Ace is the Place
Love for the Street at Ace Barbershop
By Steven Robert Allen
The name suggests the sort of place where you might drop in for a quick bowl cut and pick up a pound of nails on the way out, but don't be fooled. Ace Barbershop, which recently opened Downtown on Fourth Street, dodges all expectations.
At first glance, the shop looks the way you'd expect a Downtown barbershop to look. The stylists specialize in high-end alternative fashions of the kind that bewilder squares like me—straight razor cuts, texturized hair, lines, crazy patterns, mohawks. On Friday nights, though, Ace reveals its true colors. That's when the owners let local DJs come in to spin, and when area hipsters come into the shop to hang out and party.
Ace Barbershop also hosts monthly art exhibits. The current show incorporates urban photographic images in a variety of formats created by Rocky Norton and Goldchain. These photos capture everything from thrash bands in action to toddlers standing on a beach, but much of this seems to revolve around skating. In one photograph, a skateboard is covered in empty, crinkled cans of Miller High Life, the champagne of beer. In another large-scale image, a crouching skater streaks forward leaving a plume of toxic blue smoke in his wake.
Love for the Street isn't just about skating, though. Within these images you'll find everything from a pile of cigarette butts in a knee-high ashcan to a utility meter to an inconspicuous Polaroid of a cute girl wrapped in a towel.
In a lot of ways, though, the photographs are secondary, largely because these images have been secured to the barbershop's walls with thick bands of masking tape. The artists invite viewers to scrawl whatever they damn well please on the tape. The results give this show a uniquely communal feel.
None of the work in the show is labeled, so the viewer has no idea which artist created which image, or what any particular photograph might be titled. For this reason, the scrawls on the masking tape function as a substitute for more conventional labels.
Much of the tape has been ornamented with graffiti tags, which enhance and illuminate the urban imagery found in many of the photographs. Elsewhere, the markings serve as direct commentaries on the pictures.
One large photograph depicts a guy showing off a gruesome set of metal staples embedded in the back of his skull. "Ouch!" wrote one viewer on a nearby strip of tape. Another scrawled, "That's what staples were made for."
On the opposite wall an image shows a homeless person curled into a tattered green blanket. The tape holding up this photo is simply decorated with a row of dollar signs.
There's no better place than a barbershop to have an art exhibit. You've got to do something while you're waiting for your head to be fixed up pretty. Stop by Ace when you get a chance, let the boys do you up right and check out the walls while you're at it. You won't be disappointed.
Love for the Street, an exhibit featuring photographs by Rocky Norton and Goldchain, runs through March 6 at the Ace Barbershop (105 Fourth Street SW). 242-7735 or www.acebarbershop.com.
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