New Nevada City gallery focuses on abstract psychedelic art |

New Nevada City gallery focuses on abstract psychedelic art

A couple stops to take a look at an art collaboration piece that Mars1, Oliver Vernon and David Chong Lee made during a previous Symbiosis gathering, and now on display at the Chambers Project gallery opening at 103 Argall Way.
Elias Funez/

Know & Go

What: The Chambers Project opening reception

Where: 103 Argall Way, Nevada City

When: 5-9 p.m. Saturday

For more info: Call 530-470-3297 or go online at

Brian Chambers has been a passionate collector nearly his entire life, starting with baseball cards and comic books.

In high school, he focused on concert posters and delved into psychedelic art. Eventually, he evolved from simply collecting to curating exhibits and commissioning pieces.

Chambers, it seems, makes it a priority to keep himself surrounded by creativity. Every wall of his Nevada County home is adorned with the projects he curates and the artist exhibits he has produced. And now, as the owner of The Chambers Project, his art gallery in Nevada City is set to open Saturday with a judicious selection of his personal collection.

He hopes to introduce Nevada County to an aesthetic not commonly seen in local galleries — a trippy, abstract, psychedelic oeuvre with an emphasis on collaborative explosions of color and shape.

“The contemporary art I show is an extension of the psychedelic art of the 1960s,” Chambers said. “I do have a very focused aesthetic, a very focused niche. I think there’s a lot of people around here (who) will have fun looking at this stuff.”

Along with the very modern psychedelia that Chambers likes to work with, he represents two artists whose work had a seminal influence on his aesthetics: Ralph Steadman, whose lunatic line drawings perfectly complemented the written words of Hunter S. Thompson in pieces like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas;” and Rick Griffin, one of the best-known artists behind the concert posters of the 1960s.

artistic turning points

It might not be surprising that “the totally true story” of how a 16-year-old Chambers came to fall in love with psychedelic art involves hallucinogens.

A science teacher in high school had a reproduction of a painting by visionary artist Alex Grey on the wall of her classroom, he explained.

“We would trip out on it,” he said. “I was on acid one day in class and she told us it was inspired by an LSD trip.”

It was during that same time frame that Chambers read “Fear and Loathing,” which he called a turning point in his life.

“I was blown away by how the writer and the visual artist could collaborate like that,” he said. “It affected me on a deeper level and helped shape my current interests, to some degree.”

Chambers said he typically gravitates toward art that is non-representational.

“I like form without form,” he said. “No figurative work — nothing that reminds me of something real.”

One big turning point was his discovery of Mars-1, whose signature style he describes as “vast, abstracted, quasi-extraterrestrial looking landscapes.”

Mars-1, he says, adding that the first Mars-1 painting he ever saw in a spread on the artist in Juxtapoz magazine, changed his life.

“I wasn’t collecting original art at that point,” he said. Now he owns that piece, adding, “I still love it.”

Chambers connected with Mars-1 and other artists working in that genre at a time when their careers were starting to take off and the economy was depressed.

“My timing has been very, very lucky,” he said.

Then, in 2009, an art experiment changed his direction into a solid niche commissioning live collaborative paintings.

He commissioned three artists for a collaborative painting that evolved over three days at Symbiosis Gathering in Yosemite.

“It was like a freestyle jam session,” Chambers said. “Nothing was planned. It was intuitive abstraction. It was so much fun, we started replicating the project.”

The immersive installation turned out better than expected, he said, creating an environment where people could really experience art.

“At Symbiosis, I could tell that everything changed, that I was going to be deeply involved in that kind of art in the future,” Chambers said. “Art can have a very profound effect on one’s life. It’s a powerful source of inspiration. It’s magical, surrounding yourself with works that artists have poured their heart and soul into. One reason I like to curate shows is (that) profound effect.”

A space for creatives

Chambers had not planned on opening a gallery in Nevada County, but it fell into his lap when the previous gallery adjacent to Crystal Junction vacated that space.

And the timing felt right, coming on the final resolution of his ill-fated attempt to open a gallery in Denver.

In 2014, Chambers was riding high after an amazingly successful group show there. Thousands came to the show, he remembered.

“We were all blown away,” he said. “The response was so amazing. I thought this would be the time and the place to open a gallery.”

So he bought a beautiful turn of the century building in what he thought was a great location. But aside from the extensive remodeling it ended up needing, what put the final nail in the coffin of that dream was a zoning issue that could not be resolved.

“I didn’t do my due diligence,” Chambers admitted, adding that his enthusiasm blinded him to caution.

“It was a very expensive lesson,” he said. “It killed me. I won’t make those same mistakes again.”

In past, he said, he has tried to share as much of his collection as he could and is looking forward to having a local gallery in which to do that. He also wants to provide a platform for up-and-coming artists.

“The plan is to open the gallery space to all the creatives I’ve gotten to know, to give them a place to show their work,” he said, adding that many of the artists on tap for upcoming shows live locally.

The gallery’s grand opening, in August, will be a group show, with 15 to 20 artists. Justin Lovato, commissioned by Chambers to create the trippy Grass Valley mural that now graces the corner of Main and Mill streets downtown, will be the star of the show in September.

LEANS, a young Australian who has been painting for only five years, will have his first show in Nevada City in October.

“I discovered him through Instagram,” Chambers said. “He’s chock-full of talent. I’m very excited to show him to the world.”

Other plans for the gallery include workshops and even a supper club, Chambers said, adding that he is very open to pitches for projects and shows.

“I like surrounding myself with creative types,” he aid. “I’m certainly not artistic. Art is so perplexing to me because I have none of those skills.”

Another bonus?

“I get to meet so many weird and interesting people.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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