Alibi V.12 No.34 • Aug 21-27, 2003 

Art Article

Another Lovely Mess

Albuquerque Contemporary at the Albuquerque Museum

"Chimayo" by Jeffrey R. Howard
"Chimayo" by Jeffrey R. Howard

Every year Magnífico puts together a broad juried sampling of work from artists living in and around Albuquerque. Every year the show is a jumbled, chaotic mess. Yet for whatever reason, every year it's also enjoyable.

Now in its 14th year, Albuquerque Contemporary 2003 presents work from 42 different local artists. In terms of styles, media and themes, the show is all over the map. Historically, that's often been the exhibit's greatest strength, and this year is no different.

Cynthia Barber's "Press Box"—incorporating a papier-mâché mask surrounded by dollar bills, the mouth stuffed with shredded newsprint—is a little too clever for serious political commentary, as is John Gannett's "Comforter," a giant blanket of shredded magazines.

"The Sandwich Eater Killing Time" by Brian O’Connor
"The Sandwich Eater Killing Time" by Brian O’Connor

Brian O'Connor's paintings, on the other hand, are funny, nuanced social pieces. "Garbage Pants, the Imperialist" depicts a corpse hanging from canvas straps, transparent plastic pants stuffed with garbage. "The Sandwich Eater Killing Time" shows a creepy chef clown, a bald angry circus man chomping on a sandwich and a little boy with sand slipping through his fingers. Both paintings are humorous and effective icons for American society as it's dismantled by sick, greedy lunatics in Washington.

Brooke Steiger's simple, rushed oil and graphite depictions of birds lend a sensation of movement to her compositions. Even the scrawled, mostly illegible, washed-out script in the background seems to be moving.

One of the more fascinating pieces in the show is Justin Bagley's amazing untitled throne. Half altar, half chair, you could easily eat up an hour inspecting details composed of keyboard buttons, metal switches, cropped photos, marbles, antlers, spoons, metal scraps, bottles, shells and polished stones. It also looks surprisingly comfortable. (I didn't give it a sit, though. Security is tight at the Albuquerque Museum.)

Emily Trovillion's "Finding the Golden Mean" is an enjoyable surrealistic Alice-in-Wonderland oil painting depicting a woman with an enormous head holding an armless, albino devil on her open palm. Kristin Diener's wonderful, personalized jewelry might not be practical for daily wear, but it's a pleasure to look at. Chuck Gibbon's flat, plastic painting "East Central" successfully captures some of the blighted urban spirit on the stretch of Central near the Hiland Theatre and New Chinatown.

The most charming pieces in the show might be Mark Beck's simple paintings of houses. "The County Line" depicts a pair of windowless, doorless abodes set in green, rolling hills in early morning (late evening?) light. "The Flood" portrays a red, thoroughly flooded house with an improbable smoking chimney. Both of Beck's paintings are pleasingly serene.

Notably less serene are Angelo Chiado III's paintings, which are garishly colored, or rather discolored, like meat left in the hot sun too long. In the case of "Love Seat"—picturing a bondaged couple on a short couch—Chiado has created an image that's wholeheartedly sinister.

There's so much more here that's worth inspecting—Andrew John Cecil's mangled tool box, Marcia Finkelstein's bright orange Miró-esque abstracts, Christopher Fennell's imposing "Board Caterpillar" sculpture. All in all, this is a fun show, presenting a healthy cross section of our region's vibrant art scene. Check it out now before the exhibit closes at the end of the month.

Albuquerque Contemporary, a juried exhibit featuring work by artists from the Albuquerque area, runs through August 31 at the Albuquerque Museum. 242-8244.