In a 100-year-old converted department store on the edge of Corktown, dim lighting reveals a dizzying wonderland. Huge canvases painted in brilliant reds, blues and greens line the walls to the ceiling. A full-sized trampoline sits next to a kiddie pool, filled with water. A makeshift sandbox lies near a desk of shuffled papers.
Izzy’s Raw Art Gallery has a mission: to “provide an outlet for artists who are pushing the boundaries and to make these visions accessible to the public.” So says the sign for the gallery’s second exhibition, opening Saturday, showing artists M80, Larry Stephens and Paul Shad.
And, no, this is not a gallery for children. Izzy’s is more than a new downtown art gallery. Owner and gallery founder Karl Schneider lives on the first floor with his family — wife Cathy Saman Schneider, a designer and “trend spotter” for the marketing industry, and their two children, Billy, 6, and Molly, 4.
The gallery is in the basement. Schneider’s upcoming show will feature what he calls “raw” — edgy and individualistic — art, such as “Walking Nancy,” by artist M80. For the piece the artist, who works with junk, drilled a man’s doll head to the top of a wooden box. The doll’s neck is adorned with a gaudy crystal necklace; multicolored hair curlers dangle as legs. Typewriter ribbon spools represent breasts and water faucet spigots make genitalia. The hermaphrodite figure holds a wire with a toy dog at the end.
“I want people to laugh and smile at my art,” M80 said about the piece.
In “Tales From the Crypt Fourth Movement Concerto,” Larry Stephens attaches old comic books to canvas, with paint splattered in a rainbow of acrylic and oil hues. Stephens says his art is influenced by cheesy ’70s horror movies.
Schneider says he got the idea for a “raw art” gallery from the now-closed “Gallery Jacques” in Ann Arbor, run by the late Jacques Karamanoukian, who specialized in self-taught artists.
For Schneider, talent and originality matter more than an art degree.
“I’m not looking for somebody else’s ‘ism.’ I’m looking for artists who are doing it their own way, expressing the uniqueness of the self,” Schnieder says. The gallery will feature affordable art — Schnieder says he’ll charge $300 or less for most of the work he displays.
The gallery is named after the second owner of the building, someone Schneider says he knows little about. But, he liked the “bluesy” sounding name. Before Izzy’s, Schneider managed the Zeitgeist’s art gallery for five years. He bought the abandoned old department store on Michigan Avenue that would become his home and gallery in 1998, and spent more than six years renovating the place.
Before then, Schneider lived on Heidelberg Street for eight years, and met his wife there.
“I learned how art could change a neighborhood,” he says of living in the midst of Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg project.
Upstairs in the building, Schneider rents out four lofts. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the building hosts a pilates class.
An artist himself, Schneider does tile and woodwork, and says he’s incorporated as much original furniture and material as he can into the building restoration. He’s installed light fixtures from the 1920s. The glass cases at the entrance of the building show a patent of 1899. In the gallery, wooden lockers and a rage press, for making paper, stand silently in the corner. Schneider says his goal is “making new out of old and keeping it fresh.”
Attention to whimsical detail characterizes Schneider’s household. Beneath the family fireplace, real stop signs glued to the floor warn the kids to go no farther. The kitchen sink base is tiled, to match the stove, and shaped like a “V.”
Schneider uses cement and beer bottle caps to make his mark on the evolving history of the building. In the gallery, a bench and a piece of antique furniture are covered in swirling patterns by caps from Stroh, Miller Lite and O’Doul’s.
As for the gallery, Schneider says he expects to have a new show every few months, showing two to three artists at a time. Three hundred people attended his first show, Sister Sister, of 40 women artists.
“I want people to have a great experience, to see something they’ve never seen before that changes them in a positive way,” Schneider says of Izzy’s.
Izzy’s Raw Art Gallery is located at 2572 Michigan Ave. The exhibit opens Sat., March 6, from 7 p.m. to midnight. Mark Sawaski of the Immigrant Suns will play. The exhibit runs through April 30. For more information call 313-961-1653 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.Erica Davis is a freelance writer for Metro Times. E-mail email@example.com