Masters in Miniature

Some Space is turning two walls of a frame shop into Pioneer Square's most exciting display case.

Not long after the top-notch, custom frame shop Gallery Frames moved to its current

location at First and Cherry, longtime employees Daniel Carrillo and Shaun Kardinal started hanging exhibitions on two (yes, just two) of the shop’s walls. They cheekily named their “gallery” Some Space, in recognition of how much room they have dedicated to exhibiting art—not a lot, not a little, just some.

But the name also captures the genius of their program, which is emphatically distinct from the sea of larger galleries in the area. Kardinal says they wanted to "create a venue in which talented [oftentimes younger] artists can show their work in the hotbed of Pioneer Square without necessarily being tied to a bigger gallery and without being tied, per se, to those bigger gallery price tags." True to that vision, the art at Some Space is always affordable and, against some of the more traditional work being shown in the vicinity, usually feels like a breath of fresh air. Carrillo and Kardinal's first group show, "SMALL WORKS," made the most of their tiny area, with no piece over 12 inches in dimension and displaying work by over 20 artists.

Even better, Some Space reaches a perfect target audience. Not only do many of the Pioneer Square galleries (including James Harris Gallery, where I nine-to-five) have their art framed there, but many of Seattle's art stars, like Victoria Haven and Margie Livingston, also take their work to Gallery Frames to be fit with wooden borders before going on display. And for good reason. Owner Larry Yocom's team does an incredible job framing, treating everything like it is blue-chip and making sure to listen to what you want, whether it is a gilded or maple frame that suits you best.

Skillfully taking advantage of where they work, and leveraging the fact that the people who come into Gallery Frames are an already interested audience, Carrillo and Kardinal have built a highly successful art showcase. All but one of the 13 pieces in Some Space's March exhibit, for example—Chris Crites' electric mug shots on brown-paper bags—were sold, despite the seemingly lowbrow medium. The show won critical acclaim as well.

After almost a full year of curating strong monthly shows, Carrillo and Kardinal are now getting as much attention for their art exhibits as they do for their exceptional framework. Aside from one major flop in April of this year, wherein they sold only one piece and the art on the walls was emblematic of every other classically bad, classically Seattle wax painting, Gallery Frames' informed audience has responded with enthusiasm.

Last month's show was meant to shock. In "He Wishes His Beloved Were Dead," 2004 Cornish graduate Julia Gfrörer continued with her "Beloved" series—intimate portraits of the scars and imperfections that people bear. In a 2007 piece titled Freckles, a slight woman hugs herself. Her body, which is elegantly distorted to accentuate her bony, female form, is a pristine line drawing. In stark contrast, her face is almost entirely concealed behind red freckles, her eyes and the angular structure of her face obfuscated amidst a sea of pointillist precision. In Burn Victim I, a similarly waiflike creature lies exposed in front of us. Eyes closed with her hands reaching down to cover the space between her legs, the pink-skinned model is modest but rides a fine line between temptress and innocent. The title, however, makes the work neither sexual nor naive. The pink coat that washes her body is a burn, not the delicate blush you might take it for. And the expression on the model's face might just as easily be pain as pleasure.

Like Gfrörer's work, the Some Space approach might take on an air of the innocent: It's a small, uncomplicated operation, and Carrillo and Kardinal are about the nicest, most genuine men you'll encounter in the art world. But upon closer examination, it's clear these two know exactly what they are doing. From their polished Web site, which is more sophisticated and collector-friendly than most gallery sites, to this Thursday's opening of a show by Barry Maxwell (who's been on the fringes of the Seattle art scene for years), Some Space is carving out a new niche in the Pioneer Square gallery world.

I'm just hoping that, despite their burgeoning visibility—and the fact that they suddenly have more artist solicitations than they know what to do with—they don't lose the intimate and fresh aesthetic that makes them so different from the rest.

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