Up until second grade, I attended St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School located just north of the Plaza. On the way to school, I would sit in my hot pink Barbie car seat in the back of my dad’s car, keeping myself entertained by looking out the window.
I vividly remember looking forward to one particular part of the drive – passing the H&R Block Artspace building. I loved seeing what new art they displayed each month on the massive billboard outside of the small, inconspicuous grey building at the corner of 49th and Main.
Even though I had grown up looking at the building, it wasn’t until I went inside for the first time that I fully realized the uniqueness of the Artspace and its pieces.
The primary artist being shown was Simone Leigh, an artist influenced by a variety of subjects including African Art, architecture, science fiction, popular culture and contemporary art.
Leigh had a vast range of pieces, from pottery based art work to projections of videos on loop. Leigh’s most unusual work was a large projection on three walls. Each wall had a projection of Leigh in a red pot, with just her head sticking around. In one image her eyes were closed, in another she was looking around questioningly and on the main wall she was spinning quickly in the pot. In addition, there was tribal music blasting throughout the space.
I can’t say I found some sort of profound deeper meaning to this piece, but the mesmerizing visual made me feel like I was in a trance when watching. I also really appreciatedthe different mediums of pottery and clay that she used. I wasn’t expecting such an elaborate exhibit.
The building was also showing a Kansas City Art Institute professors’ work, who had recently passed away. He mostly used calligraphy based art. The black lines that wove together abstractly on a white canvas were simple and had an elegant beauty about them.
The helpfulness of the staff enhanced my experience. The woman working gave me detailed information about the artists and showed me to a book that had even more information about the artist’s visions and other pieces. She was very welcoming, and obviously wanted to share as much information as she could about the space and the art.
Overall, my experience at the H&R Block Space was not only entertaining and enjoyable, but incredibly informative. The space itself was gorgeous, flooded with natural light and inviting, not to mention the unique pieces of art on display.
As I walked up the skinny, carpeted stairway to Windhorse, the faint smell of incense filled the air After the stairwell, there was a short hallway that opened up to a small, rectangular room with walls lined with artwork. As I looked around, I was taken aback that there was no one at the desk to greet, no one giving me any sort of informational pamphlet. I had a moment of panic, worrying it was closed and I had inadvertently broken in.
But once I heard the soft, buzzing hum behind the glass partitions at the end of the room, I quickly realized my mistake. The people working were in fact there, they were just busy givi
ng someone a tattoo.
Windhorse is not only home to an art gallery, but a tattoo parlor. The owner explained that combining a tattoo parlor with an art gallery was his idea to bridge the gap between commission and private work. His goal was also to transform tattooing into more of a highbrow form of art.
The space that contained the art was small but cozy. The low lighting, neutral colors and clean, clutter-less space all created a comfortable ambiance. The paintings on display were all relatively small, no more than 12 inches by 12 inches.
All the art in the gallery was based off the Chinese New Year — 2016’s animal is the monkey. Each piece was a painting or a drawing of a monkey in a different setting. Some were cartoonish, others more realistic, but they all had aspects that made each of them completely different from the last. It made me appreciate how art can revolve around the same theme, but end up with such variety. I really enjoyed seeing that, especially because my art skills, or lack thereof, would leave me struggling to create a painting of one monkey.
I only got a glimpse of the inside of the tattoo parlor because it was occupied, but it carried on the simple, chinese style of the rest of the gallery.
The owner was working when I visited, and explained a lot of the idea and the history of the gallery, but didn’t give me much information about the artists. After that, he left me toexplore the art by myself. The service at Windhorse contrasted greatly from the woman working at the H&R block space, who was very involved in explaining and showing me the art. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely created a different experience at each gallery. Especially for someone like me, who enjoys art, but isn’t necessarily an art aficionado.
Even though Windhorse was a smaller gallery, I loved the originality of fusing the different forms of art, tattooing and more conventional styles. It set the gallery apart from others and gave it a special aspect.
Not only was the art fun and unique, but the entire gallery felt special because the idea came from combining two forms of art the owner was passionate about. The experience of being able to go explore and potentially buy the art, while also being able to see, or receive, the intricate tattoo art set it apart from other conventional art galleries.