I was walking down Gold late last summer, fairly tuned out of the familiar landscape when something in the corner of my eye tripped me up mid-step and transported me squarely back to Downtown. I stood in front of a window—8-feet by 5-feet—where hands were cast in various gestures, each tendering a trailing plant to the passerby. My eyes searched the glass for an explanation—what was this place? It didn't feel like an advertisement or a storefront. Black block letters announced it as “Pacific Exhibits.”
This was Jessica Chao's “Offerings,” one of many installations that have gone up in Albuquerque's only micro-gallery, a simple street-facing window that every month becomes more than the sum of its parts as local artists take the showroom to the streets. Started in 2014, the gallery is now an independent space curated by Ani Baker, supported by Central Features and the Downtown Albuquerque Arts and Culture District; the window itself is donated by the owners of the Pacific Building, Schroeder Sales.
“It's viewable 24/7 by anybody, so people who might feel uncomfortable engaging with what they think the art world is, they can kind of just walk by and check it out,” Baker explained one afternoon in mid-July from across the table at Helix Coffee & Yoga in Nob Hill. “People are able to go on their own time,” she continued, “so, in that sense, it's similar to a mural, where you can have access all the time, except here, you have a wider media format. We've had sculpture, painting, photography, things that can't really be exposed to the elements but are still worthwhile to give visibility to.” And in that way, it is like a gallery, but a supremely accessible one.
This month, Jon Pearson, a Des Moines transplant who moved to Albuquerque a year and a half ago, is bringing a set of paintings and drawings to the window. “I've been thinking a lot about the format,” Pearson said, “working within that tight space in terms of depth, but also a constrained proportion, so gearing the work that way, but also thinking about the people walking past and considering what they might engage with, it's a different thing for me to wrap my head around than if it were just another show in a gallery.”
Pearson's pieces are rife with movement and color, the fragments merging together to create works, usually on canvas, that are singularly alive. For his show at Pacific Exhibits, which will be up for the whole of August, Pearson will re-purpose old works into a “conglomeration” of sorts, as well as create work specifically for the tiny gallery space. What never ceases to interest Pearson in all of his work, however, is landscapes. Since moving to New Mexico, where the sky is ever-spacious and the “sunsets are amazing in a very distinct way” (seriously, “everyday is an amazing sunset,” as Pearson underscored, which is true), the physical landscapes have taken root in his work as much as the psychological ones.
Those interior landscapes that have long interested Pearson bleed into his process, as he described how he doesn't go into it with a certain image in mind. “It comes up as I make it,” surfacing naturally, “and then I start to have thoughts about it, and slowly, I start to steer the ship.” To Pearson, art-making happens as much before he gets to the canvas as it does when he applies line and color to a surface. Of the challenge of working within the specifications that Pacific Exhibits requires, Pearson mused aloud, “I think it demands a whole other thoughtfulness.”
“I like the parameters, and I particularly like when artists want to utilize that,” Baker furthered. “It's this really interesting challenge, like, what can I do to transform this space rather than just hanging a piece in there? The space is really an integral part of the artwork and the presentation.” And the space has its demands and logistics. Baker herself can fit into the window in a pinch, but what is most challenging is hammering nails into the wall with only 10 inches of depth from the glass window. “I've found that people who are making something specifically for that space, it seems to work a little better, to have those dimensions in mind,” Baker posited. “It feels like it could be an experiment ground, because it is site specific, because it has these specific parameters, it might provide an opportunity to do something new that isn't necessarily congruous with what we've done in the past,” Pearson added to that thought. “We're pro-
Distilled down to its most basic, Pacific Exhibits is a site to support artists in a unique and highly visible way—and specifically, emerging artists based in Albuquerque. A boon to Pacific Exhibits has come in the shape of a collaboration with the Downtown Arts and Culture District's director, Joe Cardillo; this relationship has resulted in early-evening First Friday pop-up receptions on the sidewalk that Pacific Exhibits looks out on. The reception for Pearson's show will be held this Friday, Aug. 4, from 4:30 to 6pm, where Pearson will also be vending one-of-a-kind, handmade t-shirts.
The party continues throughout the month, as Pearson's work will be on display until Aug. 31. As Baker perfectly concluded, Pacific Exhibits very tidily “brings art to more people. More highly visible, publicly accessible art. It's really exciting to think that that's something that we can be involved with, perpetuating that, and growing that.”
Head to Pacific Exhibits anytime, day or night, by navigating to 215 Gold SW. In the meantime, get a full dose of Pearson's work on Instagram (@internal_spaces) and follow Pacific Exhibits while you're at it (@pacificexhibits) and head to their website (pacificexhibits.