Hellbent on Having Fun


"Son of a Gun" by the street artist Hellbent

“Son of a Gun” by the street artist Hellbent

Bringing toddlers gallery hopping is always a crapshoot. The art has to be approachable, the space has to be comfortable, and the snacks have to be flowing. Visiting the Mighty Tanaka gallery to see the street artist, Hellbent’s, show “Even Romantics Love Violence” somehow did not go according to that plan.

It started off well. My 3-year-old and I found the Dumbo Art Galleries by the neon pink sign and lobby out front. But after walking up the steep staircase, it was all downhill from there. The 111 Front Street galleries are a grouping of 14 independent art spaces under one roof–think Chelsea Market, but with art instead of food. It should have been a good place for a rainy afternoon. Instead, as soon as we got upstairs, my son started to crack. Firstly, the industrial design did not live up to his aesthetics: “We’ve never been here before and I don’t like it.”

The street artist Hellbent is known for his ferocious animal imagery: mad dogs, hissing cobras and dark birds have all appeared in his work. Unfortunately, for my mammal obsessed son, none of that was represented here. Geometric abstract prints made from brightly colored masking tape adorned the walls, which the artist calls “The Mix Tape Series.” The title of each piece refers to the name of the song that he listened to while making it and the effect of the work looks like peeling wallpaper. The artist spray paints over the lacey tape to make stencils for his mural works–and some of these pieces here are under a glossy veneer of liquid glass.

An art crawl gone awry.

An art crawl gone awry.

The press notes for the show ask “What happens when you take a step out of your comfort zone and explore something new? Do you get excited and filled with adventure? Or perhaps you grow frustrated, trying to find your way back to familiar surroundings?” My son chose option two. The frustration was loudly mounting.

In the middle of the room was a couch and two chairs which prompted my youngster to scream “Who lives here?” while trying to stand on a table, and then shriek “How long are we staying?” when I pulled him down. The gallery owner took one look at us and had similar questions. We only stayed about two minutes. Some of the other gallery spaces were closed which, for some reason, was the last straw for my tiny patron. After pulling piles of free fliers and magazines off a communal shelf, he hunkered down for a major meltdown.

Peeling my toddler off the floor was not easy, but possible, with the bribe of visiting nearby One Girl Cookies. Our afternoon was thankfully saved with a mini whoopie pie each (chocolate and pumpkin flavored), hot chocolate and coffee. The space is stroller friendly–even equipped with a ramp inside–the staff are extremely patient, and the goods are cheap. Getting kids out of their comfort zone is not always easy, and sometimes it takes a treat to just keep on trying (and to dry the tears). And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Jane’s Carousel nearby…or a good wine store down the block.

“Even Romantics Love Violence” by Hellbent, through June 7 at Mighty Tanaka gallery, 111 Front Street, Suite 224, Dumbo, Brooklyn. Wednesday- Sunday, 12pm- 6:30pm.

One Girl Cookies, 33 Front Street (corner of Water), Dumbo, Brooklyn 

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