ART AT BAY is Two Years Old!

One of the past year’s many highlights: Hanging out with Tampa artists Kimberly Meadows, Neil Bender, and Justin Nelson at Aqua Art Miami

Two years ago I wrote the first blog post for ART AT BAY and today I write the 159th.  A lot has happened in the past two years with the blog generally and me personally.  The blog is still here, and I’m now joined by three other writers.  We’re slated to release the first print issue of ART AT BAY next month.  My wife gave birth to our first child, a daughter.  I became a contributor for Hi-Fructose Magazine and exhibited once as an artist.

I’ve spoken with many awesome artists, gallerists, writers, and art lovers over the past year.  Reflecting on it all, I find myself more optimistic than I was when I wrote this post last year.  Tampa Bay seems poised to not only take its place as a significant art community, but more importantly it seems ready to accept itself.  I’m continually seeing more collaboration span the Bay.  I see people in our little art scenes lend a hand, some money, some time, some hard work, some resources for the sake of art and what it does locally.  I’ve seen it done for me.  It’s nice to witness our favorite artists mature and new artists gearing up to get involved.  Some awesome things are going to happen in our little art world on the Bay.  I hope you continue to stick with me and ART AT BAY as we provide a forum to talk about it and give it some attention.

Thank you.  Please believe me as sincere when I say, you guys are awesome, seriously awesome.

-Danny Olda

ART AT BAY is Two Years Old!

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

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.

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

Art Season Kick Off – Galleries to Check Out Saturday!

Justin Nelson, Trash Mountain, 2012

It’s finally here!  I’m not talking about the Republican National Convention.  Dust off your gallery shoes because the art season officially (according to me) begins this weekend!    A gallery on either side of the bay kicks off the season with an exhibit you need to see.

Box on 5th – Hypostasis: New and Recent Work from Justin Myers, Justin Nelson, and Danny Olda    Sat 8/11  8pm-10pm

That’s right – that’s my name in the exhibit title.  If you’re familiar with the blog, though, you know I’d be recommending this show anyway based on the other two artists alone.  I swear.  Read further if you need convincing.

Hypostasis, the show’s title is a philosophical term referring to a subject’s essential nature as opposed to its attributes.  I realize this may come off as pretentious art-speak from a usually smart-mouthed blogger.  Honestly, though, I chose the name of the exhibit because of aesthetics the three of us shared – a blend of abstraction and figuration.  Using both disparate techniques can allow an artist to open up interpretation on a subject and its concept.

Justin Myers is a Tampa artist regular – you would’ve last seen his work at the Box on 5th preview party or Tempus For the Spring.  Myers is also involved in the music scene as half of the project, Alien House, and though his amazing solo work as Diamond Man.  I’ve been a fan of Justin Nelson’s work before I was even aware he was a local artist – featured in (inter)national media such as Beautiful/Decay and Booooooom.  Nelson will be exhibiting brand new work for the Box on 5th inaugural exhibit.  I got a chance to see it this morning and was impressed: he makes use of a brighter color palette but a more austere composition.  I’ll be featuring work from a series of paintings based on magazine advertisements.  The series deals with the face and ways it’s tied to identity and language.  Also, the Blue Bird Books Bus will have a curated collection of books for you to peruse in while in the gallery.  If you’re in Tampa, the opening reception for Box on 5th’s first exhibit will definitely be worth an appearance.

 C. Emerson Fine Arts – Wicked Games    Sat 8/11  6pm-9pm

I wrote a preview for this exhibit at Articulate – check it out here.  There are a few things I’d like to add to that preview, though.  The opening exhibit for an art season is usually made to be an especially strong one for the gallery.  That makes a show like this one from a St. Pete heavy hitter like CEFA an essential visit.  In addition to the two artists I mention in the Articulate preview, an installation from artist Donna Haynes should make for a great exhibit.

Art Season Kick Off – Galleries to Check Out Saturday!

Two Friday Art Parties! 7/20/12

This summer, as most, has been relatively slow when it comes to art.  If you listen closely, though, you the hum of behind the curtain preparations for the upcoming art season.  I might be calling it early, but the action begins this  weekend with two Tampa art parties.

Box on 5th – Preview Party       Fri 7/20  8pm-10pm

My (quasi) expert suggestion: Grab some dinner at The Bricks then stop by the brand new Ybor City gallery, Box on 5th.  It’d be proper for me to mention that I’ll have a painting hanging at the night.  Does that influence my recommendation?  Yes!  Go see my painting!  However, I’m hardly the only artist that will be featured that evening.  The event will serve as a kind of sneak peek into the new galleries first season.  The gallery will be presenting deservedly hyped Tampa artists, such as Justin Nelson, George Anderton, and Anthony Record among others.  The Blue Bird Books Bus will also be making a stop at the new venue.  Start your night here, check out what’s to come, say hi, have a drink, then head to the next party!

Tampa Museum of Art – Art After Dark       Fri 7/20  8pm-11pm

The quarterly art party at the TMoA returns this Friday.  The party invites “culture crusaders” to celebrate the museums current design exhibit, A Hundred Years – A Hundred Chairs.  There is far too much going on at the museum that night to describe in full here, so I’ll give you the abbreviated version: music, film, dance, drink, lounge, art, food.  Several local artists, including Vincent Kral and Shanna Gillette, will be featured with chair themed work.  In addition to all of the downstairs fun, the upstairs galleries will remain open for a stroll.  I love and admire the Art After Dark series: it’s a real and concrete way to connect an internationally recognized exhibit with our community in a way that many museums fail to do.  If you don’t go for the crazy fun, at least attend on principle!

Two Friday Art Parties! 7/20/12

Look! Tempus for The Spring

Need an alibi for your whereabouts last night?  If you’re a Bay area art-worlder you were likely here, Tempus for the Spring.  Look for a proper review soon and enjoy these photos meanwhile.

The courtyard near the CL Space

Theo Wujcik, Arts Grip, Acrylic on canvas, 2011

Art by George Anderton (five pieces on the left) and Justin Nelson (one piece on the right)

Video work by Kurt Piazza in the background
Look! Tempus for The Spring

Off the Wagon – Your Weekend Art Binge 4/27 – 4/29

Sure, you had a good time at Art After Dark last week.  Though, now you may be asking “Danny, is there another art party worth going to soon?”  I’m glad you asked.  I’m also sorry I started off this week like an infomercial.  Anyhow, here’s another art party for you with one serious improvement: it supports an important cause.

CL Space – Tempus for The Spring     Sat 4/28

VIP admission – $30 in advance or $35 at the door, 6pm-10pm

General admission – $10, student (with ID) – $5, 7pm-10pm

The cause behind the party should be mentioned first – The Spring of Tampa Bay.  The Spring is Hillsborough’s only certified domestic violence prevention and emergency shelter agency.  Tempus for The Spring is specifically supporting the creation of a new art therapy program for the agency.  It’s only fitting that such a program is helped to be brought about with an art party.  This is where you can do your bit to prevent domestic violence and support the arts this Saturday.

That being said, I won’t lie – the Bay area isn’t short on art parties.  I can easily think of some regulars on both sides of the bay.  Thus, if you have some sort of literal art party addiction you’re set.  Like most things, though, the art parties actually worth your presence are few.  These events can easily get heavy on the party side and light on the art, as in “Art Lite”.  Tempus for The Spring seems to be a different sort of affair.

Firstly, two of the Bay area’s best painters will be showing and selling work: Theo Wujcik and Neil Bender.  Additionally, up and coming artists such as Justin Nelson and Ryann Slauson will be joining the gang on the wall (not to mention Tempus Projects’  Tracy Midulla Reller and Bluebird Books Bus’ Mitzi Gordon among many other great artists).  If you ever had hopes of owning art, Saturday would be a prime opportunity to make good on it.  Work is being sold via silent auction which could possibly help you land a sweet price, especially if you take advantage of a sneak peek that comes with a VIP admission.  More importantly, though, with cash you lay down for the auction you not only acquire awesome artwork but you also help out an awesome agency in a very real way.  You could be an art collector and a philanthropist with one maneuver of the wallet: classy!  Classy, but not snooty.  With a $3 per drink cash bar (free drinks with a VIP admission) and DJ, fun is to be had, even by philistine non-art liking types.

Regardless of your interest, causes and art rarely fit so well together.  Not often do venues like Tempus Projects exhibit in venues like the CL Space.  And Seldom can you contribute to an important cause by collecting art.

Off the Wagon – Your Weekend Art Binge 4/27 – 4/29

Warm Up the Skinny Jeans, Kids – Art to Check out this Weekend! 4/06 – 4/08

I’ve been thinking about changing the title of this series before no one’s wearing skinny jeans anymore.  How about “Slap on the Slap Bracelets, Kids” or “Lace Up the Renaissance Fair Shirts, dudes”.  Let me know if you have any ideas.  Anyhow,  April is turning out to be a busy month and this weekend we’re hanging out in Tampa.

Tempus Projects – Your Body is a Punishment: Anthony Record & Justin Nelson    Sat 4/07  8pm-10pm

Tempus Projects presents an exhibit featuring two Tampa Artists, Anthony Record and Justin Nelson.  The two share more than that, though: on the art continuum of abstract to representational they both land in the ambiguous middle-ground.

Justin Nelson, represented locally by St. Pete’s CEFA, lives and works out of Tampa.  I was surprised to hear he was a hometown artist, first running into his work far from home on a Canadian art blog.  This in itself says something about Nelson’s work – its easy to see why it could get viral with art nerds (like me) online.  It has a touch of the popular surrealism of the Low-Brow style without its low browishness.  Nelson consistently hides and abstracts areas that our eyes immediately scan for such as faces, eyes.  This forces the viewer to use hands or silhouettes as reference points.  It’s unsettling in a pleasant way.  Trust me: that makes sense.

Anthony Record lands a little closer to the abstract end of the spectrum.  However, his paintings don’t blur the line between abstract and representational a la Annie Lapin – Record’s work seems to have a foot firmly planted at either end.  His newer paintings resemble ancient ecclesiastical work such as stained glass (solid colors and heavy black outlines) and mosaics (dotting instead of painterly strokes).  These paintings honestly feel like they reference the representational and the abstract, the earthly and the heavenly, the concrete and the virtual. It reminds me of a Guy Debord quote: “The spectacle is the material reconstruction of the religious illusion.”   The gallery’s statement was right on.

It’s Anthony Record’s yarn work that I’m particularly looking forward to seeing.  If anyone has recently inherited any money, picking up one of these pieces for me would make me especially fond of you.  His yarn pieces seem to slip out of representation like lo-res photos or old Nintendo games.  The organic nature of the material juxtaposes well with the synthetic coloring.  This exhibit is set to be a larger market calibre show.  Indeed, both artists have exhibited internationally.  The fact that both artists are part of our local scene, though, gives the exhibit added value.


USF Centre Gallery – Obvious Truth by David Gabbard  closing reception    Fri 4/06  7pm-9pm

The Centre Gallery is fitted with an installation that more than resembles a little kid’s fort in a 1970’s living room.  What I would give to keep my dignity and crawl around gleefully through the installation!

Warm Up the Skinny Jeans, Kids – Art to Check out this Weekend! 4/06 – 4/08