Immediately as we entered the show, I began to question the choice of the lOAKal Gallery and Boutique as the location for this show. “Salvation Mini Mart” invited the visitors for a different shopping experience through vibrant art pieces and site-specific installations that critique the relationship between religion and consumerism. “Holy War,” one of the main paintings in the exhibit, provides a strong reference for their message. The detailed Judeo-Christian iconography and product design creates a strong connection to several artists who crafted their work through similar styles and techniques and who also address important societal issues through their art. This contemporary art exhibit opens the viewer’s eyes to the confusing meaning behind modern religious traditions.
At first, when entering the lOAKal Gallery and Boutique it feels like you enter into another typical Oaklandish-like store. The main room of the boutique is filled with t-shirts, cards, painted clocks, and small art pieces that decorate the walls. The shop is lit with fluorescent lights, and there was pop-music by Miley Cyrus playing in the background. The exhibition space is located at the left side of the shop. It is a space delineated by short walls that seem to reinforce the connection between the gallery space and the store itself. The entrance is marked by a small wooden stool with a white Office-Depot-like binder that reveals details about the exhibit, the artist, and of course - prices of the pieces. When entering the exhibit space I immediately noticed that someone forgot to turn on the spotlights that were directed toward the paintings. The viewer had to rely on the ambient light from the store.
The left side of the gallery contained small installations that related to each other to create a narrative reminding visitors that they are in the middle of a shopping spree. Along the wall, there were three frame structures of a mosque, Jewish temple, and a church that formed the “Salvation Mini Mart.” Inside that small store there was a large wall-painted red cross image, as well as detailed crafted products such as Sacrament Crackers, a selection of wines named after the Blood of Christ, White Jesus Skin Bleach, and pesticides named “Anti Christ.” Outside this imaginary store right in the corner, the artist situated a figure of a tired Santa that was wearing a red face-cover, reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan. All around the exhausted Santa, right on the concrete floor, there were hundreds of scratched-off lottery tickets, a decorated Christmas tree, television with a picture of the American flag and the Statue of Liberty, including a wall-painted Coca-Cola-like sign reminding visitors to “Enjoy Capitalism.” Within that same space there were also other installations of a painted bench that stated, “MARY HAD A RAPE BABY; DON’T ABORT” with crosses in place of the letter T, a large, open suitcase that was overflowing with scratched-off lottery tickets, and an advertisement for Levi’s that stated “WEAR BLUE; BLEED RED.”
On the right side…