SOLANA BEACH — A new art gallery in Solana Beach run by Cardiff resident Eric Laine is catching the attention of visitors and art aficionados alike along North Coast Highway.
Oolong Gallery, which opened in June, is the realization of Laine’s lifelong dream following decades spent in different factions of the art world, mostly on the East Coast. Laine’s 2018 move to Cardiff prompted a connection with artists Matt Moore and Carrie Marril, who also rent the space and agreed to partner with Laine to host his gallery on the main showroom floor.
“The idea they had was, could the upstairs be some kind of project gallery space. As soon as I heard that, green lights started flashing, and I said, ‘I’ve been wanting to do this for years,’” Laine recounted. “I thought to myself, I’m gonna be here another eight years at least, and I want to do something that engages the community, makes my son proud, and shows him and the community what I stand for.”
Preparation ensued over the spring and summer months of 2022 until Oolong opened with an inaugural “Global Entry” show in early June. On Aug. 28, Oolong launched its second exhibition, “Sunblock 5000,” a rejection of traditional beach house art styles running through October 9.
Many of the design elements of the gallery, built by The Brown Studio in Encinitas, work to the advantage of the artworks themselves. With folding glass doors that can be pushed aside to offer a wide-open entrance, passersby can’t help but notice, for example, the sculpture of a pile of large Cheetos leaning in the corner just inside.
The installation sculpture by New York artist and exhibition co-curator Sam Keller is one of the main pieces in “Sunblock 5000,” with his accompanying work “Cheetosphere” to be found further in.
Alongside renowned artists like Keller, the gallery also features paintings, sculptures, photography, mixed media and installation pieces from Jerry Hsu, Mauricio Muñoz, Martha Colburn, Colin Oulighan, Robert Gutierrez, and recent University of San Diego masters of fine arts graduates Taylor Chapin and Victor Casteñada.
Connections, some unspoken, run between many of the pieces throughout the exhibition. Hsu, whose photo works are featured in “Sunblock 5000,” licensed the image of Keller’s “Cheetosphere” for his skateboarding and clothing brand SciFi Fantasy.
Laine said it’s important to him to represent artists of all backgrounds, from those who pursue art through higher education and those who may be self-taught or have a background in street art.
“I think it’s part of engaging high and low cultures simultaneously,” Laine said.
While he has had a lot of enthusiasm from artists in the region about collaborations in the gallery, Laine said he is focusing now on drawing that same enthusiasm from residents.
“Once people are in here, they’re super excited, but the hardest part is getting people over here,” he said. “It’s very hard to do a gallery as a sustainable business, but we’re looking to become fully sustainable here where we can focus mainly on the creativity.”
Looking ahead, exhibitions will continue to run for six weeks through the rest of 2022 with various artists. Next year, shows will transition into solo, duo and trio artist exhibitions, Laine said.
Oolong Gallery is located at 349 N. Highway 101 in Solana Beach and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.