First Thursday = art overload!

Have you ever gone ‘antiquing’ or ‘garage-saleing’?

I went to the First Thursday Art Walk down in Pioneer Square…and the whole experience left me feeling a bit like I’d spent the entire day at a flea market. As with flea market/garage sale/farmers market jaunts, the routine this evening went a little like this:

Hour 1 Checklist of what I want to go see! A map! A plan! I see some good art, some great art, some mediocre art. I scribble notes furiously in my little moleskine notebook.
Hour 2
Hmm. I’ve exhausted my checklist and stashed the map in my purse, but here’s a cool gallery. And this one looks cool, no wait, they’re selling shoes.
Hour 3
Oooooh. Here is a whole collection of artist studios. Whoa. WHOA. Crazy stairs. Wow that’s a lot of art. So much art.

As you can see, my focus drifts as the evening wears on and my blood sugar dips. I begin looking at objects with only one question in my brain: good or bad? It’s like an awesome game of sudden death…but with artists! It is probably for the best that I’m out alone and keeping my thoughts to myself, because otherwise I would be likely to say something like, “wow, I liked how that studio had an impressive amount of mood lighting and ‘atmosphere’ for such lame art. I bet the crappy art is an excuse to get girls up here for sex.” Errr. Yeah.

Anyway, the evening was not a waste of time, and I will gladly do the art walk again. Though wandering through studios is very much ‘at your own risk’ aesthetically speaking, I like that it is an experience totally unmediated by anyone else’s stamp of approval (ie, a gallery or museum). In that respect, it’s an opportunity for me to test my eye a bit, see what sticks out as being of particular quality, and worth watching. I did have one such moment this evening where I was at the Some Space Gallery (bizarre frame shop/gallery? weirdly informal) and they were showing twenty-five works from various local artists, all under 12 inches in size. I looked at one and thought snarkily, “hmm, seems someone is trying to rip off Robert Hardgrave’s peculiar cartoony visceral painting style.” A few minutes later, I looked at the exhibitor list, and the piece I had looked at was, indeed, a Hardgrave, just small and weirdly incomplete. But dude, props to me for calling it.

Among the weird non-curated studio stuff I had a chance to see, I would recommend taking a closer look at the following two artists:

Cristin Ford – 619 Arts Building

Sprawl (Cristin Ford, 2008)

Sprawl (Cristin Ford, 2008)

After hours of looking at so much art and much of it failing to make an impression, I was mesmerized by Cristin’s drawings, which are city topographies mapped on complex swirling three dimensional forms.

Kate Protage – 619 Arts Building

Long Pause (Kate Protage, 2008)

Long Pause (Kate Protage, 2008)

Kate Protage was showing just in the next room, and she and Ford provided a little oasis. Her work is also of the urban landscape, but she is more of an impressionist, giving us the hot, blurred images we might see from a camera where the film speed is deliberately slow. Protage is at her best on large canvases where her work feels much more impressionistic; she had some smaller canvasses (under 10 inches) that had good richness of color, but lost the compelling quality to their composition because the image was simply too legible — it felt like the camera lens had been focused in. Her website does not show any other kind of work except these city scapes; I would worry that she is a little one-note in her subject matter, and that her work might end up on the walls of the next round of wealthy Fremont software nerds…rather than in the private collections of serious collectors.

(Hmm. I didn’t quite mean to write a “damning with faint praise” review. I did like her stuff. Really.)

The other highlights of the evening were the curated shows I saw (both at the insistence of other art blogs):

Ariana Page Russell – Art4Culture

Heat Wave (Ariana Page Russell, 2008)

Heat Wave (Ariana Page Russell, 2008)

She has hypersensitive skin, which responds to everything by turning bright red. She makes designs on her skin, then photographs them. Lately, she has been working with temporary tattoos designed with images she has made on the surface of her own skin.

There is too much to think about now, but this initially kinda made my head explode. Her images are visually arresting, and there is something eerie about creating wallpaper and other decorations from skin. I think she has something here (my mind leaps to issues of beauty and cosmetic surgery, not to mention the touching/not touching of the body) — but I haven’t yet worked it out if I think that skin on its own – as a subject of art – is a sufficiently compelling or complex subject. The jury is still out. In the meantime, do look through her images. They are awesome and creepy.

Richard Barnes – Howard House

Animal Logic (Richard Barnes, 2008)

Animal Logic (Richard Barnes, 2008)

Also, this one I zipped through, but I will *definitely* be returning. He photographs taxidermied animals as they are being set into dioramas at natural history museums. I saw shades here of both Jeff Wall and Damien Hirst: the compulsion to stare at death in the face, to compose each image (even if uncomfortably). Barnes gives us a camera lens with a dispassionate eye, but that lens sees (taxidermied, stuffed) animals who are bound and packed and tightly wrangled into storage crates. The visual joke seems to be that these animals are so wild, they must be caged again, post-mortem.

There is much more to say on this show, and what I have seen of Barnes I like a great deal. (I also think that I have a taste for the macabre in art.) I’ll try to make it to his gallery talk next week.

Coming this weekend: my review on the SAM S’Abadeb show!


~ by ecp on November 7, 2008.

One Response to “First Thursday = art overload!”

  1. i like your musings. i co-direct Some Space and landed here via link from Google Alerts. thanks for the shout-out; i appreciated “weirdly informal” in our description. one question, though… who are you? i cannot find any information!

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