It’s rare these days to hear about a new gallery opening in the Bay Area, with the majority of new development focused on shuttering old spaces to make way for the construction of large-scale housing projects and office spaces.

That’s why it felt like cause for celebration when Athen B. Gallery opened as a fresh new face in the artist community in downtown Oakland back in 2015. Started by Brock Brake, a former photographer, and co-owner gallerist, Sorell Raino-Tsu, the gallery positioned itself between ongoing construction and a few wandering Chinatown establishments on an evolving stretch of Webster Street.

Over the following years, it grew its reputation on providing the connective tissue for artists to enhance their portfolios as creatives and engage in public art projects across the city.

When word spread earlier this year that Athen B. would be leaving the scene nearly as quickly as it had entered it almost seemed like business-as-usual. However, it wasn’t long thereafter that gallery followers learned of its intent to reopen with a sequel: the aptly named Part 2 Gallery (Pt. 2). Just next door, Part 2 Gallery blossomed into a space nearly three times as large, with an aesthetic as impressive as any longtime venue that’s held out in more established corners of San Francisco.

In early March, after what felt like no time at all, it unmasked its first show, “Domestic Dive.” Its bursting colors and co-mingling shapes popped against the gallery’s bright white walls, a painting series that paid tribute to memories by Oakland-based artist Muzae Sesay.

We connected with Brake to explore what precipitated the opening of Part 2 Gallery, alongside partner and original founder of First Amendment Gallery Daniel Pan, and find out how they plan to curate a new era of local talent in the downtown district.

Describe your background in the art world and how you got started curating? 
In college, I met some graffiti writers through skateboarding. Documenting them got me into documenting people painting murals, art handling, installation and eventually it led to curating. After school, I had worked with a handful of artists that referred me to White Walls/Shooting Gallery when I made the move from Chicago to the Bay Area. I started out as an intern, worked super hard and eventually started working for various other galleries in San Francisco and Oakland. People who know me, know me as a really hard worker. I had the chance to curate my first show when I opened the gallery back in 2015. Since then I haven’t looked back…

What spurred the closing of Athen B. and how did things evolve to open Part 2 Gallery?
I’m primarily focused on the gallery side of things and my business partner [formerly Sorell Raino-Tsu] wanted to focus on the public art side of things. I’ve been working with Dan Pan over at First Amendment (aka 1am) for almost a year as his curator and director. Right after bringing both Athen B and First Amendment to the Juxtapoz Clubhouse in Miami this past winter, I approached Dan with a kind of ridiculous proposal. I asked him to close the 1am Generator shop, match me on an investment to build out the [Pt. 2 Gallery] space, and do it all in a month and a half. We cleared the space the next couple weeks and the wood and sheetrock were dropped off on January 28th. I was able to wrap up construction by March 4th.

Can you talk a little about the success of the first show?
The first show couldn’t have gone any better. Muzae Sesay is a complete dream to work with. I was told by a lot of people that I really respect that the choice for Muzae as the inaugural opener couldn’t have been a better one. Muzae graced the cover of the East Bay Express the week of the opening, finished the works weeks before the show, had around 500-600 people attend the opening and only has five out of the 20+ pieces he exhibited left available.

How has your involvement in other galleries contributed to the redesign of the new space?
I’ve had the incredible fortune of working in different roles and spaces in my career, from art handler to photographer, and media relations. I’ve worked for and with White Walls Gallery, Shooting Gallery, Mirus Gallery, Fecal Face Gallery, The Midway SF, Berggruen Gallery, and currently for Gagosian, learning so much about running a gallery and also aesthetics of space along the way. I’ve befriended many artists, some I’ve worked with and others I have not. I listen to what they have to say about exhibiting, what their goals and desires are. Because of the design and size, it is a complete experience with limited distractions with a lot more space between the works, each piece is given more breathing room and opportunity to draw in the viewer.

There are beautiful blue-chip galleries in our community but the artists I am trying to foster in the Bay need a space like mine to take them there. This is, aesthetically speaking, the grown-up gallery for the artists of my generation, six degrees separated, local and international, where they can see their work on a museum-like wall in their emerging phase. I wanted a super white environment free of distractions, even light and loads of space, for the artists. The end result is Pt. 2 Gallery.

What do you envision in terms of the artists and future works you’d like to showcase there?
Next year, as of now, I’m planning on only doing maybe two or three group exhibitions with more than four people. For the most part, it will be solo exhibitions that take over both rooms or two different solo exhibitions in each of the rooms.  I will also be trying to bring in new faces from outside the Bay Area. I’m hoping this space allows the local artists I work with to work much larger and grow as creatives. I don’t really believe in representation as I feel like it limits opportunities for artists to grow in the early parts of their careers but I’m looking to make Pt. 2 a home base of sorts for these artists I work with moving forward.

Why do you think spaces like Pt. 2 Gallery are important and how can the community further support artists?
It is always going to be important for galleries to exist, big or small.  We are all in this crazy life called the “art world,” doing what we can, working 13-16 hour days to maintain and support our creative community. It’s not a 9-5. We do love what we do and it’s because of the artists. If you think about doing that in a place like the Bay Area, it can be tough. I think affordable housing and commercial rent is a huge part of supporting artists in the community. Having safe, cost-efficient studio spaces for artists is also important. The Bay Area has always been on the forefront of creativity and activism. In order to continue that legacy, we have to be able to keep that here.

The second exhibition at Part 2 Gallery, “Interrupting Lines,” brought in four new faces (Delphine Hennelly, Kyle Vu-Dunn, Nat Meade and Sophie Larrimore) that haven’t exhibited in the Bay Area, alongside three local Bay Area artists (David Ryan, Lena Gustafson, and Woodrow White).

Its third show, “In Time,” opens this Saturday, May 12th, with works from duo Jean Nagai and Kelly Ordin. Nagai’s work creates and explores a visual microcosm and macrocosm that shifts between the physical, digital and spiritual landscape. Ordin’s pieces employ intuition and intention to explore the limits of minimalism, abstraction and representation.

Both artists focus on shapes and repetitive mark-making to help illustrate the passage of time. In some cases, the lines represent each interval like layers of sedimentary rock branded by the inevitable lapse of time.

Part 2 Gallery
1523b Webster St., Oakland
“In Time” Opening Reception, Saturday, May 12, 12-6pm