Inception at SCA Contemporary Art
By David Leigh
Though the area just south of I-40, where SCA Contemporary Art has laid roots, seems ready for a deluge of artist activity, for now it remains an industrial landscape, bustling with deliveries and large trucks. As you walk up the steps and through the door of SCA, you’re bombarded by the breadth of the gallery space. At nearly 6,000 square feet, the gallery has laid claim to being the largest contemporary art space in Albuquerque with aspirations to match. According to its website , “SCA is dedicated to facilitating space for experimental, innovative and contemporary art. ... Presenting exhibitions by emerging and established, local, national and international artists working with large scale sculpture, painting, print, drawing, photography, installation, sound and video art.”
For SCA’s second show, Inception, gallery manager and curator Francesca Searer (whose work is also featured in the show) tenders an exhibition that acts as kind of typology of mark-making. It reveals to the audience, on some level, how the 13 artists in the show use various marks to arrive at their respective visions of the world. First gestures, whether tight or erratic, provide the basic armature for every bit of information in the work. When a work is about growth, for instance, it makes sense that the process of image building could also be about growth, with forms taking shape right before you. The range of these mark-making “beginnings” includes everything from the deeply researched Judas Goat of Galapagos by Sam Wohl, which explodes in a frenzy of bullets and goat blood, or the tight graphite drawings of stuffed animals by Seth Feriano.
There is no doubt that Margi Weir’s series of Worker/Bees pieces—especially the large vinyl and charcoal installation—establishes a certain climate for the show. The scale of Weir’s work fits well in the large setting, and its smoothness stands in contrast to the raw walls left intact during the gallery’s renovation. The Muñoz Waxman Gallery at the Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Fe, which is very similar to SCA, at times seems challenged to mount exhibitions that aren’t overwhelmed by its own architecture. The work sometimes only serves to blemish the space (though Liz Cohen’s giant prints for the Chopped, Chromed, Customized show last fall were amazing and overcame that hurdle quite well, ccasantafe.org). While still providing visual input in the form of giant steel doors, exposed beams and brickwork, SCA has thus far managed to tame its own structure.
The most refreshing aspect of Inception is that it doesn't provide a definitive statement on beginnings or mark-making; the exhibition is not pedantic or strong-armed. What it does do—and well—is set up a range of looking, providing space for an audience to draw distinctions in a way that is beneficial to the reading of each artist’s work. Virginia Broersma’s portraits become that much better, or distinct, when set between an Elen Feinberg painting and Weir’s installation.
If Feinberg’s paintings seem to grapple with the elusive ghost of meaning, then Weir’s work generally circumscribes it, offering up a fusion of pattern, gesture and figuration that points to social orders, abstraction and process, while also effectively altering the gallery space. Broersma’s portraits sit somewhere in-between the two, offering the viewer a way out of the works through the subjects’ gazes, but also providing a very sincere effort to capture an individuated essence of character.
Also in the show are Jim Jacob’s botanical drawings; Theresa Pfarr’s blurred-out figurative paintings; Suzanne Sbarge’s mixed media images (where something is always just about to happen); Dan Socha’s cosmological drawings; Kristina Pardue’s highly saturated, frenetic oil paintings; Searer’s horse drawings; Brooklyn-based Matt Kazimierski’s anti-war cowhide/weapons ordnance installation with meat hooks; and Shawn Pham Warrick’s sumi ink paintings. There is also a large painting by Angela DuFresne just as you walk in the door.
Of course, Inception is a catch-all, serving to focus the audience on the many ways artists can choose—in terms of process—to create an image. From a larger point of view, though, Inception serves as a self-imposed challenge for Searer and Executive Director Sheri Crider to up the level of seriousness in our local art scene. Aside from pulling artists from outside of Albuquerque (mostly from Brooklyn, so far), they seem willing to allow and encourage a full range of use for the space. According to Searer, SCA hopes to “collaborate with the art community here in Albuquerque as much as possible and become a regional contemporary art center.” This includes an interest in working with UNM—bringing in artists that might be lecturing at the university and welcoming guest curators Patrick Manning and Steve Barry to fill out their exhibition calendar—as well as expanding the existing space to include studios and shop capabilities.
Additionally, future exhibitions range from the ordinary to the extraordinary: Dwayne Blankely’s Rat Fink car exhibition in December, for example. I have a tinge of worry when I think of SCA’s objective to balance both an ambitious exhibition schedule with expectant partnerships in the community. But I am optimistic that SCA will quickly define the direction they want to take and that Albuquerque art will grow from whatever they push through us.
SCA Contemporary Art (524 Haines NW) presents Inception through Aug. 3. For more info, call 228-3749.
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