by with his grandma and said, ‘Grandma, grandma, let’s go in this museum.’ He took the time to consider us a museum! I gave him some [starter] art pieces; we’re creating future art patrons,” says McClearly.

Maxwell
Maxwell
Teka-Lark Fleming

Safar mentions that his four-year-old loves the space, while McCleary adds, “The neighborhood reminds me of my neighborhood growing up in Philly.”

The gallery shows visually thematic shows, either combining groups of artists or showing a single artist. Their show up now, by the artist Norman Maxwell, is titled “Channel 7 (GBDF)." The theme is the G chord — G being the seventh note in a music scale. “The number seven is a mystic and spiritual number that is synonymous with creation,” says Maxwell.

Maxwell is a View Park-based painter whose work crosses classes, genres, race and time periods, and his show draws upon music, mythology and history. His mural outside the gallery is a trance-inducing painting of two girls double dutching.  “I watched girls play double dutch and it seems as if they are not conscious of what they are doing. It is like a spiritual dance," he says. "It is incorporating physics and chanting. It is an African dance."

Can This New Gallery Become the Center of the West Adams Art Scene?

Maxwell's neo-expressionist paintings are reminiscent of masters of the genre such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Philip Guston. He's part of an art scene that is rejecting conceptual ideas and interpreting society on very direct, literal terms, just as the openness of Gallery 38 is rejecting the exclusivity of the art world. 

The “Channel 7 (GBDF)” opening brought in art dealers, curators and street artists from Los Angeles and New York. Photographer Keren Bystedt was there as well as the street artist Snake Doctor.

“We know in the end when you’re pushing for others and you’re giving, you’re going to get," says Safar. "We’re building a family. People are rooting for us because of that, because our success is the community’s success."

“Channel 7 (GBDF)” is on view through April 26 at Gallery 38, 5376 Adams Blvd., West Adams. Thursday, April 23 at 7 p.m., artist Norman Maxwell will be in conversation with Knowledge Bennett. gallery38.com


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