Robrt Pela didn't intend to permanently open a gallery when he first used the space on McDowell and 5th Avenue to host The Joe and Jan Show this past March. But the veteran Phoenix New Times critic and contributor was encouraged by others who, like himself, recognized a need for quality in the downtown arts scene.
Pela has curated in multiple spaces around the valley before; most notably, he spent two and a half years curating at Willow North Gallery, where he worked with artists like Jeff Falk, Carolyn Lavender, and Bob Adams (to name a few).
He's excited to be in full control of the space at R. Pela, he says, in part because creating a high-caliber gallery isn't just about the artwork (though of course that's a vital component). Pela says he plans to only serve wine in glasses, and the bathroom has individually-rolled hand towels for guests to use.
All of this care and attention to detail in creating an atmosphere transfers to Pela's curatorial role as well. He has worked with both Jake Fischer and Hank Fries before, exhibiting their work together at the Herberger Theater Art Gallery last summer, and he speaks with great admiration of both artists, describing progressions and changes he has noticed over time.
Fischer's works in the show are incredibly detailed, creating a distinct sense of quiet isolation. This will be the last public exhibition of his Night Series, a collection of oil paintings depicting suburban night-time scenes. His mastery of the traditional medium is outstanding.
Fries, on the other hand, works in a rather non-traditional medium, creating kinetic sculptural pieces out of found objects and various additional materials. Some of the pieces are somewhat whimsical but remain incredibly intricate and well-crafted.
Despite or, perhaps, because of their very different forms, the two artists' work shows well together, each giving the other space to be appreciated. Pela deserves credit here for hanging the work in a tasteful and interesting way.
Pela's new gallery is bit off the beaten path for First and Third Friday's -- i.e. not on Roosevelt or Grand -- but he says he's not worried about drawing crowds: "With satellite galleries, people come for the art itself."
And with a gallery as distinctive as Pela's, we don't think he'll have any trouble either.
R. Pela Contemporary Art will have its grand opening with New Work by Jake Fishcer and Hank Fries this Friday, May 3 from 6 to 10 p.m.. The show will be up for all of May, with a second opening on Third Friday, and further viewing by appointment. For more information, visit the Facebook event page or the gallery website.