The Los Angeles–based artist Tyler Murphy started his gallery and curatorial platform Commercial Street out of the basement of a Provincetown, Massachusetts jewelry company, where he has so far presented two summers of programming, working with the likes of Puppies Puppies, the now-shuttered New York gallery Off Vendome, and the artist Cooper Jacoby. This summer, the project is temporarily moving to the other side of the country, taking up residence at the L.A. gallery Jenny’s, where Murphy is staging a trilogy of group shows alongside a few one-night exhibitions at the Glendale, California bar the Capri Lounge, the first of which takes place this Saturday with the artist Megan Plunkett.
“I’m from Cape Cod originally, and I’ve always wanted to do shows in Provincetown because it has a really interesting history as an art town,” Murphy told me recently over the phone, pointing to the late painter Hans Hoffman as one famous former resident of the area. Also, the artist noted, the exhibitions have “kind of functioned in some ways as an excuse to go back home for a few weeks.”
As way of backstory, a friend’s father—Günter Hanelt, who originally hails from Düsseldorf–owns the store Exuma Jewelry in the center of town, which includes a basement area that lies dormant in the summer. The process of securing the space was relatively straightforward. “I asked him if I could do projects there,” Murphy explained. “He said yes.”
Of the shows staged, a 2017 collaboration with Puppies Puppies, in which the artist fashioned the facade of the gallery’s entryway to look like a nightclub, but only after 10 p.m., stands out as one highlight. “So there’s like a pride flag, a stool to imply a bouncer and then disco lights that could be seen through the window,” Murphy said. “So people are sort of trying to get in all the time.” There was no actual club. “John Waters said it looked like the bouncer went to go take a shit, which I thought was really funny,” Murphy continued.
The gallery’s move to Jenny’s, which is located in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, halted a third consecutive season in Cape Cod. “I had been planning on doing the project again in Provincetown, but then Matt and Jenny of Jenny’s asked me if I wanted to sublet from them while they go to London,” Murphy said. “And I couldn’t pass up that chance.” (Jenny’s is organizing shows in the British capital this summer.)
Over the summer, the project—which will retain the Commercial Street moniker—will offer three group shows, each with its own rough conceptual theme, all tethered to a broader idea of, according to Murphy, how “artists use their practice to create agency or autonomy within larger structures of control.”
The first exhibition, which is on view through July 1, is titled “Caisson, Diver, Charmer” and features five artists, most based in Los Angeles, working within the loose theme of “facade or structure or malfunction.” The second two exhibitions deploy a similar vagueness, dealing with concepts like inversion, abstraction, and recontextualization. According to Murphy, within these broad concepts, “the scope of what I’m talking about is really affected by each of the artist’s work.” In the first show, this means a singed leaf made out of leather and yarn by Min Yoon and Tim Eastman’s There is a Balim in Gilead–a sculptural work made with a ceramic bowl and clothespins—among other pieces.
Asked about the Capri, Murphy said, “It’s sort of this dive-y, wood-paneled, old-timers drinking haunt. They have these really nice walls and I think it’s just a beautiful space to do a sort of singular exhibition, and also it’s exciting to continue the programming outside of a formal exhibition space.” He mentioned that the Glendale venue shares its name with Martin Kippenberger’s legendary haunt in Venice Beach, which was called, simply, Capri. Kippenberger was a partial owner of that bar and restaurant, and in a confrontational style that was something of a hallmark for him, he would routinely camp out in the establishment’s entryway and berate his own customers.
In contrast, the Glendale Capri seems to be a much more hospitable operation. One Yelp reviewer called it a “fun funky little spot” and referred to one of the bartenders and owners as “extremely personable.” The space came recommended by Plunkett, who has work in the first Jenny’s group show and who will be showing a series of photos of dogs culled from Craigslist and printed out in the style of an aspiring actor’s headshot at the Capri. “I had a drink without asking them, in the middle of the day, just to feel it out,” Murphy said, of his first experiences with the bar. “And I went back and asked them and they were totally interested and really down for it.”
He continued, “They seemed totally down to put nails in the wall and give us free reign in a way, for one night.”