Various artwork of Jimmy’s Oriental Garden as seen through the ages and currently on display at the restaurant now known as The Pickle Room.The Pickle Room aka the Bar Formerly Known as Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens is still one of the most picturesque buildings in downtown Santa Barbara, not just because of its pleasing facade, tile work, and faux-Chinese theme, but because of the decades of memories ensconced within.
This Friday, owner Bob Lovejoy opens the bar for its first ever art show, and the subject is the building itself. (After owner Tommy Chung closed the bar in 2006, Mr. Lovejoy kept the faith and finally reopened the rechristened spot last year, keeping much of the decor and the vibe.) Over the years, local artists have painted Jimmy’s in all sorts of styles, from photo realist to impressionist. Nearly a dozen paintings will be on display alongside the Pickle Room’s usual decorations, like the 1920’s Chinese cheesecake posters and the good luck knot of red rope.
Forget the wine and cheese of the usual art opening: attendees can instead enjoy a classic mai tai from Willy the bartender or order their Reuben egg rolls while enjoying the work.
“Jimmy’s Chinatown” — the name of the show — started as just the four works in Mr. Lovejoy’s collection, but once he put one of them, a colorful nighttime rendering by Gary Chafe, on a T-shirt, people started coming forward to let him know they too had some “Jimmy’s” art, some going back to the ’70s. And then after Mr. Lovejoy announced the show, new fans of the Pickle Room wanted to add their work too, like up-n-coming David Diamant, who has created a limited edition of 25 of his distorted ink and color prints.
The names are familiar to those in the art scene: Judith Geiger’s portrait uses french dyes painted on China silk; Larry Iwerks’ “Chinatown” is a watercolor version of a half-remembered morning after; Chris Potter’s “Jimmy’s Pickles” is a bold, colorful work reminiscent of Van Gogh; Augie Ortiz’ work was a gift for Bob Lovejoy from last year’s opening night and features Bob’s red truck. Patricia Chidlaw is rumored to be bringing one of her Hopper-esque creations too. (Only some are for sale.)
Along with the works, Mr. Lovejoy is showing some of his memorabilia, including a napkin drawing from his grandfather’s Burbank bar, favored by Disney animators after a long day working for the Mouse; and a naughty nudist page from a “Jimmy’s” calendar from 1965. (The calendar was stolen for 12 years and only recently returned, Mr. Lovejoy says, “And I only just found out who did it!” Whoever it is, they’re apparently forgiven.)
With a few days to go, Mr. Lovejoy is still intaking art. For all the renderings of the outside, nobody yet has done one of the interior, but there are rumors somebody is working on one.
“I’ve been in love with this building since I’ve been coming here,” Mr. Lovejoy says. “Some 37 years. It’s my favorite building in town.”
Jimmy’s Chinatown opens Friday, Jan. 31 and runs through March 15. Hours are the same as the bar: 4:30 p.m. to closing. 126 E Canon Perdido. 965-1015.