It's been seven years since the Fortoul brothers had an art show in Phoenix.
That's because artist Isaac Fortoul and his manager, curator, and older brother Gabriel run what they call "a nomadic gallery." Together, under their signature art brand, 40 Owls (a phonetic play on their last name, "for-t-ouls") this fraternal duo uses the freedom of being their own two-man wrecking crew to constantly create new works and experiment new mediums.
"The most fulfilling moments are when we set up these exhibitions under 40Owls. We find a space to work with that inspires us, we come up with a theme, we create a show, we promote it, we design it," says Gabriel Fortoul.
In this case, the space is 815 North Central Avenue, an empty building that is currently being transformed with lights, partitions, and an exhibition by the Fortouls. The temporary 40Owls Gallery will open with a private reception on Friday, November 14, but come Wednesday, December 31, the brothers and their work will be gone.
It's not that these two have anything against Phoenix. If anything, the Fortouls look to Phoenix as an early source of inspiration.
After leaving his job as a stock broker on Wall Street in 2002, Gabriel and Isaac, who's younger by three years, left their hometown of Union Square, New Jersey, and headed for a city they knew next to nothing about: Phoenix.
After nearly four years of honing their craft, establishing connections in the downtown arts scene, and even opening a few business -- the Fortouls Presents gallery, where Made Art Boutique is now, the Staples boutique, formerly located next to Carly's, and the Le Forte Gallery, formerly on Grand Avenue -- the Fortouls took what they had learned and headed back east for something bigger: New York City.
In the time since they first joined forces, the Fortouls' creative endeavors have pushed them headlong into the spotlight. They've been featured in art magazines in New York, Japan, Greece, and Italy. Their work has been repeatedly showcased at Art Basel in Miami and they'll return again in December, this time as one of five featured artists.
But for those who have been following the Fortouls, this rise to fame might not come as much of a surprise. The Fortouls' success seems to run off a trifecta of raw talent, smart talk, and good timing. Their first major New York exhibition in 2007 ended up launching the opening of Damon Dash's SoHo gallery.
So what are they doing back in Phoenix? Well, truth be told, they're weren't planning on being here that long. Gabriel had moved back last November into the downtown house/studio that they own to work on an upcoming 40Owls exhibition in New York. Pretty soon, however, it became clear that their work in Arizona wasn't done.
"Arizona has a way of drawing you here and keeping you here," Gabriel notes as he recounts what motivated the impromptu show in Phoenix.
"We were inspired to get back to the place that gave us our start and let people see what we've been working on," says Gabriel. "They see things online but not in person and we definitely feel that things have evolved and progressed since we got started. It's where we started so let's give something back and hopefully we can inspire the community like it did for us."
The solo exhibition will be comprised of works made primarily by Isaac though Gabriel does his part too, especially with some of the newer mediums. Large scale canvas, pen and ink, watercolor, wood carving, concrete casting -- it may all be on view come opening night if the Fortouls have their way.
"We like to experiment with whatever we can learn and then we refine it and take it to the next level -- but maybe it's not for us and we'll try something else," says Gabriel.
When we asked Gabriel to describe the basic concept behind 40Owls works, he says it's "magical realism."
"What we live by day to day is capturing the magical moments in life that we tend to forget as we lose our innocence, as we lose our youth. We sometimes become over-educated and become distracted and forget the finer things in life: the details, the magic that surrounds us everyday."
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Fortouls' solo exhibition will be open from 7 to 11 p.m. on Friday, November 14. This is a private reception but RSVPs can be made by visiting www.40owls.com/fortoul-brothers-exhibition-rsvp. Gallery hours are subject to change but will tentatively operate from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Although the Fortouls' lease ends December 31, the show's closing date may come sooner due another exhibition. To stay up to date on all 40Owls happenings, visit www.40owls.com.
Editor's note: This post has been edited from its original version to correct typos and the exhibition's address, which is 815, not 805, North Central Avenue.