Hidden in a nondescript cove on Fourth Street between Central and Gold, the space formerly known as 105 Art Gallery is reopening as Downtown Contemporary. Mixing old and new, this embodiment of the gallery is refreshing its motives and crafting a high-caliber debut with the upcoming concept show ca-thar-sis. Louie Va, who joined 105 directors Stacy Hawkinson and Val Hollingsworth, is heading up producing.
Va, who creates large-scale oil paintings in one of the gallery studios, is taking full advantage of the chance to stretch her curatorial wings. Former gallery manager Santiago Perez, who single-handedly curated the majority of 105’s shows over the last few years, left the gallery to pursue his own work. Va says his absence gave them an opportunity to put on a show that wasn’t like anything that had been done in there before. She conceived of the concept for ca-thar-sis, which she says is about the aesthetic experience of art and the purpose it serves.
“I think a lot of times artist get bogged down thinking about what will sell and what the public will want,” says Va. “We're not having artwork that's for sale. We're just showing video pieces, installation pieces and visual art.” Va goes on to say she doesn't know if that will be the plan for future shows, but all of the creators involved are excited for the excuse to make art for art's sake. “Sometimes we just like showing our stuff. It doesn’t always have to be about the money,” she says. “It can be very cleansing for the artist's mind to think about art as the creative process and not just as a way to pay the studio rent.”
Like its predecessor, Downtown Contemporary is a community of artists who work out of the gallery's studio space. Co-director Stacy Hawkinson says each is featured on a rotating basis, offering them the opportunity to show at a pace that won't burn them out. However, ca-thar-sis is breaking all the normal patterns; none of the artists involved, except Va, are associated with the gallery.
The show features pieces by Va, as well as established artists Stephanie Lerma, Danielle Rae Miller, Zona, Ted Laredo, Lea Anderson and Joe Barron. The second-story loft features wide floor space in the main gallery and two long hallways with conjoining rooms and studios. Many of the artists are using the unconventional setup to their advantage. “The space is so amazing and usable, the possibilities are endless as far as what can come out of future shows,” says Va. “I think even the past shows have been a reflection of that.”
Ted Laredo is transforming a room with bioluminescent paint and crafting an optical entrance to another dimension. Danielle Miller is choosing to go naturalistic, creating twig mobiles that cast shadows as important to the work as the objects themselves. Zona's large, imposing, ceiling-hung textile installations have an authoritative presence that dwarfs the tiny space. Is it a fabric cage? Is it a plant hanger gone wild? The contemplation demanded by the show is invigorating and a welcome diversion from the commercial-friendly art threatening to take over the Albuquerque scene.
Signs of rebirth are already emerging: The front door is emblazoned with the new name in neon green. The Downtown Contemporary directors plan to take turns curating shows each month. Va and Hawkinson hope that this will keep the themes and perspectives fresh and bring diversity. “You don't want to throw the same party every time,” says Hawkinson.