Roq La Rue — now Capitol Hill’s home to pop surrealism — celebrates 21 years of Seattle art

By Tim Kukes

One of the few remaining dedicated art galleries on Capitol Hill is celebrating its 21st birthday but its two decades of art and creation mostly took place far from Pike/Pine. It started with a question.

“Someone asked me, ‘If you could do anything for a living what would you do?’ Kirsten Anderson, owner of E Pike’s Roq La Rue, said.  “I just said, ‘open a gallery,’ which is not anything I’d ever thought of before. Just came out of my mouth.”

The gallery started in a little space on 2nd and Lenora in 1998, which was being lent out as business incubator until the building could be developed in six months.  After that Roq La Rue moved to a space between the Lava Lounge and Shorty’s, and then later to a larger location next to the Rendezvous, according to Larry Reid, manager at Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery in Georgetown, who happened to be an early mentor of Anderson’s.

“Kirsten quickly established herself as a pivotal figure in the emerging Lowbrow/Pop Surrealist movement based on the West Coast, but [it was] soon to become a global phenomenon,” Reid said.  “Locally, she filled a void that had been largely absent from the local art scene.”

Anderson is credited with coining the term “pop surrealism” in the book, “Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art”, which she wrote in 2004.  Kristen described pop surrealism as using pop culture iconography as archetypal imagery to tell classic stories or fetishizing subcultural nostalgia.

“You can call it the bastard stepchild of Andy Warhol, basically,” Anderson said. Continue reading