04/29/10 – By ALICIA CONDARCURI
Funktion Gallery may have closed its doors, but its members are definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.
The graffiti art collective Faceless Few that make up Funktion Gallery officially closed its doors a few weeks ago and a tattoo parlour is taking its place. The sudden departure from the building on Bloor Street is nothing for fans of the gallery to be worried about, said José-Gabriel, founder of the gallery.
“A lot of people were really shocked with how fast we got out of there,” said José, “Our whole thing was we didn’t want to alert anyone and let anyone know we’re leaving, because we knew we’d have to do a lot of explaining. A lot of people in the neighbourhood were really angry and sad we left. Some of the restaurants we went to all the time were begging us to stay and asking what they could do to help. And we’re like, it’s not that we have to leave; we’re just not doing this anymore. It’s time for a change.”
The truth is the gallery has moved online to funktiongallery.com so they can showcase all of the individual projects of the artists involved. The crew has launched a new advertising campaign by scattering sketches and free art around the city to promote their new website and show people indirectly that Funktion has not retired, and probably never will.
José says some members are starting up their own graffiti shop which sells graffiti memorabilia, books, supplies and movies. Each main member is still involved in multiple side projects including charities, murals and party promotion. But the responsibility of running a shop day after day was too much for the natural, nocturnal habitat of the graffiti writer.
“We’re all graffiti artists, so naturally we have to be out all night and venture around and see new things. So being in the gallery space all the time kept us stationary, so we couldn’t really move around, because either one of us was opening the shop or we had to set up for shows. So we kind of shut it down because it was just getting too much, no one really wanted to take the responsibility of running a shop.” Said José.
Paired with the fact that their art wasn’t selling in the neighbourhood, and that José just opened the gallery in 2009 to keep his parents happy after dropping out of college for graphic design, the few main members of Funktion decided that closing the physical gallery just made sense. Stopping all of the artistic and educational endeavours, however, certainly didn’t make sense for these natural artists.
“I just kind of said it (opening a gallery) and didn’t really think about it,” said José, “because we’ve always wanted to open up our own space but we never wanted it to be a gallery. It’s good because now we actually individually make profit instead of putting all our money towards rent. Everyone got their cut and now everyone’s being able to do their own thing. It all worked out.”
With the money the crew got out of the business, José gets to do a bunch of video production for music videos and promotion as he could afford new equipment. Funktion member Brandon Gore is currently in New York to work in the art scene there, and another member Clem Watson traveled to San Francisco to do the same thing. It’s clear that the gallery, while not a final destination for these artists, definitely paved the way for a bright, colourful future in the art world.
José says the next level is to “showcase” the other side of Funktion gallery, “the dark side.” Going into the endeavour at the beginning of 2009, the crew said they would make their opening year one of community, happiness and friendship while making a lot of new contacts. But after the restrictions of having a gallery space owned by a landlord who didn’t appreciate paint on the floor, which happened a lot in the messy workspace, a grimy Ninja Turtles like lair is more in tune for the vision of their ever changing collective.
“Now we don’t have the space so we don’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings,” says José. “A lot of us have very morbid art and very messed up attitudes, so this year is the year of the grimy art. I think some people will be disturbed but its’ a game so if you cant have fun with it then what’s the point of doing it in the first place? We love creating that mystery like that sense of people not knowing what is going to happen next.”
What’s happening next is still a hazy mystery to most people involved in the gallery, said José. Some of his friends still don’t know the gallery closed down.
“We’re all about running the schemes and tricking people and making people think weird things about us,” said José.
He wants to open up a studio space himself sometime in the next few years after he travels to Brazil, where he hopes to work with artists and pursue one of his many passions- video productions. But mysteriousness is the whole function of Funktion gallery, and transformation and change is something the major players of the gallery learned in the year they opened their doors.
“Opening this gallery definitely legitimized us a hell of a lot,” says José. “Now our whole group is getting paid for doing murals properly. For example, when we first started the gallery we were doing murals for people and they would only pay for the paint, not for my time. For paintings I was selling them for $60 to $70 just to get them out there. Now it’s like $600 to $700 for paintings, and for murals we don’t do anything that’s under $1000 unless it’s a charity or for a good cause.”
Funktion members are still active in collaborations with other artists. On Saturday April 24, the gallery worked on an event with the Clothing Brand Experiment called Limited, where artists helped to create fifty pieces of wearable art on hoodies. José created his own that went up for sale at the event.
With all the events circling around the talented players of the still active but online gallery, there are few empty spaces on their calendar. Jose is working to set up graffiti art festivals after he organized a couple successful festivals in the past. They will also be creating a massive mural for Art Walk, an annual summer event in Sarnia. While continuing to teach classes and workshops, something that was a major success of the Funktion Gallery, and throwing and promoting parties and concerts, the busy members of the Funktion Gallery have their hands full even without their physical space.
“We all kind of found out what we’re good at and what we want, some people are still searching but that happens,” said José. “Eventually I want to do some teaching. My entire family is teachers so I guess it’s only natural for me to become some sort of a teacher. I think that’s what I’m looking towards. It depends though because you never know where life will take you.”