"I mean, this is Barrio Logan, right?" exclaims Chris Martino as he gives CityBeat a tour of his new art space in Barrio Logan. "These old, cool warehouses with so much potential."
It's certainly easy to see the potential in the side-by-side, five-unit space at 2070 Logan Ave. that Martino says will serve as the headquarters and gallery space for CM Curatorial. Nestled in the heart of Barrio Logan between a custom piñata store and Chicano Park, Martino has partnered with designer Paul Basile to create what Martino calls "two joined, but separate spaces."
"Chris used to show up at my place all the time back in the day," says Basile, who once ran the Basile Gallery in the then up-and-coming East Village neighborhood next to downtown. "This was in '94 so we've been talking about doing this forever."
This isn't Basile's first venture in Barrio Logan. He counts himself as one of the first developers to see the potential in the neighborhood and had his design business headquarters there throughout the '00s, and even converted a portion of it into The Guild Restaurant & Bar in 2007. The Guild closed a few years later, but he's excited to come back to Barrio Logan to start his own gallery space, Basile I.E. (the I.E. stands for ideas and experiments), as well as to help curate what he and Martino hope turns into an arts destination.
"What we're seeking are more creatives," says Basile, when asked what might go into the three neighboring units. "It doesn't necessarily have to be an artist. We like the idea of some sort of maker kind of concept, like a maker's place. Something like that would be really fun. I think it would be a good cross pollination for what we're trying to do."
Both Basile and Martino will be doing art shows in their respective places, but with different emphases. Martino, who curated art shows at The Guild and at his own Solana Beach gallery, Project X: Art until 2011, plans to have shows highlighting up-and-coming Mexican artists but also wants to include local and SoCal artists. Both he and Basile would have artistic autonomy, but Martino wants to do dual shows centered on an overall concept. Martino describes their first dual show, Dictators Rule! (Until They Don't), as a "satirical, pop-inspired takedown of old and new school despots." It's set to open April 9, just in time for the Barrio Art Crawl.
"We're both into pushing boundaries," says Martino. "Not your standard art. We want progressive works that push the edge, and there will be an overlap between the two of us."