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Gallery's gambit has artists in the chips

No money changes hands at poker games, just the chance to be shown.

July 27, 2006|Scarlet Chang

They're not your usual stakes at a poker game, but for these 10 players, artists all, the stakes are high: a solo show at the I-5 Gallery at the Brewery Art Colony.

On a recent Sunday afternoon in the gallery, they're crowded around a large oval table lined with green felt and focused on a round of Texas Hold 'Em. They seem a convivial lot -- three women and seven men, in T-shirts, jeans and several with sunglasses. But they're very competitive, as their purpose is to eliminate each other from play.

Art World Poker is the brainchild of Mat Gleason, curator of the gallery and publisher-editor of the maverick art magazine Coagula. "I play poker myself, and I thought it would be a way of getting activity into the gallery in the summer," he says.

Fifty artists submitted samples of their work with a $40 fee; 34 were selected by Gleason. Three weeks ago they began playing in rounds, starting with the same number of chips. They also got to hang one work in the gallery. When one player faces off against another for "the kill," the loser takes his or her work off the wall, to be replaced by the winner's.

The games are open to observers, who can watch the play or peruse the art. The finals with the last four players take place Sunday. They'll get a group show in August, with the winner getting a solo show -- the first in I-5's eight-year history -- in September.

"In a way, playing poker is metaphoric for their art careers," Gleason muses. "They're taking a risk the same way."

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Scarlet Cheng

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Art World Poker, I-5 Gallery, 2100 N. Main St., Unit A-9, L.A. 1 p.m. Sunday. (323) 342-0717.

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