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Art heroes arrive in the nick of time

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There's something about that one-time shot. That now-or-never, do-or-die, decision. Hesitate, and you lose. Act, and you're a hero saving the day.

Well, OK. At the Malia Matsumoto Pop-Up Show, acting fast may not save the day, but it will score you a fine piece of original, hand-made art. And that hero part? Totally true! This one-night-only, blink-and-you-miss-it show is all about heroes. Young, old, fake, real, paper or plastic — every single piece of art at the show is inspired by a hero of some kind. Purchase a piece, and you'll also be a hero to the 20-odd artists who have contributed to Arts! Alive's latest shooting star.

Who Are You Supposed To Be? is the second annual pop-up show from local art scene maestros Malia Matsumoto and Matt Jackson. Like horses lunging at the starting gates, they've been raring to go for months, pushing local artists to create brand new pieces for a show that will last only five hours. A bevy of Humboldt's juiciest avant-garde creators have helped them stockpile drawings, paintings, prints, sculptures, flamingos and other extravagances that — here's the best part — will all be priced at $100 or less.

So what's the big deal about a bunch of kids slinging their work for cheap like it's a garage sale?

First, this is a professional group we're talking about. University professors, renowned graphic artists, Soul Night DJ, gallery gurus. Second, the empty space they've secured is on F Street, right in the swarm of Arts! Alive. Third, this buzz won't last long. The doors open at 5 p.m., with the art moving out the door the second it's bought until the space is transformed back into the vacant shell it was 24 hours prior.

For all of the swirling swiftness of the night, organizing a show like this requires months of sweaty scheming. Jackson, smirking over his round, smoky-lensed shades, confesses that artists are notoriously unreliable with instructions and timetables. Finagling them into one cohesive group "is like herding cats."

An affable man with close-cut hair and a point-and-wink style that hints at some hidden agenda, Jackson is the Kenobi to Matsumoto's Yoda. He's the man with the plan, the one who waltzed into Eureka Main Street's office with an almost impossible request: to lease an empty storefront in the heart of Old Town for 24 hours. Finding an available space in a high-traffic zone was only one part of the challenge, the other was convincing the building owner to go along for the ride. The success of last year's pop-up show, in which 52 percent of the work sold, helped.

Only 10 days before the show, it's on. Lease in hand, Jackson's passing the reins over to Matsumoto. "It's fucking wonderful for me to do the beginning part," he says, sipping his coffee from a lime-green mug. He loves being able to "shlep the work around, kiss the babies and shake the hands and figure out where we're going to put it." And once that's done, he likes even more to "turn it over to [Matsumoto] and be like, 'Here's a giant pile of stuff and now you gotta figure out where it all goes!'"

Luckily, figuring out how to make sense of piles of art is Matsumoto's specialty. Witty and giggly, clad in overalls and cat-eye glasses, she's spent years moving pedestals, banging nails and painting walls as the Museum and Gallery instructor at HSU. From the moment they get the keys on Friday night, it's Matsumoto's job to make Saturday's opening look good.

One of the things she loves about the show is the diversity of work the artists bring. And it may look easy to hang an art show, but as Matsumoto puts it, there has to be an "invisible cohesion" to everything. A successful show hides the effort it takes to create order and organization that looks natural. Dashing about just hours before the public ambles in, Matsumoto's tooth-gritting labor makes Jackson's hobnobbing to find a spot seem jovial.

Take for example Lush Newton's painted yard flamingo, "The Flash," and Gina Tuzzi's "Shuggie" acrylic ink and carbon drawings. How do you reconcile the glaring differences between a 3D yard ornament wearing a black mask and lemon lightning bolts alongside a pinpoint portrait of a soul singer whose hair vibrates with the wild colors of '60s tie-dye? Matsumoto relishes the challenge. Each piece needs its own space to breathe so that a viewer can appreciate Newton's hero as much as Tuzzi's.

That moment of contemplation is where the Pop Up show differs from every other stable of art this Saturday. Like it? Wanna buy it? You'd better act fast! While most galleries offer the delayed gratification of waiting a month or more to take your newly acquired piece home, Who Are You Supposed To Be? obliges buyers to take their prizes home directly upon purchase. Jackson says, "We want people to be bitten by the art bug!"

The immediacy of pulling fresh work from the wall is part of the show, turning viewers into participants. Hesitate, and your favorite piece will vanish before you know it. Act, and you become the show. As the work leaves the space, the show takes on a life of its own. At the end of the evening, Matsumoto looks forward to packing up what little is left behind, taking one last glance at the empty room, and then "locking the door like it never happened."

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Ken Weiderman

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