The Bay Area offers a rich history of alternative and experimental art spaces that have served as platforms for a diverse range of artists. Dig below the surface of contemporary art and you will find alternative spaces at the roots. But what is an alternative space? The definition is open-ended. They are sometimes storefronts or apartments, stairwells or windows -- basically any space that might be used to present art.
In fact alternative spaces are more often defined by what they aren't: they are not conventional commercial galleries, or white cubes, or museums. They are sometimes temporary gestures, defined less by built space than by a drive to support artistic experimentation. They are typically run on a shoestring budget -- or no budget, as the case may be. There may be a hint of commercial activity -- and why shouldn't there be? -- but they do not offer representation in the traditional sense. They do, however, support artists by providing space to realize new ideas. They are always a labor of love and an ongoing investigation of sustainability. Hours may be spotty -- sometimes these folks work day jobs and night jobs to sustain their art habit, so call ahead. Here are a few spaces to consider the next time you are looking for an alternative.
Aggregate Space, Oakland
Aggregate Space is an artist-run gallery with a specific focus on sculpture and digital media. The Featherboard Writing Series, a regular program, brings together visual artists and writers "to explore a new set of themes, tropes, or images." Up now: New sculpture and video by Pete Hickok. For more information visit aggregatespace.com.
Alter Space, San Francisco
Alter Space occupies a 5,000 square foot section of the building that formerly housed Stormy Leather, the city's premier leather and bondage retailer. In addition to studios and collaborative workshops, Alter Space's programming engages remnant history of the former occupants with a jail cell residency and peephole gallery; also featured is the "The Bowery," a permanently situated, evolving display of dioramas by the artist Koak. Upcoming: Remembering is Everything curated by Bean Gilsdorf and A. Will Brown. For more information visit alterspace.co.