Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Works: Rocky Bridges @ Salt Creek Artworks

Rocky Bridges, "Velocity"

I first reviewed Rocky Bridges at the Gasparilla Art Show in Tampa [Link]. He's a native of Tarpon Springs, who works in mixed-media, usually involving metal. In the early 2000s he received a three year National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts grant. He teaches at the Harrison Arts Center in Lakeland, and graduated from Cooper Union in NYC. He won Mainsail in 2009, and has been exhibited broadly around the state and in this area.

Rocky Bridges, "Untitled"

 Salt Creek Artworks is one of the premier art spaces in the Bay area. Beautifully laid out and roomy, rich with tradition and also housing 30+ artists' studios. This new show is of new works by Bridges, and what works they are. Bridges is the kind of artist who makes many variants on a theme, though each is an individual work on its own. They tend to have high belt lines, overlays, and color and textural fields. Some have what look like clasps.


Salt Creek Artworks, Rocky Bridges Exhibit.

In spite of the prominent features, these works are exquisitely subtle. Note in the larger illustrations the subtleties of color and texture in the abstracts. Bridges says that his work reflects on " Florida's raw and natural honesty and beauty." One can sense that in these works.


Rocky Bridges, "Bound"

On the left is "Bound". There's a kind of compressed layering leading from the top metal piece that forms a "T" connecting all the other elements. I see white, red and green layers tied together by the top mental piece, which could partially be interpreted as the spirit, the flesh and life, corrugated and rusty. 

The artist has said that the work takes discarded objects that have accrued a history and recontextualizes them into new forms. There are analogues between the way objects and people are processed by this culture, and a lot of us find ourselves in a similar situation. By reinventing these broken or outmoded forms, he is making a metaphorical positive statement about celebrating the beauty, experience, history, meaning and strength in each of us.

Rocky Bridges, "Bound Arrangement #2"


Rocky Bridges, "Brainstorm"

There was one figurative piece in the show, titled "Brainstorm". On the left is a close-up showing about 25% of it. It was a mixed media piece, and a foray into the figure while retaining his usual style. Very interesting.

Congratulations to Rocky Bridges and Salt Creek Artworks for a good show and insight into the latest works from Bridges.

 --- Luis

 November 18th to December 24th, 2011
 Gallery Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 11AM - 4PM    

1600 4th Street South
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701

The Legend of Priscilla: Michael Peart @ Rob Davidson Fine Arts

Works by Michael Peart

Michael Peart makes steel furniture, sometimes with wood and leather accents. The metal is stressed to show various colors outside what one would associate when thinking "steel". Nor forms. Peart has no problems getting the material to do his imagination's bidding. They look light, airy and playful. No one will think "Ikea" when they see this, nor does it look like the usual exotic wood furniture found in custom studios. This is really different.

(On the left, clockwise from bottom left of photo, Metro Stool Table, Inline Bar/Kitchen island table, Inline platform table, Inline Bar Chair.)

Michael Peart, "Priscilla Steel Castle" Wall art
 One thing about the pieces in this show is that they are based on a fairy tale he and his assistant wrote. This is narrative custom furniture. To synopsize the story, there's Priscilla, "a beautiful, effervescent goddess" who used her charms to get everything she wanted. Her unbridled Princess-hood uncharms the townspeople, who decide to ban her. To contain her, they build a steel castle and use it as a trap. Once lured in, she's enthralled with her new digs, which whisper to her, and of course, the doors close behind her. To the amazement of the townspeople, the grounds outside the castle turn to steel at that point. Inside, Priscilla becomes fascinated in a narcissistic reverie by a large mirror. Hundreds of years go by and the legend of the steel castle is found to be real when the place is discovered. The place looks just like it did when Priscilla was trapped, but she has turned to steel in front of the mirror.

[There's a cautionary tale there for up and coming Princesses, but I'll let it go...]

Michael Peart, "Boxster Chair"
 Michael made steel furniture in Seattle before coming to St. Pete. He has work on display at Rob Davidson Fine Arts, at 1101 First Ave. N., where this show is situated. The artist works in that middle ground between function and non-function. The chair on the right is a perfect example. It has elements tying it to automotive forms, complete with fender/armrests, fenders and headlights, one of which doubles as a drink holder.

Michael Peart, "I-beam Light" and "Metro Light"

The works have a decided architectural look to them. They are structured and beautifully engineered. This is not by accident.  Michael tells me that his inspiration comes from the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi'. [Link], [Link], but he has taken that in his own direction. It's more of an attitude towards what is possible and the affirmation of the human spirit.

This "Slim line steel-topped cocktail table" is a good example of the range of colors Michael Peart achieves working on steel.

This set of nesting tables (the two in the foreground slide right into each other's arches), titled "Birds of a Feather" is extraordinarily beautiful in design and execution

Michael makes more than furniture. On the left is a mixed-media piece titled "The Ruins #1" about 3x4'. His mastery of steel allows him to use it almost like paint, with a character of its own.On the right is a large "Priscilla Mirror" with small shelves on either side.

Michael Peart  & "Cafe Terrace Wall Art Water Feature"
Michael can be contated at [Link].

Congratulations to Michael Peart and Lucy, his assistant, for a good show, and to Rob Davidson for hosting it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Intimate Order: Brian Taylor @ Tempus Projects

Bryan Taylor, artist's notebook

Tempus Projects, who is fast approaching its two-year birthday, is showing Bryan Taylor's woodcuts in a show titled "The Intimate Order".

One of the things I liked about this show was that the artist showed his own notebooks, letting people look in them and get insight into his process and idea-gestation, some of which lead up to the works exhibited. This is a rare opportunity, and one I encourage any viewer to spend time taking advantage of whenever it is offered.  I chose this image because it is related to the work in the show. Note the erection, the excitation emphasized by the red tints, the eye-popping grimace, pointing gesture, ribs and vertebrae sticking out, etc. The word visceral comes to mind.

Work by Bryan Taylor

This woodcut is of what appears to be a somewhat stylized severed head, with black tendrils wafting towards the sky. They bring to mind the wisps of smoke from incense, often used as a temporary conduit between the profane and sacred planes. Is this about sacrifice?

Work by Bryan Taylor
I conversed with Bryan for a while on opening night. He told me the woodcuts, some of which are quite large, probably over 2m in length, were based on ideas he had been working on and developing for some time coupled with a book and essays written by Georges Bataille, a French author on many topics, which he tied up with an overarching philosophy, which is much too complicated to into at any length here [Link].  Bataille explored the truths to be found through the flesh and the secretions and excretions from it. Ideologically a descendant of De Sade, Bataille, to simplify his thinking to near-absurdity, believed that the path to wholeness (and the sacred) was through our animal-ness, and that sacrifice was the way to make things sacred. Yes, he included terminal human sacrifice in that. At one time he belonged to a group of French ideologues who had all volunteered to be the sacrifice (in writing), but they couldn't find anyone to be the sacred executioner [Link], and the group eventually disbanded.

Bryan Taylor, "Tropism"

One theme that repeats in these images is that of fusion with the Other, of becoming one not via analysis or comparison, but via the ingestion and juxtaposition of the flesh. Physical communion as a means to get closer to God.

Bryan Taylor, "Talisman"

This is one of the longer pieces, between 5-6 feet long. We see an elongated, detached and skinned human leg, with some viscera attached to where the hip would have been, the foot resting on a human skull, perhaps symbolic of the relationship of the flesh to thought in Bataille's philosophy.
There are tantalizing marks atop the foot, looking ambiguously close to those one would find in the usual depictions of the crucified Jesus' foot (yes, real crucifictions involved driving the nails through the ankles, not the way it is normally depicted in religious icons).

Bryan Taylor, "Autotropism"

In "Autotropism", we find a sitting figure with a tree or horn-like growth emerging from a hole in the side of his head. This looks like the totemic half-man half-animal figures we see from indigenous early cultures from all over the world. The pose looks more than a little fetal, perhaps nascent. The title implies that this is in part abouts turning towards the self.

Congratulations to Bryan Taylor for a trek into dark territory, to Tracy Midulla Reller for showing it, and Tempus Projects for enriching our community.

[From this and other exhibits marking the start of the 2011-2012 season, it looks like a year of daring and strong exhibits has begun.] 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pulchritudinous @ West Tampa Center for the Arts

WTCA Entrance

The word pulchritudinous means "physically beautiful, comely". This is the WTCA's opening show for the 2011-2012 season, featuring Amy Royale, David Gabbard, Selina Roman, Gabriel Ramos, Scott Draft, and Alex Torres. The center, one of the premier art spaces in Tampa, is a non-profit situated at 1906 North Armenia Ave in the Santaella  Cigar factory building. It not only has exhibition spaces, but it also houses several artists' studios. Maida Millan is the Director of the WTCA. A daring, risk-taking art presence, she has opened this season with a show to remember.

Amy Royale, "Untitled"

In the main exhibit space, Gallery 209, the work of Amy Royale was featured. Large black-and-white photographs of her own, now loose skin, after losing 150 lbs. She gives the skin expressive power by using it as a medium, her hands twisting and gnarling it into tortured forms. This is courageous, highly personal work.

The series is titled "Abstracted Beauty", and it is abstracted. It takes a minute to grasp what one is looking at. Body image is at the core of this series. The photographer has accomplished a major weight loss, and this is part of her dealing with the changes involved. Some of the images are at peace, others bristling with anger.

Amy Royale, "Untitled"

Besides the aforementioned issues, in these images is another aspect, that of the bodyscape. The flesh as landscape, in this case its features very fluid and shape-shifting. Some of them reminded me of famous landscapes in Utah (thinking of The Wave in particular). The tight, youthful looking skin of the hands juxtaposed with the stretch-marked folds it clutches heightens both via the contrast of the juxtaposition.

Amy Royale, "Untitled"

This one on the left was very different from the others, more at peace, and perhaps more of a bodyscape than the others. This is well-conceived and executed work that tests the conventions of beauty and self-image..

Amy draws beautifully, too. On the right is a drawing by Amy Royale titled "Faeirie Ring".

Rion Sabean, "Forever Changed: After"

In the hallway adjacent to Gallery 209, there were inkjet prints by Rion Sabean, dealing with homoerotic awakenings, this one titled: "Forever Changed: After". The work had a sensuality and inward spiritual feeling of revelation, again themed around the physical and our perception of our own bodies as well as those of others.

Other works in the hallways...

David Gabbard, "American Middle Class Family"

This series of drawings by David Gabbard, along the lines of dysfunctional/apocalyptic family snaps that was dripping with irony.

There was a video installation at the end of the 3rd floor hallway.

I spotted this drawing in the hallway, somehow managing to miss photographing the label. This is very good.

Amy Royale, "Untitled"

This was one of three cyanotypes by Amy Royale, from the "Excess Skin Barbie Series"

Congratulations to all the artists, Maida Millan and the WTCA for a progressive show and great season opener.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Solstice Installation @ Olio

This is one of the great unexpected surprises of this season. The Solstice installation at the Olio Gallery is the result of a collaborative effort. Saori is a mixed-media artist who owns the Olio gallery in the Crislip Arcade at the 600 block of Central. Her work has been reviewed here before, the last review being the Art On! show at BC Woo's gallery.

 Saori collaborated with Ralph Mc Cutcheon, Gregory Dirr, Yanuary Irasema Navarro, Darien Dirr, Erin Hughes, John Allison, Amber Haley, Dave Allison and Jennifer Kosharek. I see lots of Thought Coalition names on that list.

Solstice View showing window and tree from the inside.
The outcome of all that creative energy is nothing short of excellent. It is deceptive at first, being at one level a winter wonderland kind of thing. It is all in a tiny space, where the doing the work must have been very difficult. Once you adjust to the space and the whiteness, the installation's brilliance emerges. When I saw it for the first time, people were standing around, jaws agape, or wearing these Buddha-smiles, beatific and illuminated. There are many vignettes in the work, starting with the window that was cut into the gallery wall, making it seem like you're at home, in the cabin, and exiting into the Winter Landscape.    

Solstice view, along one side toward the back.

This is the kind of environment that takes you back to childhood instantly...

Solstice, other  rear corner.

This installation may be down already on the Crislip Arcade. But your opportunity to see it is not gone. You see, this is moving to the Morean Arts Center for the holiday. Make the time to see this installation. Take your children -- and all their friends. Decades from now they will remember you bringing them to this, and so will you  It is one of the unexpected hits of the season. To all the aritsts who collaborated in this, and specially to Saori, thank you.

--- Luis

Cosmopolitan Gallery Walk, Part II

The Stone Soup Company is a wonderful intimate restaurant on 7th between the Ritz and Arts Lofts on the S. side of the street, that prides itself on quality natural ingredients, I've had a few of their soups and they're first rate. The restaurant also acts as a bit of a gallery, with art works surrounding the diners. For this Gallery Walk, SSC participated.

Work by Greg Latch

This Einstein portrait by Greg Latch is delightfully stylized, with emphatic lines that add energy to the image. [Link].

All work by Byron O'Neal

Byron O'Neal had several derivative works from iconic pop star photos. He is with Singing Stone Gallery.

Works by Samantha Churchill

I also had the pleasure of running into work by Samantha Churchill. Her wire sculptures are turning up in many of the places I frrequent these days.

From there, I went into the RItz, for a preview of the art that would be shown on the following night. There were very few people there, but I was a little early. Here's a few examples...

The Ritz Lobby

Here's two stands towards the end of the lobby.

A stand of one artist's work in the theater room, on the west side of the stage. Lots of people were hurrying about setting things up and doing last-minute touches to their displays.

The Curtain at The Ritz

Congratulations to all the artists and venues that participated in the Cosmopolitan Gallery Walk.

--- Luis

Friday, November 25, 2011

Square One Cosmopolitan Gallery Walk, Part I

Ybor Art Lofts, hallway.
On Nov. 18th, Okie Tilo's Square One held the "Cosmopolitan" Gallery Walk, a pre-show art show in galleries and studios in Ybor. I began at the Ybor Art Lofts, a group of artists' studios, where I ran into Jason and Moira Shiver (Who heads the Ybor Artists' Association).

In the past year or so, the Arts Lofts have fast-forwarded into a higher level of professionalism, energy and organization, putting shows in several locations around Ybor City. The YAA has some great ideas coming up for 2012, too.

On exhibit at the Lofts were the Red Bull art coolers contest, "Art is Cooler", entries. Here's a few...

Efren Rebugio, "Art is Cooler"

 On the left is Efren Rebugio's entry,, a graphic abstract with two of the Red Bull bulls slamming head-on into each other.
Work by Terry Klaaren

On the right, a sculptural rendition by Terry Klaaren with two 3D forearms and hands holding up the product to a 2D painting of a hand holding a representation of the product. The glass door was etched and the steel body of the cooler painted with the corporate colors.

Work by Patricia Douglas

Patricia Douglas took creative liberties with the colors, inserted a plug for the YAA and pictured the bulls facing each other, along with the product name prominently displayed.

Work by Stephen Palladino

The runaway wildest entry was Stephen Palladino's, which reproduced a NYC train car interior inside the cooler, complete with the bars, seat, windows, map, YAA sticker, and first-rate authentic, somewhat familiar graffiti done in miniature. The allusions to the product are there, but not dominant or slavishly done. The floor is realistically dirty, and the metaphorical idea that the trains are coolers for the citizenry that rides them is there. This was a creative departure, involving the exterior and interior of the cooler, street-tempered, and showing the need for the product, not just the logos.

Palladino Entry, exterior

On the right is the exterior view of Palladino's entry, which is more of an installation, a double environment, than anything else. The authenticity of the train roof form, classic graffiti on the exterior, and the walled-in surrounding wings are all really good.

Other work seen at the Lofts...

All works by Jason Shiver

Jason has moved into a bigger studio at the Lofts. This is from one corner, and shows a variety of work, from the Floridian aquatic ecological theme to the social realism political painting on the easel. Jason has just finished installing large sculptures at a new public apartment complex, which I hope to get to and photograph and show here soon.


Work by Noah Deledda

Noah Deledda
Noah Deledda had some works in a very different technique that relies on diffraction to produce very odd effects, using nothing but paint.

Princess Simpson Rashid, "Nautilus at the Pole"