When Ariel J. Klein looked for studio and gallery space in Silver Spring, he was wary about the rent prices. Then landlord Theo Margas offered to take paintings instead of cash, Klein said. The two struck a deal.
“At first, we said a painting a month,” Klein said. “Then, we just went from there. I really do like the bartering. It keeps a good relationship between me and the owner of the space. Money can sometimes sour a relationship, and having a relationship built on art is more wholesome.”
Margas has bartered for rent with other tenants before, but “it’s not something I make a habit of,” he said.
In Klein’s case, Margas said, he recognized the artist’s talent and work ethic. “Ariel is a very focused, hardworking young man,” Margas said. “I realized he couldn’t afford the rent, and I thought we could work out a deal. There are a lot of young people who have promise, and they just deserve a chance.
“His art makes me feel good. I’m not a critic, but I can sit and look at something and it talks back to me. It draws me into another reality.”
The fruits of the 23-year-old Klein’s labor will be on display Saturday when he launches his first independent exhibition, “Following the Thin Woman,” at his Purple Coconut Gallery. His studio is nearby, also on Georgia Avenue.
The name of the exhibition, which will close Aug. 18, is inspired by one of Klein’s pieces, “Following the Thin Woman Through Nighttime,” about a woman he glimpsed walking nightly on a street near his apartment in Madrid.
While creating the work, Klein said, he took artistic liberties by speculating about her purpose and temperament.
“I guess the thin woman was directly from my imagination and my experience living on a street corner in Spain,” he said. “I thought the title sounded mysterious and alluring, and I think people should be intrigued by the idea of paintings.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) named Klein, a Silver Spring native, a distinguished scholar in the arts. In 2011, he studied at the University of Madrid School of Fine Arts. He returned to Baltimore last year to complete his bachelor of fine arts degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
There, he said, he applied traditional colors — bright reds and deep blues — of Spanish art to everyday Baltimore scenes. Most of his works are oil on canvas.
The exhibition will display works from Madrid, Baltimore and his Silver Spring studio.
Klein said the surrounding community in Silver Spring has been excited about his upcoming exhibition. Business owners visit his studio and discuss his work on lunch breaks or on their way to and from work.
“It’s nice to hear stories from other people who maybe don’t think about art so much,” he said. “Hair salons and cafes are in their own world. It’s nice to invite them into mine.”
Margas said he is eager to see how Klein will transform the space for the exhibition.
“I think [the exhibition] will be a tremendous success,” Margas said. “If I can be one step to fulfilling his future or his dreams, it’s a thrill.”
And why the name Purple Coconut Gallery? “Well, the walls are purple,” Klein said. “And you think about artwork with your coconut, with your head.”