My first stop in Santa Fe was the Center for Contemporary Arts. I wanted to talk to Executive Director Steve Buck, but he was on the roof fixing the large swamp cooler. Good to have a multi-talented ED. I knew the air conditioning took priority over me, because this was a big weekend of events and the photo auction fundraiser, which featured tons of strong photographs, including three or four by Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose work I always like seeing. CCA looks like a happy healthy organization well worth visiting if you’re in the area.
Next I hit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s O’Keeffe & Warhol: Flowers of Distinction. A fan of these artists’ practice but not of their products, I was pleasantly surprised by the earliest of the Warhols. This museum feels like a living place; both an “ongoing tribute” to O’Keeffe and a place of continued discourse with the modern.
Later that day I stumbled by chance upon the apparently-finally-completed Stonefridge: A Fridgehenge, Adam Jonas Horowitz’s all-refrigerator recreation of Stonehenge, overlooking Santa Fe from the former site of the municipal landfill. This “monument to consumerism & the hubris of man” is constructed from approximately 200 discarded refrigerators and cosmologically oriented on Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the Manhattan Project.
Closed out my day by just barely getting into Site Santa Fe before closing time. I only had fifteen minutes to race through a half-dozen rooms which, though large, were nearly overpowered by the incandescent panels of Robert Sarkissian’s wall pieces. Stumbling between the early-70’s tour-de-force storefront-painting El Paso and the dozen or more brightly-colored & candy-flaked newer pieces made of polymer resins and auotomotive enamels on wood, I felt like an eight-year-old wandering through Willy Wonka’s Autobody Shop. I’m kind of glad I only had fifteen minutes.
A block away from Site Santa Fe is Warehouse 21, a nationally-regarded youth arts center originally born of the CCA Teen Project in the 1990’s. Strikes me as a kind of cross between 924 Gilman and Southern Exposure’s Artists In Education youth programs. Everybody needs a clubhouse, and it was nice of the city of Santa Fe to buy this one (from Catellus) for its kids.
In Taos, I went to the Harwood Museum of Art to see the Agnes Martin room but was far more taken with some of their other offerings. The main galleries of the second floor were filled with Asian art from The Trammell & Margaret Crow Collection and from other Taos private collections. Chen Zhonsen’s microengravings were drop-dead jawdropping, e.g. a full verse of Tang poetry carved onto a single strand of his wife’s first silver hair.
Other standouts were several large ancient Tibetan thankas featuring flaming dieties, probably either Mahakala or Yeshe Walmo. These flat pictorial spaces simultaneously depict sequential historical and biographical scenarios, conflating disparate events into integrated holistic views and calling to mind contemporary hypertextual, hyperspatial and hypertemporal restructuring of experience., The sight of a group of a dozen Tibetan monks being shown around these exhibits by a gringo in a straw hat, shorts and Hawaiian shirt added to my giddy sense of spatial and temporal dislocation.
A small but striking exhibit of 18th-19th century retablos and bultos (from the permanent collection?) in the adjacent hallway provided an incisive cultural counterpart to the Asian works. Flaming demon, bleeding Jesus, hey we’re all in this boat together.
The Agnes Martin room suffers from what I might call Taos syndrome. On first impression, Taos seems more like Fisherman’s Wharf than a living community; much of the art here is enshrined, reified and commercialized so that it loses its ability to provide any real experiential impact for the viewer. Kind of like wanting spiritual guidance and getting a postcard of St. Peter’s Basilica instead. Or maybe it’s just my natural resistance to doing what I’m told to do, feeling what I’m told to feel. In any case, the Agnes Martin room was so hushed and chapel-like that any energies were damped. It was like standing in line in a large marble bank lobby hearing a Mozart symphony leaking out of the iPod earphones of the guy in front of you. At best, I enjoyed how the cool colors of the Martin paintings thrummed against the warmer colors of the walls, kind of like pearly hovering Dan Flavin-esque lozenges.
Dedicated to providing local representation for local artists, Judith B. Kendall has run the Fenix Gallery in the same location on the older & prettier north end of Taos for eighteen years. If you’re scouting Taos’s commercial galleries for what we in the Bay Area think of as contemporary art, Fenix Gallery is one of your better bets, along with Parks Gallery.
Gina Telcocci, one of Fenix’s stable of artists, has relocated to Oakland and has recently exhibited at the San Jose ICA as a member of the Pacific Rim Sculptors Group.
I got excited when I saw some scabrous Enrique Chagoya-esque flyers posted in cafe windows, advertising what looked to be an irreverent evening of performance about Taos’s art scene. I’d be back in Oakland by then but went to check out the venue, Stables Gallery, to see what other types of things they presented. It turned out that Stables Gallery was part of the Taos Center for the Arts and was used mostly as a rental facility, though it still serves as a central location for TCA’s yearly “Quick Draw & Art Roundup,” a popular fundraising event similar to Southern Exposure’s “Monster Drawing Rally.” It also turns out that Stables Gallery was a focal point for the Taos Moderns and has a long and interesting history, as does TCA itself. TCA’s website does a really good job of summarizing these histories. Hey kidsthe Stables can be rented for a whole week for $400! Let’s go do a show in Taos!
Looking Back At The Present: Photography and New Media at the University of New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque presents work by “faculty that have taught at UNM since the 1960s through the present, and recent MFA photography graduate students.” The exhibit is up until September 25th.
I’d expected to find some contrasts based on when the work had been done, but was surprised to find that the clearest difference exists instead between work of faculty (of any decade) and of students. The faculty work is predominantly focused on the human face or on discourse, be it between material & subject, text & image, body & society, etc. The student work, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with form and shape, either representing or manifesting forms that have been isolated, conflated and/or reassembled. The four artists whose work had an impact on me are/were all faculty.
Patrick Nagatani’s two large (60” high x 55” wide) works Yakushi Nyorai and Ganesha are painstakingly constructed from photographs and torn, cut, overlapping bits of masking tape. His virtuosity such that even though you know how it was done, you can’t imagine actually having the skill and patience to do it.
Jocelyn Nevel’s digital cliché verre prints from the Hair 35 series feature looped circles of red hair that are both mundane and luminous, specific and ethereal.
Jim Stone’s large photos of people, especially Art show loser: Hatch, New Mexico and Dan, Owner of Failing Airport, Leadville, Colorado have the hapless qualities of New Yorker cartoons: simultaneously mordant, compassionate and socially-specific.
Bending one’s head down to each of the three horizontal LCD screens of Mary Tsiongas’s Sleight of Hand, the viewer watches objects appear in and disappear from open upturned palms like streetcorner hustler cons or sideshow magic tricks. In one palm each object is visible for only a second, in the next for maybe 15-20 seconds, and in the third palm a shining silver top spins without stopping. The fingers twitch, one palm bleeds from a small cut in its center, the blood spreads. The hands are holding items that hands hold in real life: needle & thread, coins, candy, buttons, Band-Aids, all mundane and disposable tokens of the ephemeral things, like time and touch, that we take for granted.
Later, when I went looking for Site 2121, I discovered that it had loosely evolved into the Downtown Contemporary Art Center, with artists’ studios and a large hallway gallery located on the second floor of a building that’s about as downtown as it gets. DCAC looks well-positioned to have an impact on Albuquerque’s aggressive redevelopment of downtown as a destination for culture, entertainment and business. While I was there, the gallery was showing large colorful acrylic paintings by Tobias that reminded me of what a multicolored Superball looks like when it’s sliced open.
Other Albuquerque arts venues that I wanted to visit but couldn’t were:
There’s really a lot going on in the area. If you’re headed there, a good place to start looking for things to do would be the online version of http://www.santafestation.com/area_art/the_monthly_openings.html">THE magazine.