IF POP CULTURE HAD A BABY WITH MOMA
Written by Marina May
A sprawling collection of nostalgic tokens
(from a formidable collection of VHS tapes, to funky key chains, some form of slime, zines, and a veritable treasure trove of Butt’n Booty buttons and patches) adorn the front room of Grease 3. As we sit on a velveteen couch nestled beneath shelves stocked with epic merch, co-owner Conor Murphy describes what it’s like to be one third of the triumvirate that runs the hyper-hip gallery.
“Julie Rechtien and Brittany Boynton [co-owners of Butt’n Booty] come from this kind of beautiful pop culture background and ‘know all.’ I’m amazed by their library of information,” Conor says as he describes the conception of a store front conjoined with an art space. “I come from a more academic art background, and the gallery in-between is a nice representation of that.”
The brilliantly accessible amalgamation of objects immediately breaks the barrier between the “pop culture” public space and the realm of the “white walled” gallery in an ingenious and entirely fresh way. Grease 3 channels a laboratory where poetry meets commodity in an attempt to democratize the consumption art.
The gallery boasts a unique array of shows on a month by month basis, most recently featuring emerging artists such as VHS Girl, Nick Schleicher, Harley Lafarrah Eaves, Sloan Brunner and Shawn Burkard. Alongside their visual programming, Grease 3 also functions as an impromptu music venue with performers playing garage style shows in the space. The artists and owners also frequently pull from their repository of VHS films for screenings of childhood favorites and cult classics alike, creating a “drive in” theatre in the back yard.
“There’s no hierarchy,” Conor says of the spontaneity and variety of artists, shows, and events. “That was our goal. When we opened the space, we realized that we needed it to be accessible, to the people down the street or people from Chesterfield. Everybody needed to feel very comfortable being here.”
The resulting space is communal, and is perhaps embodied in the wall of VHS tapes. Some are bought, some are brought, some are loaned. Different folklores develop around certain films, memories are recalled, and it’s all tied together by a thread of youth, creativity, and the undeniable sensation of fleeting happiness.
This casual, yet thoughtful approach translates to Conor’s curatorial practice. The shows evolve almost as Kaprow “happenings,” dictated by an intuitive level of taste and and a keen interest in presenting engaging and challenging subject matter.
“I like to take a step back and let the artists use and abuse the space. Most of our programming is playing it by ear, and I think that’s a part of our success. There are no rules! There’s a lot of freedom.”
“That’s our motto here 'Okay!'" He laughs, “Which sounds the most 'millennial,' but there’s something very intelligent behind that and something very worth while to explore.”
For Conor, the importance of art lay in its ability to encourage both makers and viewers in critical conversations, that sometimes end… weirdly. These kinds of discussions triggered his love for the formal study of art as an undergraduate at Webster University, where he met co-owners Julie and Brittany.
“They were interested in a store front. We tossed around the idea of starting something, all as a joke kind of, and Julie came across the space on Craigslist… then it started.”
And the name, Grease 3? It came from “your classic group chat.”
This genuine sense of excitement for showcasing an elevated level of work in a relaxed space separates Grease 3 from the rigidity that normally hovers over “The Art World” and produces a place for viewers to explore art devoid of judgement or expectations. There is nothing quite like it.
Come experience Grease 3 for yourself Friday, December 8th at the opening of “Cold Soup,” a survey of young artists from Webster University.
And if you were wondering how much grease is involved with Grease 3, it’s just a little bit of hair gel, used recently.