5 Art World Trends Yet to Roll Through Tampa Bay

Trends rise and fall in the art world, each (hopefully) a step toward the best art we can collectively make.  Some, though, don’t seem to have stopped by our little art world by the bay just yet.  I’ve listed five here and some of their inevitable (and awesome) exceptions.  I honestly don’t intend this piece to deride my beloved art scene.  Rather, it should serve to highlight those that are pushing our envelopes for us, and let’s say a personal wish list of the kind of art I’d love to see even more often.

1. Smaller, Subtler, and Subdued

If there is one actual overarching trend generally making its way through the art world at the moment it’s this.  This ‘trend’ was detailed by Jerry Saltz in his survey of the Whitney Biennial last year.  Perhaps it’s in reaction to the post-2008 market collapse, or maybe it’s a response to the swelling art market.  Regardless, a lot of artwork seems to have pulled itself inward, scrapped the factory staff, and scaled down its dimensions.  The sell-out show stopper pieces are just a bit fewer.  Also, as Saltz points out artists are more frequently looking for routes around irony and cynicism without relying on sentimentality or over simplification.  The best of this work is a refreshing respite from the out-of-control market hype of the past few years.

In terms of scale, most local work is relatively under control.  However, I suspect this is more closely tied to limited resources and venues than aesthetic concerns.  Subtlety, though, is a virtue rarely praised, often passed over for gimmicks and quick reactions.

Exceptions:  A notable exception is perhaps one of favorite local artists (I’m still considering her one of us though she’s now based in NYC): Ryann Slauson.  Slauson created a piece that I’ll always regret not purchasing.  On a pedestal sat a deflated basketball constructed from paper mache, each dimple carefully painted on.  The ball sat there lonely and perfectly useless.  Much like this particular piece, her work generally has a peculiar way of being earnest without being sentimental, smart but not cynical, and serious but not stuffy.  Her understated work asks for time, and returns on what you give it.

2. Net Art/New Media

Computer art has arguably been around since the 1950’s – even Andy Warhol joined the party as early as the mid-1980’s.  It’s at this moment, though, that it is growing out of novelty and into respected form.  Considering the amount of time that we spend on the internet and the profound changes it has made to the way we live we may rightly say, “About time.”  GIF’s, Tumblr, social networks, interactive sites, among many other forms are becoming standards of the heady fringes of art and are poised to enter the mainstream.

The reasons Net Art and New Media have been virtually absent from the Tampa Bay scenes are most likely practical ones.  Locally, artists that can also code are a bit of a curiosity.  Also, there are the complexities of exhibiting and selling work that is typically confined to a computer monitor.  Though, I’d like to see this trend roll through more than the others, I fear it may be one we won’t see for a while.  Somebody prove me wrong!

Exceptions:  Artist Hunter Payne is an unapologetic fan of the interwebs.  I realize that sounds absurdly vague but there honestly isn’t any better way to say it.  He’s produced several new media pieces, GIFs, and “games”.  Further, he curated the exhibit TRU_RL: Tight Artists Offline at Studio@620 – an amazing group exhibit featuring the work of artists from the Net Art quasi-collective known as Tight Artists.  This was one of the area’s rare exhibits that would’ve even been too hip even for the Chelsea white boxes.  I’d pay money to see a show like this again.

3.  Contemporary Art Fairs

2012 seems to have been the year of the art fair – oddly both for the art world’s unabashed revelry in and simultaneous hating on the institution.  Regardless of where you fall on the opinion spectrum, these fairs act as more than just a venue for the obscenely rich to relieve themselves of wads cash.  Contemporary art fairs serve as a time for the art world to gather together and figure out where this crazy thing called contemporary art is headed.

I realize it is unrealistic for Tampa to ever be home to anything the size of Miami’s Art Basel and its satellite fairs.  Still, I don’t think it’s unrealistic for us to host a quality Contemporary Art Fair.  Consider relatively similarly sized cities.  Washington D.C. has Emerge, Houston has Texas Contemporary, San Francisco has artMRKT.  I hate to say it but the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts (Tampa) and the Mainsail Art Festival (St. Petersburg) don’t count.  They are frankly little more than temporary art flea markets (though, I suppose in a way, the same argument can be made of Art Basel.)

Exceptions:  I debated whether or not to even include this ‘trend’, because this is the single trend I could not pair with an exception.  Perhaps we can take a page from the playbook of the Anti-Warpt music festival.  That is, could a fledgling Contemporary Art Fair could coincide with the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts or Mainsail Art Festival to act as an alternative event?  I’d love to see that happen.

4. Shocking Art

It’s difficult calling this a trend or even using the word shocking.  Regardless, it came and went back in the 1970’s.  That’s forty years ago – I’m not sure if I really care to see it roll through town anymore.  In a way, at that time art stretched itself to lay claim to all it could be.  It sought to provoke moral sensibilities, upset ideas of art’s relationship with the market, and upend all assumptions about what art was and could be.  It was nearly a time when art could be shocking simply for the sake of shocking – at the time is was something the art dialectic needed to pass through.

Our scenes produce very little truly shocking work, and perhaps that’s alright.  It would be difficult to present that kind of art now without it appearing adolescent.  Maybe its time to make peace with the possibility that we’re just going to skip this important phase in art’s progression.

Exceptions:  Last October’s drama on the 600 Block and his recent dual exhibit Strange Fruit set artist Allen Leper Hampton apart as one exception.  His work has been some of the most shocking to local sensibilities.  Beyond that, though, I like to think his work teaches people to critically read art instead of simply reacting to it.

5. Post-Modern and Post-PoMo Concerns

There are several interesting topics and concerns that seem to receive scant attention in the Bay area – feminism, post-colonialism, Neo-Marxism, modern identity, immigration, and so on (and on and on).  These concerns address the most basic and important ways we interact with each other and how we process our environment.  They encourage us to question complacency, to ask if things can and should be different.

I realize these topics can sound terribly academic and deathly boring.  However, good contemporary art is much brainier than it has been in times past and demands its audience dedicate deep thought to it in addition to romantic feeling.  Further, these themes are much more relevant and less played out locally than themes of generic self-expression.  In a way, this kind of art is much more easy to relate to than the adolescent confessional work that seems to have acquired a strong foot hold locally.  I suppose it is the difference between artists talking about themselves and artists talking about all of us.

Exceptions:  Tempus Projects‘ recent exhibit, Piracy Redux, applied some of these concepts locally – the POD installations touched on topics such as Post-Colonialism, Marxist Historicism, Private Property, and power relations among others – it urged revisiting our local heritage and ideas of our collective self.  (Disclosure: I was a participating artist in Piracy Redux) Also, the work of artist Becky Flanders has addressed feminist issues in a way that’s been poorly lacking locally otherwise.  Her art often demands us to be confrontational with ourselves, in reconciling women with our deeply held archetype of woman.  Her work is a great example of art that can be very moving without relying on sentimentality.

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

Tampa Art Events You Shouldn’t Miss

You think this is just a list of fun art to check out on the weekend?! This is about more than just ‘fun’!  Being appraised of the best of Tampa’s art is good for your character!  With so much at stake, I have no idea why anyone would miss either of these exhibits.

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Art@Bay on Sarasota Visual Art: Seeing Things at Roger Chamieh’s Apophenia

Roger Chamieh, Broken

These are not grand existential statements. As people may have once been anxious over soul and salvation, today are likewise of car accidents, peanut allergies, smile lines and crow’s feet – a helpless body. Fittingly, the sculptures of Roger Chamieh’s current solo exhibit nearly appear to sag and be pinched, to wheeze and groan.

Read the rest of the article here at Sarasota Visual Art

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Tampa Weekend Art Guide

Tempus Projects – Between Earth and Sky

Tempus Projects – Between Earth and Sky

Opening reception Fri 10/19 7pm-10pm

Tempus Projects’ latest offering is the first exhibit from the Tampa Photography Collective.  The group meets monthly at the Tempus Projects space to share and discuss new work.  This show marks the first time they’ve exhibited as a group.

Good photography is difficult to come by and a medium not often seen at Tempus Projects.  This is partly why the exhibit would be especially worth a visit.  Also, though, the collective is made up of some very talented photographers – for example, check out Becky Flanders or Chris Otten.  This exhibit was specifically recommended in Creative Loafing’s Fall Arts Preview.  I suspect it won’t be difficult to see why.  I definitely suggest taking the opportunity to see all of these artists exhibiting together.

Tampa Museum of Art – Art After Dark

Fri 10/19 8pm-11pm $10

The TMoA’s quarterly art party, Art After Dark, is once again upon is.  This quarter’s installment features FIVE by FIVE, a benefit for the Arts Council of Hillsborough.  Over 600(?!) pieces of 5 x 5 inch art will be for sale at the cost of $25.  There is a bit of a catch, though: the artist’s name is only provided upon purchase.  Further, the “partial” list published on the event’s website contains over 340 artists (again, ?!).  Though it may be difficult sans names, look out for work from Neverne Covington, Vince Kral, Rebecca Sexton Larson, Kim Radatz, and Josette Urso.  This is one of those collecting opportunities that shouldn’t be missed: the art is wildly affordable and it benefits art grants.  It would be morally wrong to miss it.  Fair warning: I’m gunning for that Josette Urso.  If you’ve got your eye on her work I advise you get there early and be prepared to be challenged to the circle of death.

Tampa Art Guide 10/03, 04, and 05!

Sometime in the early ’90’s I constantly wore several slap bracelets on each arm.  I did this to maximize the use I could extract from the bracelets before they inevitably fell out of favor with fashion. The Tampa Art scene seems to be packing events into the first half of October as if it were similarly about to go out of style, so to say.  Seriously, though, its only an expression: good art will never go out of style.  But just in case, you better head to all of these.  Consider the line-up for the next three days.

MAZE Gallery, HCC – EMERGE Art Exhibition

Opening Reception Wed 10/03 4:30pm-7:00pm

Gallery 221 at Hillsborough Community College has emerged to be an important gallery in an art scene that feels like it’s just picking up steam.  University galleries can often and easily be dismissed, with community college galleries hardly receiving any consideration at all.  At HCC, though, skillful curating has kept the gallery relevant and interesting.  Wednesday the school celebrates the opening of a brand new venue: MAZE Gallery.  The space will exhibit the work of current students and HCC alumni.  The importance of student galleries in colleges deserves a blog post unto itself.  I’ll just say that this space was a surprising move for a school of this size, but a great decision.  Stop by Wednesday evening to catch some student work in the gallery’s inaugural exhibit.

Tempus Projects – REDUCED5

Closing Reception Thur 10/04 6:30pm-8:30pm

The REDUCED5 juried exhibit ends this Saturday with a reception to close things out.  the black and white themed show is juried by its creator Kurt Piazza.  Honestly, in terms of quality, juried exhibits in our area are usually hit and miss at best.  Perhaps it’s the parameters set on the work, but there is nary a weakling in the bunch here.  Further, much of the work comes with a price tag that could likely fit your budget.  While you’re there keep an eye out for the witty work of freshly gone Ryann Slauson among others.

Box on 5th – Vince Kral: FanAddict

Opening Reception Fri 10/05 7:30pm-10:00pm

The new gallery’s fourth exhibit is a solo exhibit featuring the work of local artist Vince Kral.  Though I haven’t spotted an artist statement yet, I’m familiar with his art.  Kral’s work often deals with complex ideas of pop-culture, consumption of images, authorship, and so on.  However, his art is delivered with an intelligent humor making his work accessible.  Kral often treads some conceptual ground that we don’t often see from local artists.  For example, check out his Sponsor Vince Suit.  Anyhow, you can expect to see an especially engaging exhibit at a venue that has been bringing crowded receptions since its opening.

Tampa Weekend Art Guide 9/14 – 9/16

REDUCED5 at Tempus Projects

These introductory comments are surprisingly hard to write.  Some weeks I honestly have very little to say before moving on to the recommendations.  It must be a lot like writing the monologue every week at SNL.  But with a much smaller audience.  Actually, it’s probably nothing like that.  Anyhow, on to the art.

Tempus Projects – REDUCED5

Opening reception – Fri 9/14  7:30pm – 10pm

Tempus Projects officially begins it 2012-13 season this Friday night.  REDUCED5 is the fifth incarnation of a multimedia juried exhibit.  Artists generally limit their palette to black and white, and the price tag to $500 or less.  Kurt Piazza, the guest juror, also created REDUCED while with the Gulf Coast Museum of Art.

Lately, some of the most exciting art nationally  has been relatively sparse in color.  The recent trend of expression in understatement is especially welcome.  I trust Piazza’s taste and anticipate at least a few exceptional pieces that illustrate this tendency.  Also, the potential for especially good art at a price the 99% of us can afford makes REDUCED5 worth a visit tonight.

Becky Flanders, Vince Kral, and Ryann Slauson are just some of the artists that will be exhibiting.

Tampa Museum of Art – Art on the House

Fri 9/14  4pm – 8pm

This is the last week to catch two of TMoA‘s exhibits: A Hundred Years – A Hundred Chairs and Art of the Poison Pens.

I’m not particularly attracted to design exhibits.  I guess it’s a character deficiency I’ve made peace with.  A Hundred Chairs, though, was surprisingly interesting and relevant.  The exhibit effectively highlight the cultural subtext of design, the sociopolitical implications of chairs.  It sounds like art-speak, but how chairs are made, who makes them, and what they’re made from says a lot about the society sitting in them.  The exhibit, on loan from the Vitra Design Museum, expressed this well and kept me engrossed overall.

Art of the Poison Pens, however, I did not get a chance to see.  I cannot fairly mete out judgement on this exhibit.  I will say I was reluctant to make the trip downtown – the show seemed to be curated for maximal non-statement.  I suppose political art that makes a statement exclusively on irrelevant issues seems like a win-win exhibit for the RNC.  Suffice it to say, though, that if you visit the exhibit tonight between 4pm – 8pm you won’t have to spend your money on it.

Box on 5th – Box:3

Opening reception – Sat 9/15  7:30pm – 10pm

Anthony Record, Prayin’, Acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 in., 2012

Ybor’s newest and most exciting space will be hosting its third opening reception this Saturday.  If the pattern continues into this newest opening, you’re likely to find the entire Tampa Art scene squeezed into this great little space.  The three person exhibit will be featuring the work of George Anderton, Zesch Fallon, and Anthony Record.

While Fallon’s work tends toward the starkly minimal, Anderton and Record work playfully in the gap between representation and abstraction.  All three artists toy with our idea of images rather than actually provide any readily recognizable ones.  Though all three artists work under disparate styles, they each work within and around abstraction effectively.  This is saying something.  To my general annoyance, abstract art is perhaps the style most severely abused by bad art.  Saturday’s exhibit is primed to be an exercise in taking that style forward.

Tampa Visual Art Guide 8/30 – 9/05

Alright, I’m sorry.  I haven’t been doing the best job of keeping you apprised of art happenings in Tampa.  Not to worry, though: I’m getting my head back in the game and you back up to date.  Here’s the best going on in Tampa right now.

The Elephant in the Room

CL Space – The Elephant in the Room

There’s only one thing I don’t like about the CL Space and I understand it’s unavoidable: exhibits don’t hang around for very long there.  Generally if you missed the opening reception to a show, such as the current The Elephant in the Room, you missed the show entirely.  Not so today!  The art deities have considered you’re plight and shown you favor – you’ve given a closing reception!  Seriously, with its brick walls and floating dry wall, the CL Space is a beautiful art venue.  The Elephant in the Room is a politically charged juried exhibit.  You’ve likely seen several of these types of shows recently as a result of the RNC.  This show is especially worthy of your attendance because of its more subtle but well thought-out work, and its interactive Silverfish Revolution.  Read more about that here.  – The closing reception is Friday 8/31, 7pm-9pm at CL Space.

Taking Place: Drawings by Josette Urso

Josette Urso

Gallery 221 at HCC is now presenting work from New York based (and Tampa native) artist Josette Urso.  Urso produces intricate ink drawings that are at once claustrophobic like the cityscapes they depict but also playful in a way.  A number of these drawings are currently being exhibited.  However, Urso’s enormous (7.5 x 20 feet) site specific installation, a vinyl rendering of a drawing, and a six-minute video work titled Taking Place really make the show worth a visit.  She plays effectively with ideas of place and information, giving the viewer a bit to untangle mentally and visually.  – Gallery 221@HCC will be hosting an artist talk and presentation Wed 9/05, 3pm and an opening reception the following evening at 5pm-7pm.

The Importance of Being Photographed

It was a cross-medium mash-up waiting to happen: Andy Warhol and Oscar Wilde.  The playwright and the pop artist expressed some eerily contemporary and similar concerns in their work such as celebrity, sexuality, beauty, and wealth.  The exhibit doesn’t actually feature the work of either artist, but rather takes its cue from the Polaroids in the exhibit down the hall, The Andy Warhol Legacy Project.  This is a photography show about being photographed.  Many of the subjects are entirely aware they are standing in front of a camera.  It’s this self-awareness that’s really fascinating and give many of the pieces a voyeuristic feel.  I would love to know what Oscar Wilde would think about this show.  The exhibit includes artists Tina Barney, Dawoud Bey, Katy Grannan, Jason Lazarus, Malerie Marder, Ryan McGinley, Catherine Opie, and Alec Soth.  – The Importance of Being Photographed is open at the USF Contemporary Art Museum through 12/15/13.

Art to Check Out Saturday: The Elephant in the Room

The RNC and a hurricane: it feels like Tampa Bay is writing the Daily Show’s material for them.  All we need is one more weird event to complete the trifecta.  Maybe a python invasion or something.  But take heart!  Conservatives, tempests, and serpents can’t keep good art down!  There are plenty of exhibits to check out this weekend.  However, make sure this one lands near the top of your to-see list.

CL Space – The Elephant in the Room    Sat 8/25  7pm

CL Space – The Elephant in the Room

Creative Loafing is opening its beautiful space to exhibit politically themed work this weekend.  Organized by Tempus Projects, this juried exhibition promises a high-quality showing.  Political art exhibits always run the risk of tumbling down the easy path: displaying work high on shock-and-awe aesthetics, but lacking any actual substance.  I’m pretty confident The Elephant in the Room will take the aesthetic high road favoring art that encourages critical thought over a “that’s neat” reaction.  For example, consider the drawings of Roger Palmer.  His blog, Feral Ink, has had me mesmerized for some time.  On Feral Ink, prominent characters of conservative politics are rendered as colorful drawings.  The artwork is accompanied by text that reads like the unfolding of a surreal tragedy but in reality narrates the day-to-day political landscape.

The Elephant in the Room will also feature collage work from the Silverfish Revolution.  Artists were encouraged to mail in collages which were then featured at Tempus Projects last week.  There visitors could add to the collages with materials provided by the Bluebird Books Bus.  The resulting collages will be on hand at The Elephant in the Room with another opportunity for visitors to participate in this collective collage.  Following the exhibit the collection of collages will be made into signs to protest/support the convention.  Really, expect to see a heavy show and lend an artistic hand.

The Struggle for Seminole Heights

I trust we’re mostly all familiar with the life cycle of an arts neighborhood:

  1. There’s a good chance your art neighborhood is first one of two things: a poor/lower class community or an industrial area.  Real Estate would be cheap – the flame to the artist-moth.
  2. Artists move into the neighborhood, primarily for studio space.
  3. Studios invite studio visits.  In turn, studio visits become galleries.  Galleries attract more galleries.  This is the zenith of any arts neighborhood.
  4. All of the arts spending now attracts other businesses such as restaurants, retail, and (ugh!) condos.
  5. The resulting gentrification and high real estate costs drive artists out of the neighborhood and the life cycle repeats itself elsewhere.

Currently we have  a few neighborhoods at that second step in the life-cycle.  While most may consider step #4 critical in the artist’s struggle for a home base, step #2 is perilous in its own way.  At this point the neighborhood is still poor/lower class.  Lower income neighborhoods attract more than just artists.  They also attract businesses that exploit the poor.  Pitting culture-warriors against big businesses that take advantage of low-income families is currently what is being played out in Tampa’s Seminole Heights.

A Family Dollar store is planning to purchase and move into a property on Florida Ave – a little stretch of street that’s the home to local businesses such as Tempus Projects, The Refinery, Yesterdaze, Microgroove, Independent Bar and Cafe, Cleanse Apothecary.  Compared to local business, though, Family Dollar has enormous amounts of money at its disposal to purchase property.  Not only are big businesses such as Family Dollar able to vastly outspend more culturally valuable local businesses, but they are able to finance absurd real estate purchases, paying much more for property than it’s worth.

However, while local cultural institutions and businesses may not carry the financial clout of Family Dollar, they can and do avail themselves of a unique ability: they’re transformative to the neighborhoods they exist in.  Family Dollar stores consistently lower a neighborhood’s home values (not to mention cultural values).  On the other hand, local businesses and artists/galleries raise home values, culturally enrich their neighborhoods, and spend their profits in the neighborhoods that gave it to them.

You would expect that these strengths of artists/galleries and local businesses would align with the goals of local government.  However, we have yet to see the city of Tampa adopt Seminole Heights along the lines of St. Pete and the Warehouse Arts District.  In the meantime, there are a few things individuals (YOU) can do.

Make some phone calls:

Chris Salemi at Hunt Douglas Developers – (813) 289-5511

Dean Koutroumanis, the local rep for Family Dollar – (813) 624-4620

Connect with the cause on Facebook here or at the website here.

Lastly, patronize locally owned Seminole Heights businesses regularly.  Help transform it into the type of neighborhood that won’t give Family Dollar a profit.