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Six Chicks

At 66 balmy

San Francisco has no shortage of hidden locales. You know them, those tucked away corners of the city that you (innocently but naively) think only you know about. 66balmy, an emerging gallery and event space in the heart of the Mission, is one of those places. As you walk along the alley, it is easy to miss the gallery and see only the mural that is its face. Stashed behind a metal roller door with "Latino Pride" tagged across its entire surface, the entrance is painted over with the figure of a young Latino man. Only a modest sign bears the address and name of the gallery.

Soon, Balmy Alley may find itself a full-fledged gallery destination as well as a public art Mecca. Already home to the law offices of Brooke Oliver, a leading mural protection lawyer, and Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, the alley is shaping up into an artistic locus. With "Balmylargo," a day long celebration of the Balmy community in the works, as well as participation in the proposed Last Thursdays gallery tours throughout the Mission, 66balmy has big plans for the alley. Owners John Brooman and Oscar Aarts, who have recently expanded in to a second location on 18th and Guerrero, held their first opening on Balmy alley in June 2001. The gallery exhibits work by emerging and established artists that they feel is "fresh and visionary".

The current show "Six Chicks" teams up six female artists, three of whom, Justine Dufrenne, Justine Formentelli, and Jennifer Suttlemyre, have shown together at 66balmy before. While the sensibilities of these 6 artists does seem in tandem, the large number of peices shown can work make the small space seem cramped with work. The art done by the three Balmy veterans stood out considerably from the intricate but overpowered etchings of Benedicte Pourchet and oil portraits by first time exhibitor Jesse Robinson. Newcomer Carrie Nardello's piece "I love you in the Mourning" is a standout. Formentelli's sculptural rendition of her painted figures is particularly keen, and all of Jennifer Suttlemyre's small but involved mixed media photo collages are engrossing.

66balmy is a young gallery that needs time to cut its teeth. They have created a wonderful environment with a homey garden and a small but airy exhibition space. Past exhibitions, such as the "Propaganda" show, which showcased the work of Aidan Hughes, have employed the political potential of the gallery's location effectively. 66balmy would do well to continue to explore this type of artistic programming, which would speak to their stance on community involvement and commitment to fresh work.

Six Chicks can be viewed from April 11 - April 30 at 66balmy, located at 66 Balmy Alley in between 24th and 25th Streets. An opening reception will take place Thursday April 18 from 7 - 10 pm. Gallery hours are Thursday - Monday, 11 am - 5 pm. Rental information is available at 415.648.1760. You can also reach the gallery at either of their two websites: 66balmy.com or Brute66.com.