New La Jolla gallery holds first exhibit with a vision of an artist-led space for community and collaboration

La Jolla artist Lizzie Zelter is looking to promote local artists in her new gallery space, Two Rooms.
La Jolla artist Lizzie Zelter is looking to promote local artists in her new gallery space, Two Rooms, located on La Jolla Boulevard.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla resident and visual artist Lizzie Zelter has opened a new gallery and project space in Bird Rock designed to promote conversation and local artists.

The space, Two Rooms, is at 5560 La Jolla Blvd., adjacent to Zelter’s painting studio.

Two Rooms’ inaugural exhibition, “Stone Soup,” will run through Friday, March 17, featuring nine artists from the San Diego and Tijuana area.

The show is named for a fable of collaboration and sharing in which villagers make soup starting with a stone.

The exhibit brings together an unlikely group of artists of various genres and ages, including established creatives and current graduate students in art.

“A lot of the work that’s in the show [has] a collage approach,” highlighting the artists’ “unconventional or layered approaches to their craft,” Zelter said.

She challenged the artists to work with found objects “in the most unique way,” she said.

The gallery’s two rooms display 14 pieces. The show includes UC San Diego grad student Heige Kim’s “Best Wishes (3),” an installation described as “various debris collected in San Diego.”

“San Diego is such a beautiful place with an abundance of natural beauty,” Kim said. “I wanted to create a piece using this collection of waste … pointing to excess of waste but also ultimately thinking about how … they’ve been mined and they come from natural resources as well.”

Zelter said Kim’s piece is “based on balance, and it’s a very site-specific installation for this location. She just brings all the ingredients and makes it here on the spot.”

In the adjacent room, Tijuana-based artist Luis Alonso Sanchez is showing two sculptures made with concrete mix, cement, tar, drywall, metal and shards of glass.

On an opposite wall, veteran artist Doris Bittar has three pieces in the show, exploring “the notion of modernity” through the use of hand-cut patterns in paper and other materials, Zelter said.

Zelter moved to San Diego in 2019 as a paralegal but returned to her native New York to earn a master’s degree in fine arts from Columbia University. She recently moved to La Jolla.

A show in an artist-run space encourages the exhibited artists’ vision, Zelter said, and “allows for a lot of community and friendships to form.”

She added that the gallery’s small size promotes intimacy and informality and hinders intimidation.

"Stone Soup" at the new Two Rooms gallery in Bird Rock features nine area artists showing pieces in a variety of materials.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Supporting emerging artists “makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing,” Zelter said. “You can really have a personal relationship with the artist here.”

She likened her approach to curating a show to the restaurant industry’s “farm to table” concept, in which chefs highlight local produce and vendors.

“You’re buying local art,” she said. “It has a personal side to it.”

Kim said Zelter’s idea for the show “was really wonderful. It’s great to work with all types of professionals in our field, but … you have this rapport with artists and there’s this shared understanding of the process.”

There’s also great gain in having an artist-run space near the UCSD campus in La Jolla, Kim said.

“It’s so beneficial not only for the artists [but also so the] local community can see what artists are working on,” she said. “It just benefits the community in so many ways.”

“[Supporting emerging artists] makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing. You can really have a personal relationship with the artist here.”

— Lizzie Zelter

Zelter said the “Stone Soup” show has parallels to her relatively fresh arrival in California.

“I think of myself as still new to San Diego,” she said. “[The show] is a story of newcomers making something out of nothing and having everyone bring their little part and then it becoming … greater than its parts.”

The exhibited works are all aesthetically very different, Zelter said, “but that’s the joy of doing a big group show.”

About 120 people attended the exhibit’s opening, she said, indicating potential for growth.

Zelter said she hopes the two-room concept will be used more fully in the future, perhaps with an artist in each room conversing with the other through art.

She also offers the space for projects for other artists.

“There’s so many people nourishing this industry,” Zelter said, but there aren’t always “many social or professional opportunities for that to come to fruition. … I think having spaces [like mine] fosters that type of production.”

For more information, email or visit @two___rooms on Instagram. ◆