KEEN UNEEK, A Gallery Of Self Expression
The Wallplay gallery on the corner of Orchard and Delancey shone like a canary-yellow beacon on a bustling stretch of New York’s Lower East Side on Wednesday. The fresh paint job was courtesy of Portland-based footwear brand KEEN that presented its “Gallery of Self-Expression” to a packed house last night, complete with custom pieces from artists Gazoo to the Moon, Leah Goren, Tim Tadder, and Zolloc. KEEN’s mission: bringing radical self-expression back into vogue. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a genius, being yourself is what makes you an artist.
The crowd comprised a deep cross section of creative New Yorkers, with folks from tech, design, and the arts exploring the gallery (and scoring free pairs of UNEEKs!) while sipping on Southern Tier’s brews and Owl’s Brew cocktails. The vibe was laid-back and casual, thanks to the trio of DJs spinning downstairs; Cory Kennedy, Kitty Cash, and Leslie Kirchhoff provided an appropriately expressive and eclectic soundtrack for the evening with everything from Drake and Future’s “Jumpman” to the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming” booming through the speakers.
Individuality and unique self-expression were the themes of the night, and KEEN made sure they were on everyone’s minds before even setting foot inside the gallery. 20 feet above Orchard Street was an enormous lemon-yellow billboard that served as something of an inspirational koan for everyone who came through the Wallplay doors: “You Don’t Have to be an Artistic Genius to Make Your Life a Masterpiece.” The embrace of expression without pretense or expectation set the tone for the evening as folks from all walks of life filed into the ground floor of the gallery. Tim Tadder’s beautifully saturated photography lined the walls while the renowned artist and animator Zolloc provided a hypnotically satisfying piece highlighting KEEN’s UNEEK shoe. “I wanted to take something boring — in this case a normal black shoe — and make it interesting,” Zolloc told SPIN, “which is exactly what KEEN is doing with UNEEK.”
Upstairs, an interactive installation commissioned by KEEN dominated the back wall, with hundreds of cords looped around a board of nails that spelled out “UNEEK” in their negative space. Participants were asked, “What inspires you to be UNEEK?” Five preset answers corresponded to different color cords, which guests could tie anywhere on the piece. It was a kind of micro-expression, a small way to let attendees do their own thing — a perfect centerpiece for a night celebrating the unique.