The Daniel Rolnik Gallery is something of an anomaly on Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica. It’s cutting edge, ever-changing catalog lets visitors browse art as they would records at Amoeba Music, and the small space showcases some mega talents.
Owner Rolnik has been at this beach-side location for a year. “I go on road trips and I find artists I love. From Portland to North Carolina to Dallas to Anaheim, I find great works and exhibit them,” he says. In his browsing bin of artists currently there’s Otis Parsons’ instructor J.T. Steiny working in water colors to memorialize a departed pet, Catherine Kaleel’s zany “Romantic Donuts” series, the block prints and paintings of Krossd, and the holographic images of Tripper Dungan. He features low-gram movement artist Jessika Adams and Jeremy Novy who works on wood.
“I know what I like and I go for it,” Rolnik says. “I’ve written for thirty different art magazines, the L.A. Weekly, Jewish Journal. I was called the world’s most adorable art critic, but so much that I loved was unobtainable. I’m trying to change all that, walk out here and get something you can obtain.”
Turtle Wayne, with 80,000 Instagram followers, is one such obtainable artist. He creates whimsical pieces centered on, yes, turtles. His solo show features originals, prints, sticker packs, shirts, and sketch books.
“I draw turtles. I draw anything or anyone turned into a turtle. It’s become my identity, it’s how I relate to the world. I put poetry and humor into my work,” Wayne attests.
Based in San Francisco’s East Bay, he was drawing turtles only as a warm-up for other commissions, and the concept started as a joke. “But now,” he notes, “I have close to 2000 turtle pieces posted on Instagram. And you can see thousands of turtle ideas that people can suggest. People like turtles – that’s the whole interaction.”
Catherine Kaleel says the point of her pieces, which include detailed images of nostalgia-infused cassettes is “good humor. Everyone can relate to my work. I’m pretty much laughing the whole time I’m making my pieces, it’s sort of my Prozac creating these paintings.” Currently in the masters program at the Laguna College of Art and Design, the SoCal native has crafted nostalagic images since 2011.
“I don’t feel like fine art and low brow have to be separated. My work is a combination of the two,” she explains.
It’s a combination that works for the Daniel Rolnik Gallery itself, where new works and exhibitions pop up with frequency and panache. Check out Turtle Wayne and other artists daily from 3-10 pm at 1431 Ocean Ave. Ste. 1800 in Santa Monica.
- Genie Davis; all photos: Jack Burke