[Support Our Sponsors!] Sarasota Contemporary: Selby Gallery and Alfstad&

Selby Gallery

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Huguette Despault May, Umbilicals, 2009, 50″ X 38″

Ringling College’s Selby Gallery presents its newest exhibit Glass and Charcoal: The Art of Kathleen Elliot and Huguette Despault May through February 12.  The dual exhibition is an expert exercise in contrast using differences in medium and aesthetic to explore similar subject matter.  Artist Kathleen Elliot often works in glass depicting plant like structures.  She says of her work for the exhibition:

“Each imaginary botanical has its own story and its own meaning. Works in this series explore a wide range of subjects from female sexuality, to dancers and infants, to the idea of botanical life in alternate realities. Personal growth and development are continuing themes, and a number of pieces have arisen from imagining the emotional phenomena in our lives in botanical imagery.”

On the other hand, the work of Huguette Despault May is often found in two dimensions – elegant charcoal drawings.  Regarding her work and the exhibit, May comments:

“I chose imagery of knotted or twisted rope to help me describe the felt but unexpressed visceral world of the mind/body. These surrogate “bodies” seemed fitting metaphors for the tension, frayed nerves and entanglements that we inevitably experience as human beings. Use of distortion and exaggerated scale help evoke less pedestrian associations with my subject while enticing viewers to linger with the sensual qualities of surface and medium.” – Huguette May

Glass and Charcoal: The Art of Kathleen Elliot and Huguette Despault May will be on view through February 12.  Luncheon & Artist Talk with Preview: Thurs., Jan. 16, 11:30 am (Call 941.359.7563 for reservations.)  Opening reception Friday January 17, 5-7 pm.  Director’s Tour Monday, January 27, 11:30 am.  Selby Gallery is located on the Ringling College of Art and Design campus, one-half block east of 2700 N. Tamiami Trail on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Sarasota.  Hours are Monday – Saturday, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, and Tuesday, 10:00 Am – 7:00 PM.

allinthefamilyAlfstad&

Sarasota boasts another exciting venue for contemporary art with an exciting group exhibit: All in the Family at IceHouse.  The complexities and nuances of modern family life have been a rich subject matter for contemporary art.  However, curator Tim Jaeger tackles the subject with an interesting approach.  All in the Family explores the dynamics of familial relationships by actually bringing the family (of artists) into the gallery.  The artwork of fathers and their children will be exhibited alongside each other.  Specifically, the All in the Family will feature the work of Mark Anderson and his son Jarrod Anderson; Kevin Dean and his daughter and son, Molly Dean and Ian Dean; Patrick Lindhardt and his son Matthew Lindhardt; and Steve Strenk and his daughter Bianca Rylee.

It is easy to see the conceptual potential in such a show.  For example, artist Mark Anderson says, “In families, as in art, relations are activated by the spaces between us, how we touch, each of us balanced by the other.”  These similarities between family dynamics and the dynamics in art are an especially interesting territory that isn’t neglected by the artists.  participating artist Kevin Dean says, “So many children of artists become artists it suggests that artists are often born and not made.”

However, beyond investigating the inner workings of the family, children and parents also provide mutual inspiration for artwork.   “My relationship to my children has been influential to my love for playful, active art. Heck, toys are creative!”, artist Steve Strenk says, for example.

All in the Family will be on view January 10 through 19.  The exhibit is produced by Alfstad& – a Sarasota based production company with a special talent for artwork and art exhibits.  Explaining the ampersand in the name, the company says, “While Sam [Alfstad] represents the “Alfstad” part of Alfstad&, it is the “&” part of the name that is most important. That begins with Casey Alfstad and Keith Alvarado, who manage the studio and oversee day-to-day business operations. But & are also the artists, designers, producers, curators, fabricators, animators, technologists, videographers and writers who create Alfstad&-branded products. Each will be fully credited, and listed in on-piece documentation.

[Support our Sponsor!] Theo Wujcik: New Paintings at Selby Gallery

The first time we met he related a memory of throwing off their clothes and jumping into a collector’s pool with Jean-Michel (Yes, as in Basquiat).  I suppose it isn’t surprising such an artist is cherished by the local community.  Really, though, it is his painting that’s secured him in the esteem of Tampa Bay.

Wujcik’s work is often about pop culture but somehow beyond pop art.  His work explores some of the subtext of cultures while tackling the nuances of painting itself.  Each new series of work seems to bring along a refined conceptual efficiency.  Thus its with some excitement that new work from Theo Wujcik is now exhibiting at Sarasota’s Selby Gallery.

The show is an interesting combination of solo and dual exhibit.  Selby Gallery is exhibiting in inter-institutional conjunction with State College of Florida which is presenting the work of Kirk Ke Wang.  Wujcik and Wang work in nearby studios often meeting to discuss new work and the concepts behind it.  Though both have a way of getting at the politics behind pop-culture, ethnic cultures, and art making they differ markedly in execution.  Exhibiting the two together in a way offers two perspectives of the same landscape.  Especially interesting is the fact that Theo Wujcik created entirely new work specifically for this exhibit.

Ringling College’s Selby Gallery is a beautiful 3,000 square foot space.  Aimed at offering students and the surrounding community exposure to acclaimed artists, the gallery sets out to be “both a center of learning and hub of extracurricular activity.”  Selby Gallery has developed a reputation beyond that of a college gallery and into as one of Sarasota’s best destinations for contemporary art.

Theo Wujcik: New Paintings is on view through December 11.  Selby Gallery is located on the Ringling College of Art and Design campus, one-half block east of 2700 N. Tamiami Trail on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Sarasota.  Hours are Monday – Saturday, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, and Tuesday, 10:00 Am – 7:00 PM.

Theo Wujcik, Dragon, 2012, 90”x84”; Joe Triana, photographer

Theo Wujcik, Dragon, 2012, 90”x84”; Joe Triana, photographer

A Better Time Signature: Stacy Rosende at Gallery 221

In a way, I was glad I had missed the opening reception.  Instead, I walked the gallery for an hour alone on a Monday afternoon.  Stacy Rosende‘s solo exhibit subSURFACE speaks slowly and would likely rather wait patiently than shout over the din of a crowded art party.  This reveals something about the work itself – there is a peculiar sort of temporality running through it.

Initially, some of Rosende’s new work is reminiscent of the paintings of Todd Chilton.  However, the two artists tackle very different concerns.  Unlike Chilton’s opaque painterly style, Rosende creates a sort of abstract foreground and background.  Geometric patterns of color cover the panels.  Underneath, an arrangement of decorative flourishes can be dimly seen at times and disappear completely elsewhere.  This was inspired by a recent stay in Venice, Italy as the texture, patterns and layers of the city’s walls clearly influenced much of the work in subSURFACE.  The play between foreground and background does add a sense of depth to Rosende’s paintings.  However, a clear and strong sense of rhythm still dominates Rosende’s work.  The paintings may have come from an interest in surface, but seem to be very much about rhythm.

Vertical lines of color, irregularly sized and multi-colored without a discernible pattern, suggest a complex beat and a certain musicality.  Rosende doesn’t offer the eye a place to rest, instead forcing it to play through the composition, dancing over the colors left to right and back again.  In her statement, Rosende draws comparisons between tones in music and color, waves of sound and light, and arrangements both musical and visual.  Perhaps all of these comparisons are most easily discerned in Fertile.

At the center of the space, the sculpture occupies a significant amount of the gallery floor.  Twenty-nine differently sized stone-like objects (they’re actually plaster mixed with natural materials) are arranged in a ‘V’ formation from largest to smallest.  One side of each object is smooth and painted, the largest orange and gradually darkening with each piece down to the smallest painted black.

Fertile contrasts severely against the paintings and prints in the exhibit while offering a sort of respite.  Unlike the paintings which produce a sort of visual syncopation, the size, color and arrangement in Fertile all work in accord to produce a specific rhythm, a particular movement.  The piece draws your eyes front to back to front.  The movement is almost sexual.  The work’s title coupled with the movement suggest the womb, birth, or even the ascension and descent explored in the Cremaster Cyle of Matthew Barney.

Though I may be swayed by my particular gallery visit, what may be most valuable about this show is its slower pace.  Conceptual one-liners, needlessly showy and large work, parties badly disguised as art exhibits: each often coddle and cater to a critical laziness.  Rosende’s solo exhibit doesn’t do this.  Instead, the show makes apparent that it’ll take time.  If you are to honestly like or dislike the work, it’ll be after spending some time with it.  Ultimately, it may be this sort of “time signature” that is key to taking art seriously again.

Kelly Boehmer Threads the Needle

Kelly Boehmer’s Heart Out at Centre Gallery
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Kelly Boehmer, Flamingo Harpy and the Alligator’s Heart, Mixed Media, 2013

I find myself continually distracted when watching a Hallmark movie, distracted by sentimentality.  Rather than viewing it like any other film, I can’t stop giving attention to the narrative’s mechanisms of emotional manipulation and trying not to get suckered by the emotional cheap shots.  Similarly with visual art, you’ll often find yourself experiencing the piece from without and the art bare of impact.  However, given all of the definite sounding statements above, steering clear of sentimentality while not also emptying a piece of emotional authenticity is still a challenging needle to thread.  It is a challenge artist Kelly Boehmer seems to be meeting with skill.

The last time I had seen Boehmer’s work had been over a year ago at the Dunedin Fine Art Center’s Contain It! show – an exhibit of PODS installations.  Had I known the challenges of storage unit installations that I do now, I likely wouldn’t have been so hard on the show.  That said, her work at the Contain It! exhibit had a certain near syrupy nostalgia that was difficult to see beyond.  This syrupy nostalgia, however, is not to be found in Heart Out, her current solo exhibit at USF’s Centre Gallery.

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Kelly Boehmer, Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue), Mixed Media, 2013

The gallery space is installed with three sculptural works.  Flamingo Harpy and the Alligator’s Heart dominates the space as the show’s largest piece.  As with the bulk of her work, the piece is composed many contrasting textiles.  Knotty tangles of fabric pile up to create recognizable forms.  A flamingo appears to be pulling the heart out of an alligator, the reptile’s innards caught in the bird’s foot.  The harpy takes its classically mythological form of a bird’s body topped with a woman’s head.  Despite the classical allusion, the scene is clearly that of a lover’s quarrel, albeit a bizarrely Floridian interspecies one.

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Kelly Boehmer, detail of Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue), Mixed Media, 2013

Near the rear of the gallery is Unicorn Pegasus (Emotional Rescue).  The form of a unicorn type figure is depicted, but not in its typically idyllic way.  Rather, the figure is limp on the cold floor as if it were a carcass that had been heaved across the gallery and dumped.  The feeling of death in the piece is underscored by the animals teeth.  They are not fabric as the rest of the body.  Instead the teeth are real and from the head of an alligator buried in the “mouth” of the unicorn.  As the alligator and flamingo respectively had human-like hair and face, the unicorn possesses exposed human-like breasts.  An atmosphere of animalistic violence further continues into this piece.

On the wall hung the aptly titled Gaudy Gold Frame.  While the piece is a shiny gold, this too is constructed from irregularly stitched fabric.  I found this piece to be the most subtly interesting of the show.  In a way, its quietly meta quality made it the introvert of the bunch: easy to pass over in favor of its louder companions but also concurrently more contemplative.  Interestingly, Boehmer’s “frame” isn’t framing anything at all.  Rather the apparatus for setting an art object’s context, becomes the art object itself.  The piece is pleasantly confusing as it draws attention to an object frequently created with the intention of not drawing attention.

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Kelly Boehmer, Gaudy Gold Frame, Mixed Media, 2013

It may also be this last piece that illustrates Boehmer’s skillfully precise use of bathos in this exhibit.  Heart Out threatens to venture into cheesy sappiness with each step.  However, it never quite does so.  Indeed she says in her artist statement, “Fears of death and heartbreak are reduced to silly scenarios with taxidermy and soft sculpture animals.”  Don’t let this fool you – she doesn’t stop taking her artwork seriously in Heart Out.  As Susan Sontag once pointed out the difference between kitsch and camp is a set of quotation marks.  Navigating this tenuous distinction is a challenging course for artists and a troubling one for viewers.  It is difficult to discern when Kelly Boehmer is holding up air quotes, when she is operating with a certain self-awareness and when we’re being had.  But it is a welcome difficulty that too often many local artists don’t trust their audience with.

There will be a closing reception for the show Fri 9/27 7pm-9pm

Couch Cushion Fort Frieze

As long as my wife’s patience allows, the couch cushion fort in the living room will keep its structural integrity and we’ll refer to it as the Frieze Art Fair.  I write for no less than two national magazines.  Yet, I still lack the means to abandon my day job or even pull out of muggy artless Tampa and into New York City for any amount of time.  Thus, I’m typing this from (as my wife insists on surrounding with air quotes) the “art fair” currently in my living room.

A single word to describe my initial impression of this year’s fair: shabby.  The grounds resemble a bourgeois hobo-camp.  This may be due to Frieze New York’s relative youth as an art fair or even the recent labor debacle.  To be fair, however, the fair’s shoddy presentation is likely my fault: the booths mostly consist of ink-jet printouts Scotch taped to my love seat cushions.

Despite the appearance, Frieze New York does not lack its highlights.  Bjarne Melgaard’s colorful paintings of face-like abstractions stand out in his purple-walled installation…or so I’m told.  Though the walls here are tan microfiber suede, the paintings still retain a certain charm on 100% recycled eight and a half by eleven.

Also, a verbal description of Paul McCarthy’s 80 foot tall balloon dog lies on the floor at the entrance of the living room.  While it lacks the larger-than-life character of its New York counterpart, the couch cushion McCarthy is at least less derivative of Jeff Koons.

However, the collecting fervor of past years has noticeably cooled off.  In fact, purchases have ground to a complete halt.  My wife is persistent in refusing to consider the work found in the fort “art”.  As one of the only visitors to Couch Cushion Frieze, this undoubtedly portends poor sales.  Naturally, my dog has expressed an interest in the FOOD Frieze Project, but a nonexistent budget merely makes him a nuisance.

Despite some presentation weaknesses and slowing sales, this year’s fair has been a pleasure to attend – clearly a stronger showing than the concurrent NADA Backyard.

Tampa Art Events 2/06 – 2/12

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Hillsborough has a lot worth your time this week!  At the moment I’ve got a few really exciting projects eating up all of my time (I’ll elaborate on them later this month) so I won’t be able to detail these events.  However, this is not a listing – these are my earnest recommendations.  Of the all of the events happening outside of Pinellas county this week, these are the ones you need to see.

Gallery 221@HCC – Ruby C. Williams: Farming, Family and Folk Art

Ongoing through 2/28

MAZE Gallery – Happily Never After

Opening Reception Wed 2/06 4pm

Bleu Acier – Thom O’Connor: Polymer Prints

Opening Reception Thur 2/07 5pm-9pm

USFCAM – SYCOM: Music for Open Score

Thur 2/07 6pm-8pm

Ringling Museum of Art – Ringling Underground

Thur 2/07 8pm-11pm $10

Tempus Projects – Love Lit

Sun 2/10 6pm-9pm

Art@Bay on Articulate: Pinellas Arts Calendar 1/24 – 1/30

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As a quasi-journalist I feel a strange need to talk about Michelle Obama’s bangs. I’m sticking to the script, though – art this week.  Pinellas has quite a bit to offer by way of art this week. Here a few suggestions of events you shouldn’t miss … and her bangs looked pretty awesome.

Click here to  check out the calendar at Articulate

Art@Bay on Articulate: Pinellas Arts Calendar 1/17 – 1/23

Our state’s copious ‘weird news’ crop can make even the proudest Floridian a bit embarrassed (while still strangely proud) of the Sunshine state. The arts in Pinellas, though, remind us that there is plenty to make your chest swell.  This week we’ll be talking with Pinellas’ brainiest, opening the newest glass workshop on the East Coast’s best glass art destination, and meeting two of  Florida’s legendary Highwaymen.

Check out the calendar on Articulate

Pinellas Visual Arts Calendar 1/03 – 1/09

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The art world train is slowly chugging its way out of the holiday vacation and back up to full speed. We begin the second half of this year’s art season in the coming couple of weeks. As it gets under way, get out of bed, hitch up your pants, and hit up these events!

Check out the calendar on Articulate here

Art@Bay’s Best of 2012 – Best Gallery Exhibit

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The highly prized and sought after A@B Best of 2012 “Best Exhibit” Cyber-Trophy!

This post is second in Art@Bay’s Best of 2012 series – check out the introduction and pick for Best Museum Exhibit here.

I initially felt some reluctance releasing this installment because I felt a tad guilty for not having attended some exhibits (thus, I couldn’t appropriately include them).  After some consideration though, I’ve mustered some gumption: Likely I’ve attended more local art exhibits than anyone (save perhaps for Luis from Art Taco).  Anyhow, if you disagree with my pick, let me know in the comments section below – I’ll tell you why it didn’t make my cut.

Best Gallery Exhibit

Neil Bender: Purple Nurple – Tempus Projects

(left) Looks Like, oil and acrylic on canvas, 49" x 85 ", 2009-10 (right) A Habitable Ether, oil on canvas, 40" x 50", 2011-12

(left) Looks Like, oil and acrylic on canvas, 49″ x 85 “, 2009-10 (right) A Habitable Ether, oil on canvas, 40″ x 50”, 2011-12

Perhaps its natural a solo exhibit came out strongest – they have fewer variables than a group show.  Regardless, last February’s Neil Bender solo show at Tempus Projects impressed me most.

The exhibit was dominated by relatively large-scale paintings visually tied together by medium (oil on canvas) and a subtly similar palette.  The centerpiece of the show – the 88 x 120 in. My Daughter’s Overturned Bedroom – hung alone on the gallery’s west wall.

Bender’s composition and style reflect an awareness of the contemporary dialogue on art and painting’s place in it.  With the field of relevant painting (presumably) shrinking, good work is all the more exciting.  His choice of medium wasn’t a trivial one – the use of oil was ideal for the subject matter.  The somewhat painterly fleshy masses of the pieces recalled Rubenesque figures through a contemporary lens, a sort of baroque R. Crumb.

However, I’m not saying that his work was in any way frivolous.  Rather, Bender was able to convey the moral muddiness of some pretty heavy issues – objectification, sexual politics, gender roles.  His paintings resist being heavy-handed politically, instead according an appropriate complexity to the concepts they touch on.

Bender also managed to resist being heavy-handed with the shock and awe.  When dealing with issues such as sexuality, artists can get as adolescent as the rest of us.  It’s easier to take a lazy pointlessly raunchy route.  The nudity in Bender’s paintings is relatively understated and effective.  The pieces encourage a slow look in contrast with the facile shock and instant impression (then consequent forgetting) of immature work.

Really, Bender’s work in Purple Nurple had a conceptual depth that is not seen often enough in the Bay area.  Further, it was executed with a balanced hand both aesthetically and in process.

Honorable Mention:

Parallel Movements: Justin Nelson and Daniel Mrgan – C. Emerson Fine Arts

156671_10152131771580632_24261848_nThis past October CEFA presented a dual exhibit of work from two popular Bay area artists: Justin Nelson and Daniel Mrgan.  Both had exhibited a few times locally throughout the year.  However, this exhibit featured new work from both artists.  More importantly, it signaled a subtle but positive shift in each artist’s style.

Nelson and Mrgan both use an approach to their work that is easily liked.  While popular art can run the risk of becoming populist art, this exhibit caught the work of both artists maturing.  In their own ways, the new work from Nelson as well as Mrgan abstracted itself further from earlier pieces.  The art investigated similar concepts and processes, but definitely deeper and more effectively in Parallel Movements.