Bret Shirley is typically known for his lavish crystal paintings, intriguing installations and music. He’s a laid back guy with a solid, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. And when it gets down to the brass tacks, Shirley is on top of it. Recently, the artist began to re-envision and evaluate his work and the direction he wanted to travel in. As an artist, Shirley is a trail blazer, and we recently covered his work and practices with our Top Five Creatives.

The entrance of Shirley’s new gallery, BS. Photo courtesy of Bret Shirley.

The recipe for his success is that he never stops once he finds “The Moment.” Too many times you see a creative that just settles on the one thing that is the crowd pleaser or what the artist knows how to do best. This has never been the case for Shirley. Now Shirley is on fire with residencies across the country and throughout Mexico. He is a Houstonian by heart, but will spend only a small amount of time in Texas in the upcoming year as he spends his time traveling and making new work. What better time to take on a new and exciting project, right? BS is a new gallery and creative hub that seemed to pop up overnight, and it most definitely embodies the energy and wit of the artist and his body of work.

Much like a new series, Shirley began toying around the idea of this new space a year or so ago. The idea of BS was to have a space for dialogue, sharing of ideas, and also a way to make us feel like we’re not wasting space. The artist has a large studio space on the Northside of Houston. “There was all this space just sitting there,” Shirley explains to me over a beer. “It’s too obvious of an idea to not do it.” 

Mark Joshua Epstein “untitled.” Photo courtesy of Bret Shirley.

Bret is not afraid to take chances, so much so that he does it all of the time. He never seems to stop moving, and this fuels the intention and why this new project space is going to be perfect for Houston. The location is not a glitzy store front or lavish open warehouse space. In fact, it’s in a pretty secluded part of town, but that does not matter to Shirley. It is as much of a space for the artists he invites to spread their wings as it is a new path for the artist himself. While his “why not” attitude may seem puzzling to the typical gallerist, it’s a new model that is ideal. Times are changing without a doubt: The economy is up and down every day, our local and national government is in flux, and there are just a load of uncertainties. The backbone structure for the arts is far different today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Here we have a new space, not created or run by a gallerist, but by a free-thinking creative who keeps things new and pushes boundaries.

Katie Hector “Versace Versace.” Photo courtesy of Bret Shirley.

The opening of the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, SMALL PAINTINGS(ish), will feature the works by Katie Hector (NY), Mark Joshua Epstein (NY), and Alex Larsen (Hou). This is a savvy combination of talents who come from a variety of artistic backgrounds. Come or don’t come seems to be the vibe. However, we know the opening tonight will be jam-packed, so it would be worth your while to go check out what Bret Shirley has up his sleeve — and perhaps take a few notes while you are there.

SMALL PAINTINGS(ish) opens at BS (4540 W 34th St Ste D) today at 5 p.m. and runs to 9 p.m.