Back in the Saddle
Transitions at 516 Artspace
By Steven Robert Allen
For the last decade and a half, Magnífico organized an annual juried show of local contemporary art. Sadly, the arts organization recently went the way of the pterodactyl. Not to worry. Some people who used to work for Magnífico didn't want the idea to die, so they pooled some resources and put the event together this year anyway.
Magnífico might be gone, but it isn't entirely forgotten. The Harwood Art Center is sponsoring this year's exhibit, but the show is actually being displayed in the old 516 Magnífico Artspace.
No need to mourn the loss of Magnífico too much, though. This year's installment is as good as any past show in the series that I've seen. As in years past, not every piece is going to knock your socks off, but browsing through such a broad and diverse selection of local work is still my idea of a good time.
I recognized a lot of work from other recent exhibits around town. Kris Mills and Lisa Gill's "Full Spectrum: Cause, Cure or Detritus," a beautiful hanging double helix structure composed of syringes stuffed with various materials, was part of the pair's recent show at the Harwood.
Likewise, I've seen Mike Sonnichsen's nifty fluorescent fixtures at a couple different venues around town. Constructed of various plastic laundry detergent caps, the wall sculpture included in this show would make for perfect décor at a coffee shop in Amsterdam. Mary Goodwin's eerie "Auto Obscura" images—composed by transforming the interior of her 1995 Ford Contour into a camera obscura—were in a recent alternative photography show at the Donkey Gallery. Barry McCormick's "Another Beautiful Day in Albuquerque," which would make an ideal icon for our Chamber of Commerce, was over at the KiMo Gallery a couple months ago.
On the other hand, I don't recall seeing Tara Zalewski's work before. Her bizarre "Manzano Motor Mountain Deer" was disturbing enough before I realized the swiveling heads on this pair of giant panda dog rabbits, constructed of strips of plastic bags and other detritus, have motion sensors that trigger them into their slow freakish movements. Appropriately positioned just inside the entrance, this sculpture is both cute and pleasantly sinister.
I don't think I've seen David Keating's work elsewhere either. I was drawn to his crucifix-like "Corpus," a dangerous sled outfitted with saw blades and razor wire, a menace to both the rider and everyone foolish enough to step across his path.
Jeff Beekman's mandala-esque "Barrier Between Self and Other" consists of a large circular sheet of latex—covered with faces of bespectacled men—that looks like it's been burned around the edges. The repetition of images, with considerable variation, has a hypnotic, almost calming effect.
Santos Contreras' "Beauty: Anguish" somehow mixes serenity with agitation. Carefully positioned in the center of the gallery, this hanging sculpture looks something like a cross between a chandelier and a robot. Lit candles rim the bottom of the piece suspended by wires attached to pulleys. Little clamps extend down toward the center of the sculpture. Some tear petals off a single yellow flower, making it seem as if an artificial life-form were frozen in place in the middle of some inexplicable robot game. (He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, ... .)
Colin Gabriel's digital print on canvas stills from his video Into the Workforce cracked me up for some reason. Gabriel's depressing views of factory work seem ironic, especially the image where he's seated at a drab desk in a drab office with drab xeroxed union signs on the drab wall behind him.
A couple other ironic pieces in the show—Gloria Hajduk's "Pickled Grins" and Mark Migliaccio's "O Feathered One"—were too obvious to hold much interest. Mostly, though, this is a fun, adventurous show. The show's juror, Site Santa Fe's new executive director and curator, Laura Steward Heon, took some worthwhile risks with her selections. The show feels great in this space, even with the lingering ghost of Magnífico floating through the gallery.
Transitions, the 16th annual juried exhibit of Albuquerque area artists, runs through Sept. 17 at 516 Artspace (516 Central SW). For details, call 883-9126 or visit contemporaryalbuquerque.com.
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