Touch the Art
It’s a calm Friday night in the serene Crossroads. A couple sits outside smoking on a stoop while, inside Rats — a new art shop on 17th Street and Holmes — four guys are drinking cold beer. They offer polite greetings and suggest that their visitor feel free to pick up items on the shelves to get a better look.
The shelves are stocked with work by noteworthy Kansas City artists, but most eye-catching at the moment are some simple photo books — photos stapled together, with minimal, heartfelt text written on them in Sharpie. One book is filled with photos inspired by various well-known artists who have inspired the photographers — a sweet, unpretentious form of homage. Another contains a postcard that the purchaser is supposed to send to the California-based artist, affixing a photo of a place the viewer would like to be and an explanation of why. Its handmade imperfections and the absence of gimmick are especially enjoyable — but not so absorbing as to block out some nearby conversation.
“He’s a businessman taking a piss,” says one of the guys.
“I don’t know. I don’t bend my elbows that much,” another says.
The art being debated is a painting of a man in a suit, shown from the waist up. His elbows are bent, though you can’t see his hands, and he’s looking down. (If the guy is, in fact peeing, the way his elbows are bent, there’s no way he’s peeing downward, anyway.)
Proprietor Bill Cave, who opened Rats when with friend and business partner Tony Irons, points out a rack of clothes by Kris Devlin. Everyone’s gushing over the garments’ fantastic, patchwork weirdness when a ponytailed young woman walks in and becomes fixated on the sparkly dress with shiny blue, tubular pillows sewn around the arms and the skirt. She’s dying to try it on to see how it looks on a person, but it will obviously be too small.
Eyes turn toward the other female visitor.
Never judge a garment till you’ve worn it, friends. Those tubular pillow things sewn around the skirt? Wearable cushions! It may be the most comfortable dress of the year. Also, most difficult to take off.
Be that as it may, the art and the laid-back viewing environment earn high marks. Because this is a shop and not a gallery, there are neither shows nor openings. Hanging out here is like browsing in a well-hidden mom-and-pop bookstore. People could make themselves and home and overstay their welcome in a place like this.