Warm Up the Skinny Jean, Kids – Art to Check Out this Weekend! 3/02-3/04

The runt month of February has come and gone. I learned the hard way that things you do on Leap Day do count.  Anyhow, with the advent of March our art microcosm becomes much more interesting.  To kick the month off we have two closing receptions on one side of the bay and an opening on the other.

USF Centre Gallery – The Attic by Shanna Martin and Ben Berrett closing reception    Fri 3/02  7pm-9pm

Tempus Projects – Neil Bender: Purple Nurple closing reception    Fri 3/02  8pm-10pm

USF Centre Gallery - THE ATTIC

THE ATTIC is an installation/performance piece by artists Shanna Martin and Ben Berrett.  ‘Attic’ is one of those tired metaphors for the subconscious that more often than not dooms artwork to cliché-hood (think the cover of Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic).  If you’ve seen the performance in person or on YouTube, though, the stock symbol becomes disturbingly real.  The performance produces an honest sense of chaos as two monsters trudge around the space – a real life Id left to its own devices.  Cliché or not, THE ATTIC is likely to be the most interesting art you’ll see this weekend.

Tempus Projects is closing Neil Bender’s solo exhibit with a reception this Friday as well.  I wrote a review of the show that you can find here.  If you didn’t get a chance to make it to the opening, a trip Seminole Heights is worth it.  Bender’s paintings are surprisingly relevant – they engage in a way familiar to other mediums.  Check out the review if you want to know more about the exhibit.

Studio@620 – Florida Focus Exhibition: A Celebration of Contemporary Florida Art    Sat 3/03  7pm

The Florida Focus Exhibition is a group exhibit of 32(!) artists from around the state.  The force and focus behind the show is its curator, Ken Rollins.  Rollins’ name may sound familiar: he was the executive director for a few Florida art museums including the interim executive director of the TMoA  during its make over.  The exhibit celebrates his 70th birthday with the work of many artists he’s worked with throughout his career.

The roster is a long list of well-known and respected Florida artists.  That isn’t to say that it’ll be particularly exciting, though.  If you’re the type of art nerd that’s stoked about Mindy Solomon’s Explicit Content show, you may find yourself choking down a yawn at this one.  My recommendation is to take a friend and sharpen your critic skills.  You’ll find some art that you admire and art that you less than admire – articulate the particulars of what you think.  Regardless, the education on Florida artists makes the exhibit worth seeing.  The full list of artists is too long to name here but check out the full roster of artists here.

Also this weekend:

Gasparilla Festival of the Arts – Curtis Hixon Park     Sat 3/03  9am-6pm, Sun 3/04 9am-5pm

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this event.  However, I should send you off with the warning that the Festival comes with a reputation for being extremely tame.  I’ve heard the general style described as “hotel art” – so inoffensive that it’s offensive.  Now go enjoy the sunshine!

Warm Up the Skinny Jean, Kids – Art to Check Out this Weekend! 3/02-3/04

Your Dirty Mind – Neil Bender: Purple Nurple

(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

Nipples, thighs, orifices of sorts – visually, Neil Bender‘s current exhibit of paintings at Tempus Projects is not unlike scrambled pay-per-view.  Like most good jokes, though, behind the suggestive content and playful exhibit title, Purple Nurple is much more sober.

It can’t be denied: Bender’s work is overtly sexual.  While content-wise the sweaty tangle of body parts in most of the paintings of Purple Nurple may resemble an orgy, the paintings resemble a collage compositionally.  In fact, one of Bender’s pieces featured in the show is actually a proper  cut-and-paste collage.  In this way Bender isn’t creating his sexual imagery as much as he’s mediating sexual imagery we’re already familiar with.  Perhaps that’s why his work can be so squirm-worthy at times.

There is another reason I found the work in Purple Nurple so affectingCreative Loafing‘s Megan Voeller mentioned in a past review of Bender’s work that “Rather than re-inscribing the objectification of participants (most often women) found in mainstream porn, … [Bender] is playful and exploratory in a way that reflects the current, lively discourse on gender and sexuality”. Power relations in porn are generally pretty obvious. They’re much more murky with Bender’s faceless bodies, leaving it ambiguous as to who exactly is being objectified. In a weird way it feels like the collar-pulling viewer fills that role.

The paintings of Purple Nurple are also playful with the assumptions we make in “reading” the paintings (and by extension the images we consume in general).  The centerpiece of the show, a large 88 x 120 in. painting, also makes use of this hyper-sexual imagery.  A quilt-like pattern recalls a bed mattress or fish net stockings.  Fleshy masses twist with outfit accessories, nipples with belt buckles.  It’s easy to guess what may be going on in this scene, but difficult to reconcile it with the painting’s title, My Daughter’s Overturned Bedroom.  Bender plays the opposite game in paintings with titles such as Pony You Up and Raw.  Where we presume perversity is upon closer inspection banality.  Don’t blame Neil, you were the one thinking it.

Neil Bender’s work provokes with an immediacy that painting doesn’t often allow.  In a medium that has an increasingly difficult struggle to find relevancy, the work in Purple Nurple is indecently appropriate.

My Daughter's Overturned Bedroom, oil on canvas, 88" x 120", 2011-12

Word is there will be a closing reception on March 2nd – keep an eye on Tempus Projects’ Facebook page.

Your Dirty Mind – Neil Bender: Purple Nurple

Warm Up the Skinny Jeans, Kids – Art to Check Out This Weekend! 2/10-2/12

Tarpon Springs has the sponge docks.  Clearwater has the beach.  Oldsmar has…I don’t know…a movie theatre.  But Dunedin – beer, Scottish-ness, and art?!  There’s a reason why everyone calls Dunedin “the Paris of North Central Pinellas County”.  I call it that for a reason, at least.  This weekend we’re heading to Dunedin’s art-heart: the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

DFAC flyerDunedin Fine Art Center – Contain It!    2/10 6pm-9pm, 2/11 9am-2pm

Quite a bit is going on Friday night, though I’m focusing on the DFAC’s Contain It! event.  I’ll just mention that the $5 admission gets you a free Yuengling.  Personally, I’ll be saving my sobriety for the Dunedin Brewery just a short ride away.

Though “crowd-pleasing” and “good art” rarely share the same article, the DFAC’s Contain It! shows are a regular exception.  The exception begins with a good idea: the mobile storage company PODS donates units that are in turn transformed into installations by local artists.  Big crowd pleasing art events tend to keep the art on the walls like boys at a middle school dance.  That being said, what really makes Contain It! a good show is immersing visitors in an art form that many wouldn’t encounter outside of a museum.

The DFAC also knows how to pick ’em – the artists involved not only shine a spotlight on the local scene but also bring quality work.  For example, check out this preview photo of Chris Musina’s installation.  You’ll also find installations by Kelly Boehmer, Deon Blackwell, Jordi Williams, Mitzi Gordon, Alain Salesse, and Victoria Block.

The DFAC’s offering of engaging work from local talent definitely warrants a trip to the Paris of North Central Pinellas.  The event is a promising one; you’ll be glad you parted with the fiver.

Tempus Projects - Neil BenderOther Events Worth Checking Out This Weekend
Warm Up the Skinny Jeans, Kids – Art to Check Out This Weekend! 2/10-2/12