Taking the Plunge at Negative Space
A couple of shows recently opened at Negative Space, both reminding us (in case anyone ever forgot) that the river of creative production is endless, and constantly renewing itself. Negative Space director Gadi Zamir has run the Annex Gallery for several years as a zero-commission space for artists to present shows. The space he is calling Sideburner Gallery, however, is a new venture. Both have been dedicated to giving opportunity, and both opened new shows by first-timers on a Friday night in late September.
Angie Simone, Returning to Me: Explorations in Mixed Media
Angie Simone just started painting two years ago, and presented her first-ever exhibit in the Negative Space Annex Gallery. Returning to Me: Explorations in Mixed Media is exactly that—visibly an exploration of the way paint works, and interacts with some other materials, while the artist muses on art as a way to be transported, as well as on perception and understanding of the self.
The center of the room is dominated by gazebo, which creates a kind of ritual space for painting. Indeed, visitors are encouraged to sit and do exactly that, which a couple of people were doing on opening night. Simone plans to move the gazebo to her own back yard and continue that exploratory, meditative practice there.
On the walls, one side of the gallery is dedicated to a series of mixed-media “windows,” which seem to be about art as a kind of portal to dreams and to other places, or just a way out. In each, most of the canvas is given to replication of a wall, perhaps by the painting of wallpaper, or the texture of brick being climbed by impressionistic vines heavy with grapes. But the real business of these is the small window within each wall, which opens a vista to another place: a narrow, stone street lined with ancient stone buildings, or a view of rooftops. They are inviting. When you look at these paintings, your eyes can’t help but go there.
The opposite wall offers a roughly chronological presentation of painterly abstractions of the female form, shaded and colored, with increasing amounts of paint and greater manipulation of the paint through scratches and other mark-making as the chronology progresses. If the “windows” are explorations of dreams and possibilities, these are explorations of the self. The titles on both walls tell a story of back pain, from Western Medicine vs Ayurveda, to the frankly stated Chronic Back Injury. The paintings of female forms evoke mood with their shading, the gentle-to-sometimes-violent ways the paint is worked, and the position of the female silhouettes that define and dominate the space. As they progress chronologically from right to left, as if getting older, they have more scratches, deeper lines, more experience. This was Simone’s first-ever show, but it seems certain not to be the last.
Around the corner, new art organizers Manda Renee and Shelly Duncan have taken the plunge into creating exhibits with their venture, Blooming Creatives: A Female Artist Exhibition. The roommates both are commercial photographers by day, and were compelled to continue working the medium—perhaps with a bit more freedom—in their off-hours. They had never created an exhibit before, but Zamir encouraged them. So they put out an open call for female photographers, and presented works by everyone who submitted. They got lots of compelling work, with moments and perspectives captured by a couple dozen different photographers. It’s mostly figures, mostly posed, and mostly with a strong sense of composition and drama. There are also some landscapes and a few still lifes, but all with strong evidence of the artist’s hand: no snapshots here.
As first timers, what did they learn? Both curators, separately and unbeknownst to the other, said they learned how much work it is to present an art show. The details and responsibilities are endless, and there is never enough money to hire help, and everyone involved seems to want a little piece of your time.
The Blooming Creatives exhibit is mostly exciting because it is the beginning of something, a new venture for everyone involved. Manda and Shelly seemed on opening night to be wavering as to whether they were committed to run the Sideburner Gallery on an ongoing basis, at least through 2020, but Gadi Zamir is all-in, planning to create an additional wall and add track lighting (which would be a huge improvement, and really important if this is to be a serious effort).
I’m betting in everyone’s favor. Between Zamir’s resourcefulness and tenacity, and the new curators’ energy (which was reflected back by an enthusiastic crowd), this is a new venue that could have legs and continue Negative Space’s reputation as a space that creates new opportunity for emerging artists.