Pulp bookstore, gallery to add fringe flair to upper King Street

Will Eiseman is opening Pulp Bookstore & Gallery at 535 King St. with a display of “art and photographs for grown-ups” on Valentine’s Day.

Pulp Gallery and Bookstore could add a heavy dose of shock value to the stretch of fancy ice cream shops, night clubs and high-dollar restaurants when it opens on upper King Street this weekend.

The arts venue — which is part gallery, part bookstore and community cinema — will reveal itself on Valentine’s Day with an equally revealing exhibit of adults-only art and photographs. Called “The X Show,” the opening-night party is a teaser of what’s to come from the gallery centered on all things kitschy, fringe or provocative.

Owner Will Eiseman claims it’s unlike anything else in the local arts scene.

“My aesthetic is anything that fascinates or offends, basically,” he said. “This is really a New York style or San Francisco style gallery. That’s the best way to put it. Even the books, they’re all new, but you won’t find them in a bookstore between New York and Miami.”

About two-thirds of the 3,500-square-foot space will serve as the bookstore/exhibition space, with the other third set apart for a black box theater with a small platform and a 15-foot screen. On Saturdays beginning on March 5, it will be a cinema for old, independent films that Eiseman has curated as a lifelong cinephile.

“And you know, if people want to screen their shorts or films, they can use the space. We can do poetry readings in here, we can do theater, we can do anything,” he added.

The store will carry nontraditional books about art, photography and pop culture with themes ranging from gay erotica to the practice of hypnosis. Eiseman said major bookstore chains don’t carry those sorts of titles, unless you shop online.

“To me, books are art,” he said. “This is a place you’ll see the books you never thought you’d see in person.”

On the gallery side, Eiseman plans to hold regular shows of contemporary works that don’t exactly hew to local trends.

“I don’t do sailboats, sunsets, horses, cats, dogs, landscapes,” he said. “I like being controversial ... Art doesn’t always have to be safe, it doesn’t always have to be something you can hang in your living room that matches your drapes. It can be something that just really freaks you out.”

“The X Show” will be on display through March 6. After that, Pulp will have a photography show centered on circus freaks, crime scenes and other “stranger than fiction” oddities, as Eiseman put it. In the summer, he plans to have a graffiti show, then a solo show by Raymond Pettibon, a New York-based illustrator known for his punk rock album art.

Eiseman said he’ll also display works leftover from collections of similar galleries he’s owned around the world in Australia, Los Angeles, and most recently, Amsterdam.

He ended up in Charleston about eight months ago because he wanted to be back in the United States, specifically on the East Coast. Charleston seemed like a safe bet because of its “really sophisticated arts community” and strong tourism market, he said.

“You have tourists coming here from all over the country, and if they’re not into Lowcountry art ... they don’t have anything to buy,” he said. “But if they wander in here, they’ll go ‘Oh, this is different, this is unique.’ Because unless they live in New York or San Francisco or L.A., they’ve never seen anything like this.”

Eiseman will run Pulp on upper King Street with a staff of about three part-timers. He’ll mostly likely have to pack it up in about a year because the building is for sale, but he said he’ll start looking for a more permanent home if the business does as well as he predicts.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail