On a small side road off of 29th Street in Wynwood sits the Harold Golen Gallery, one of the newest additions to the district’s ever-expanding gallery circuit. The gallery’s grand opening in September was well received, attracting crowds that spent hours in the space, taking in an enormous group show composed of work by over 50 artists. Harold Golen Gallery specializes in lowbrow art, a rarity in Wynwood. Lowbrow art, a term coined by artist Robert Williams, describes art that is rooted in figurative illustration, graphics, tattoos, comic books, cartoons, animation, pinup girl art, punk rock, hot rod culture, and in general, American pop culture. Los Angeles is home to the movement, which is also called Pop Surrealism for its bizarre, fantasy-like aesthetics. Lowbrow artists are typically excluded from the world of fine art and are not usually the subjects of reviews and criticism in mainstream arts and cultural publications. While many believe that the validity of lowbrow art in the fine art world is questionable, Harold Golen has set out to bring lowbrow up to higher standards.
Harold Golen’s interest in lowbrow art began with a love for collectible items. Golen, a Miami native, went to the University of Miami to study architecture. After realizing that he’d be stuck in an office most of his life, Golen quit his job in search of more creative pursuits. Golen began working for a friend who owned a collectibles store in Miami Beach. When his friend decided to sell the store, Golen took over and ran with it. POP was a fixture on Washington Avenue for ten years, selling collectible toys, funky art, and unique t-shirts. “Ultimately, the store became something very different than what it was when I started it”, says Golen. “Ebay took over the collectibles market. The area also got a lot more commercial… everyone began coming to the beach for clothing, not for the funky things that people used to come to the beach for,” Golen adds. As South Beach began changing, Golen started learning more and more about the lowbrow arts movement.
He has witnessed the growing arts scene in Wynwood and eventually bought the building on NW 6th Avenue that now houses his gallery. “It’s about taking this type of art and bringing it to a fine art level”, says Golen of his new endeavor. The space is about 4,000 square feet, and offers one large main space, and three smaller exhibition spaces. The gallery also includes a retro-inspired lounge area, complete with Mid Century furniture, and small store that sells vintage-inspired objects, vinyl toys, specialty books, cards, and t-shirts created by the artists he represents. Harold Golen Gallery is now one of two galleries in Wynwood that can be considered lowbrow, the other being Antikulture on NE 36th Street, a space that focuses more on showing street and urban inspired art.
Golen plans on having one show per month. Upcoming exhibits will be a mix of solo shows and group projects. In November, Golen will open Three-Headed Baby, a group show featuring Kii Arens’ alien-inspired landscapes and Steve Cambron’s color-infused retro wall sculptures. December at the Harold Golen Gallery will bring Subjective Reality, a Neo-Psychedelic group show inspired by artist Scot Olsen’s large-scale oil paintings of saints, each representing a different hallucinogenic drug. The saints are meant to show a spiritual connection to hallucinogenics. A handful of other artists will exhibit their interpretations of Olsen’ concept alongside the artist’s work. The opening reception for Subjective Reality will be on Friday, December 7th. The Harold Golen Gallery is off the beaten path, both physically and conceptually, and that is refreshing for any art lover on their monthly trek through Wynwood.
By Mia Saavedra