In late 2003 I was invited to a Christmas party with my new friend and colleague Vonn Sumner. Vonn and I met when we were both hired as art instructors at the Orange County School for the Arts in Santa Ana, California. Vonn had invited me to the party at an artist friends house he knew from his time living in New York. It was there that I was re-aquainted with artist Shane Guffogg ( Shane and I knew each other from a group show we were in at Kantor gallery in the 1990's ) from that chance meeting the group known as Pharmaka would be formed. Originally the group consisted of artists Vonn Sumner, Shane Guffogg, dealer/curator Adam Gross and myself. We would meet weekly at one of our studios, a gallery, museum or bar to look at work, "talk shop" and just hang out enjoying the camaraderie we had found. It didn't take long until we had invited a few other painters into the mix and started calling the group Pharmaka. The name was chosen because of it's roots in ancient Greece, the cradle of Western civilization, and means to paint or an artists colors. It also means a poison and a remedy. Although Pharmaka started off as a group of like minded painters who's primary goal was to open up a dialogue about painting and what was going on in the art world, it took a turn when Pharmaka was offered a space to renovate in the newly designated Gallery Row district of downtown Los Angeles. From 2005 - 2010 Pharmaka opened it's doors at the corner of 5th & Main as a non-profit gallery headed by Shane Guffogg. We became a central point in the downtown LA art scene and had many exhibitions and events. Like has happened so many times where artists come in and help with the revitalization of a historic part of town, the landlords saw their chance to jack up the rent. The price was unsustainable and in 2010 Pharmaka the Gallery was no more. While we don't meet as often and some of us have moved on, a majority of us still do studio visits and enjoy the friendships we've created.
Over the next few weeks/months I will be posting "Thoughts on Pharmaka". I have asked members and people involved with Pharmaka and the Downtown Gallery Row area to write guest posts on what those years were like for them downtown and how they feel it added to their art and the Southern California art scene.
If you were/are a part of the downtown scene and would like to write a guest post on your experiences please feel free to send me an email.