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Keepin' it Real in the Lower Haight
by Jialin Luh on Nov 23, 2006
On the corner of Haight and Steiner in a space previously occupied by drum and bass record shop The Compound and subsequently Future Primitive, newcomer Lower Hater brings distinctive flavor for all facets of the motley neighborhood and beyond. At once a clothing, housewares and furniture boutique cum art gallery, Lower Hater blends elements of hip hop to punk rock, classy to edgy, and retro to modern in a spot-on collection of goods that must be recognized as pieces of art.
Though newly opened in September, Lower Hater is a seasoned collective founded by friends Corey Matthews, Nicole Strand and Janice Myint, who have been collaborating with graffiti and fine artists for over ten years. In contrast to the Upper Haight, which has long been known as the hippie champion of peace, love and harmony, “Lower Hater” evokes the dichotomy between Upper and Lower Haight. As Strand says, “Lower Haight has always been more grounded and real, with a more cynical approach.” Spoken like a true hater? Not really. But you definitely won’t find any tie-dye or peace sign/happy face imagery here.
A magnificent and captivating window/entryway installation by local artist Paul Hayes featuring magically manipulated paper suspended from the ceiling, invites entrance into the shop. Though Lower Hater is unmistakably an art space, the warm wooden accents, couches in the front corner and amiable employees chase away all possible pretentiousness. One could start by doing the perimeter of the space, as the walls are decked with eye candy.
Pieces for your walls start at the $35 mark, for small but amazing painted canvases by Greg “PNUT” Gallinski’s six-year-old daughter Mya, and come in pretty much all forms, colors and mediums. In addition to wall art and painted rocks for home décor, Pnut also does some incredible reworks of already iconic vintage furniture, for example custom-painting a vintage Eames chair. Paul Hayes’ artwork appears all around the store in various guises and styles, one of the most impressive being a wooden shadowbox occupied by intricately cut paper characters suspended in mid-air. Kahyeed Allahn does some beautifully detailed illustrations on wood rather than canvas, and the pen and ink originals by Abe are quirky and intriguing, demonstrating graf and fine art influence. The wood burn skate decks by Shonan are yet another marvel in their detail. Most of you have never seen skate decks like these, I promise.
All components of the staggering installation near the rear of the store, by Romanowski, David Chung Lee and DJ Burt are for sale, so you should really come check it out in its entirety before they start walking away. The artists have crafted a conglomeration of vintage found objects including sliced up guitars, antique piano keys, stone busts adorned with sporadic illustrations in the fashion of a good mash up tune.
Romanowski’s diverse works are scattered throughout the store, from his spray painted and stenciled mailbox, 45s case, suitcase and old-school record player to his collector’s edition of hand cut and customized K Swiss and Adidas kicks for toddler through adult. Hand-blown glass pieces by master glass blower Brian Jublonski adorn the space in the form of funky vases bearing labels such as “hate”, “greed”, “social security” and “immunity”, Qiqua figurines and beautiful abstract creations.
Ferris Plock’s suitcase were a favorite of mine: vintage orange suitcases small and large, bearing stoned-looking fantastical characters in a street art meets classy vintage kind of way. At $300 and $350 for small and large, these babies aren’t cheap but you’re paying for functional pieces of highly collectible art.
In the clothing department Lower Hater offers spice and spunk for all veins. Under their own label you’ll find the requisite logo tees as well as cheeky “Frisco” tees and other designs. I particularly liked the shirt with a large “LA” emblazoned and exed out on the shirt and a more conspicuous “San Francisco” slapped on side like a sticker. Like the old “Fillmore” hoodies and Muni tees by Upper Playground, this is a good place to shop for ways to represent SF. Local skate company Western Edition supports with slick tees, hats and beanies. My personal favorite would have to be the ladies’ boyshort panties with a silk-screened “snacks” on the butt – these are ingeniously packaged in plastic Hostess cupcake holders.
Spare Change Designs clothing can also be picked up here. Reconstructed ladies’ tees are on sale for $10 and stitched men’s shirts for $20. On the super polished with edge tip, Canadian label Qiu does the trick. With inspiring prints and patterns and raw edges, Qiu apparel is comfortable and totally stylish and Lower Hater is the exclusive San Francisco retailer. Here you can also find a cabinet full of Funk sunglasses from Germany that run the gamut from rimless to aviator.
If you want to accessorize, check out bags by independent Swiss label NDS, acronym for Nataly Dressed Soul. Constructed of abrasion-resistant, waterproof polyurethane coated textiles, these candy-colored pouches come in a variety of sizes to hold anything and everything you want to tote around. Chainmaille jewelry by Rebeca Mojica’s Blue Buddha Boutique and natural gem necklaces (amber, opal, carnelian, to name a few) round out the offering.
In addition to offering material goods, Lower Hater has also been known to throw tight parties. Past musical artists have included Aceyalone, Slum Village, Shy FX, Shotgun Wedding Quintet, and DJ Marky. Be on the lookout for more.
Curators Romanoski and Pnut keep the art fresh; it’s worth a periodic visit to Lower Hater if only to peep the rotating pieces. With a simple play on words, the folks at Lower Hater deftly capture and bring together the motley attitudes and lifestyles of the Lower Haight and beyond. Check it out.
by Jialin Luh on Nov 23, 2006
Photos courtesy Janice Myint
Installation by Romanowski, David Chung Lee and DJ Burt