On September 5, 2013 by Evan Senn



In this day and age, competition is everything. My generation is a generation of hustlers and competitors. It can be a battle for success and a battle for life. In fine art, it has always been a battle to try and get to the top, but, with the terrors of war, crime and poverty around every corner, up and coming fine artists are battling for more than just their success in the fine art world. Grief- and poverty-stricken artists are doing whatever it takes to stay alive and in practice. With the thousands of expectations weighing heavily on their shoulders with every breath, the daily struggle to be an artist is monumental, now. This is not our parents’ journey to find art. This journey is treacherous and many give up trying to succeed at all and sell out for a corporate cubicle and dead end job. But the few who stay on the path have a more difficult journey ahead of them.

This is where “I DON”T WANT TO GO TO PRISON,” a group exhibition in Long Beach comes into play.

Visiting a city like Long Beach, you rarely expect to find high-brow contemporary art, let alone a haven for workaholic, restless and creative geniuses. Long Beach is a city of forgotten souls and shattered dreams for the mariners of Southern California, perched in the shadows of high end So Cal life. But nestled in this dirty, smelly and magnetic place there is a handful of astonishing artists that may not be household names yet, but given a couple of years, they will fight their way to the top of the art-food-chain. You can see their hunger, ambition, and talent in every brush stroke.

I stumbled upon the Artists Co-Op Gallery on an off chance. Tucked away behind the coolest of punk bars in all of California, Alex’s Bar, this sterile cement structure pulses with life and energy, though you wouldn’t know it upon approaching the space. This space serves as a collective studio for 11 artists, and it also has a front exhibition space that is minimal and expansive. The front gallery space was the room I got attached to, with the new exhibition by Shay Bredimus, Hely Gonzalez and Preston Daniels, I was mesmerized.

“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO PRISON” is an exhibition that centers itself around the abstract mental space of young artists today, as they fight for their lives and freedom as individuals, and as artists. With crushing responsibilities like student loans, rent, studio fees, art materials, cars, bikes, time and space, it is an uphill climb for most—without an end in sight. This struggle can be a catalyst for friendship and support, but, it is a huge driving force in these artists’ lives and art practice.

As I walked through the glass doors of the exhibition space, my eyes locked onto the exquisite work of Shay Bredimus, at the end of the corridor. Two dark and ominous framed portrayals of what look like mythological beings or ancient spiritual entities engage all my senses. With a shared dark tympanum, the two framed compositions touch each other in a delicate graze from their respective corners. The piece as a whole emits an energy of mysticism. This piece is a mere portion of a larger series of Bredimus’ Seni Horoscope pieces that will be exhibited in an upcoming exhibition.


The work feels as though it is leaving a painful scar on the wall that it gently hangs on. It bleeds sweet, black blood and stains the wall as it trickles down to the floor of the exhibition space, beckoning for attention and interaction. Both images housed in this dark relic shrine look like ghosts, with extreme contrasts and intense emotion emanating from the female gaze inside each of the compositions.

On the right, a human-serpent creature lightly shines through the opaque foggy material, as if three-dimensional inside this tiny flat surface. On the left, an angry looking woman’s face peers through the seemingly deep haze with two solid daggers in the foreground. Both images have a clear reference to classical figurative rendering, while parts of the compositions seem to touch on ancient religious symbols and traditional tattoo design. Bredimus’ work is often on an opaque plastic and intricately painted with fine lines, shading and exquisite detail in painted inks. The overall feeling of much of his work is haunting—this piece lingered in my daydreams for weeks. The juxtaposition in the imagery lightly caresses the abstract theme inferred by the exhibition title, but leaves the interpretation open-ended, only strengthening the haunting qualities of the work.

To the left of Bredimus’ work hangs a more passive representation of that mental space of strife and struggle; an abstract minimalist painting by Hely Gonzalez entitled Slave Ship. Predominantly black, with one major obtuse block of warm color toward the top of the composition, it seems to be hovering directly above an area of subtle faded color and emotion, barely seen and soft on all edges. That strange block of color seems as if an unattainable window or trap door, in a bottomless pit of darkness and doubt. Casting a very small amount of light into the space below the open and unreachable window, the space suddenly feels whole. The composition evokes a sense of space in the emptiness.


Though Gonzalez’s painting is seemingly simple and abstract, the power of the colors and energy of the composition naturally reference the master painter, Rothko and his intense and spiritual paintings. It is interesting to witness an object so simple creating such a full body of emotion; it’s almost as if the absence of lines or images forces your imagination to fill in the conceptual motives more easily.

The third piece in the exhibition is by Preston Daniels, across from the Hely Gonzalez painting. It is a magnetic and sharp invocation of light and space and darkness. Looking like it belongs in the Matrix, visually referencing Robert Irwin and Alberto Giacometti at the same time. It’s title is Campfire Barricade. Daniel’s work often resembles a melted version of reality, picking and choosing which parts of the real world as worth saving for his own. Playing god in a way, Daniels found a light to guide him through the darkness. His sculpture hangs on the wall, looking as though it could pounce on an unsuspecting visitor at any time. Where Gonzalez brought curiosity, and Bredimus brought passion, Daniels’ work brings fear and honesty.


I felt as though I was peering into the soul of this object and that it would devour me whole at any moment. The sculpture has such sharp edges that seemed as if they reached for me, such thick black goo dripping down the wall. The texture, alone, gave the feeling of movement; the sense that this was what the world was like after an apocalyptic incident. The shining bright light shoved into place on this monster of worry and darkness.

“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO PRISON: A Group Exhibition” is up thru September 30. Appointment only. Artists Co-Op Gallery, 1330 Gladys Ave. Long Beach, 90802.


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