By Hayley Thomas
San Luis Obispo art heavyweights Neal Breton and Jeff Claassen make an unlikely superhero team: There’s no “sidekick” in their relationship.
Both artists enjoy a strong local following and produce bold, graphic works of art. Both are known for their hefty contributions to the San Luis Obispo arts community (Claassen owned the popular Claassen Gallery and Breton owned local hangout SLO Arts Supply).
Together, the thirtysomethings share a common goal: to offer a fresh, inclusive gallery setting within their newly-shared space at Studios on the Park in downtown Paso Robles. A grand opening is slated for next month.
Dubbed “Fiasco Gallery,” the studio space will feature Claassen’s multihued canvases — which at times appear so jam packed with color they’re literally oozing with paint — alongside a swath of Breton’s unnerving pencil and paint daydreams (the bearded artist made a local splash with a gaggle of murderous fox-women during Studio’s “Young Savages” group show back in March).
“After our art adventures in San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles seemed like the natural place try out our art,” said Claassen, who recently relocated from San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles with his family. “We’re calling it a ‘gallery’ because we’re not sure how much we’ll actually be working in the studio. We want the space to reflect a combination of what our actual shops — SLO Art Supply and Claassen Gallery — looked like.”
That vibe will include art on display, a rotating featured artist and even coffee provided by Sally Loo’s Café, Breton’s neighborhood SLO coffee shop and arts hub. The artists agree that they’re aiming to bring a “younger” feel to their respective studio, but they laugh when they stop to think about what that actually means.
“I love that, in our mid-to-late-thirties, we’re considered ‘the young ones,” said Claassen with a chuckle. Readers wondering if Claassen has any connection to Claassen’s Radiator Shop at 1534 Spring St. are correct — it once belonged his grandfather.
Breton has his own ties to the area. The artist said he was fortunate to develop working relationships with Studios on the Park founder Anne Laddon and programs director Sasha Irving. In March, he organized the “Young Savages” group show at the artist’s nonprofit, bringing North County awareness to more than 20 cutting-edge San Luis Obispo artists under 40-years-old. A similar spinoff was featured at the Robles Festival of the Arts in May, complete with KCPR college radio D.J.
Breton said it was only after studio-sitting for Laddon that he set his sights on making a more permanent move into Paso.
“I had a very positive experience,” said Breton. “A lot of people who came in were very interested about learning about what’s going on in Paso, as well as purchasing art. These were people from San Francisco, Los Angeles and the valley coming to Paso Robles to see if [the art scene] stacked up.”
Breton said within the past five years, Paso has certainly carved a name out for itself.
“That’s what’s cool about Studios on the Park: There’s such a vast variety there, that it, in itself, is a destination,” added Claassen.
And when tourists and locals do reach their destination, Claassen and Breton will be at the ready, with a hot cup of pour-over roast and a mischievous grin.
“What was cool about Jeff’s gallery and my art store, was that they were hubs of activity and people were gathering and ideas were being hashed out,” said Breton. “[Fiasco Gallery] won’t be just another place to see art. It’s going to be part of the conversation.”
For more information on Fiasco Gallery at Studios on the Park, visit www.fiascogallery.com or call 391-0361.
For information on Studios on the Park, visit www.studiosonthepark.org. Studios on the Park is located at 1130 Pine St. in Paso Robles.
Hours are Thursday, noon to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. The gallery is closed Monday through Wednesday.