Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Monday, March 04, 2024
Gerard Bencen (left), owner of the SL8 gallery, is seen with artist 444 IDK (right) at his art collective’s debut Friday, May 26, 2023.
Gerard Bencen (left), owner of the SL8 gallery, is seen with artist 444 IDK (right) at his art collective’s debut Friday, May 26, 2023.

A local group of artists debuted their first exhibit while bouncing bass and percussion echoed, glasses were filled with wine and glowing black lights lit up the SL8 gallery Friday. 

When the gallery, located at 10 E University Ave., opened its doors at 7 p.m., a constant stream of people filed through the hall and the miniature cinema to see the art made by friends, classmates and strangers.

Local artist 444 IDK chose the artists who would be featured in the show.

The 23-year-old Gainesville resident began the collective to bring creatives together to help each other achieve their individual goals. 

Nobody can do it alone, he said. 

And he didn’t. One local artist, ZZZ Zawacki, runs her own art business and even helped him create the flier for the opening. 

The 24-year-old’s work mostly focuses on clothing, tapestries and acrylic paintings. 

While sipping a 2020 Cabernet, she said it took her 1,800 days to complete the pieces in this show and feels proud to have it displayed. 

“It's finally being viewed by other people, and it feels wonderful being able to share my other side to my creativity within my business,” she said.

The main purpose of her work is informing people about psychedelics as alternative medicine. The collective gave her that platform.

“To have an open conversation about harm reduction and drug policies as well as what we can do to expand our consciousness and be more in tune with nature, that’s why I’m here,” she said.

Carly Klingbiel, a 22-year-old Gainesville resident, also joined the collective. She’s grateful to have a space for her art, she said. 

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

Klingbiel’s work focuses on the exclusion of women throughout history and the divide between art and craft. Her paintings highlight femininity through textiles like ribbon and lace and pastel colors. 

“I like to focus on the nostalgia of girls and what it means to grow up being a woman or a girl,” Klingbiel said.

She recently graduated college, and this show is actually her first exhibit after she finished school. She was excited to be part of this new collective and to see how all the different artists and styles come together for this show, she said.

When choosing what pieces to include in this show, she even used her own UV LED nail lamp to figure out which of her pieces would look the best under black light and match the theme for the show. 

Another young artist, Sam Rodriguez, 21, has been creating art since she was 14. 

Like Klingbiel, Rodriguez just graduated college. This is her second show. She hopes she made her younger self proud.  

“It's very rewarding knowing that something that I started so young actually became my whole career,” Rodriguez said.

Her most recent work centered around the idea of autonomy and the amount of power we have in controlling our lives. A common motif in her work is a red string, the same red string that hung from the ceiling and walls of the gallery during opening night.

For some like Klingbiel and Rodriguez, it’s the beginning of their art journey. But for Kyleigh Bernstien, 22, this is her chance to show work for the last time before entering the workforce. 

She met 444 IDK in a sculpture class, and the two have been friends for a few years. When he invited her to join the collective and exhibit her art, she thought it would be fun and immediately agreed.

She uses polymer clay and seashells to create sculptures that resemble marine environments. The colorful clay resembles coral and rock formations that look like an alien planet when hit with black light. 

“They’re like trinkets,” she said. “They're like shelf decorations. I want to make little worlds.”

Viewers were definitely pulled into a new world when entering the gallery. One guest, Cec Woodbarron, 21, appreciated how there was something for everyone. 

“Contemporary art is something that's so up and coming and so experimental, and there's so much passion in it,” Woodbarron said. “I'm so lucky to be here.”

Gerard Bencen, the owner of the SL8 Gallery, was glad to see so many people come together to support local artists. He was surprised at the attendance because many people leave Gainesville during the summer. 

“You've got a young group of artists and all of their connections, so it's just blown up tonight,” he said.

After a period of inactivity, it was satisfying to have so many people attend. With this exhibit, they wanted to make a grand gesture to the community and announce to the world they’re open, he said.

“The idea is to make our work available to the students at a reasonable price,” Bencen said. “I'd like to see if that model will work here and if it does, [there’s] no reason not to go to Austin and then New York.” 

When 444 IDK began curating the exhibit, he didn’t have an exact theme in mind. 

“The theme is bring your best work,” he said. 

He hopes that the momentum from the show will continue to build for the gallery.

“There's been a number of SL8 grand reopenings by now, but I feel like this one is serious. We have a plan to keep things moving forward and there's a bigger plan than just Gainesville,” he said. “SL8 isn't to be slept on.”

 Contact Aubrey at abocalan@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @aubreyyrosee.


Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Aubrey Bocalan

Aubrey Bocalan is a third-year journalism major. She is also pursuing a double major in Art. When she isn't writing, she's probably watching TV with her dog, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore Bocalan.


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.