Santa Fe's Biennial Summer 2010


S’igeikaawu: ghost (detail)
Nicholas Galanin
Slip cast ceramic masks, horsehair, dimensions variable
Photo: courtesy of the artist and the Institute of American Indian Arts

It’s a biennial year in Santa Fe again, and the contemporary art crowd is gearing up in New Mexico’s capital city with an excitement level nearly as palpable as the snarkiness that seems de rigueur when it comes to discussing (and who isn’t?) Bravo TV’s new show, “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist,” which had just aired its first, much-anticipated episode as of press time. In a collision between the real world and reality television, New York Magazine’s senior art critic Jerry Saltz, who also serves as judge on “Work of Art,” will be in Santa Fe on June 29 as part of SITE’s biennial programming, officially to discuss his recent book, “Seeing Out Louder,” and generally to expound upon the latest art-world scoop.

This summer’s art season is kicked off by “The Dissolve,” SITE Santa Fe’s eighth international contemporary art biennial exhibition, curated this year by two former assistants to art historian extraordinaire, and former MOMA curator, Robert Storr. Storr presented SITE’s fifth biennial, “Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque,” which opened in July 2005, so the outlook is buoyant for co-curators Sarah Lewis and Daniel Belasco. “The Dissolve” takes for its theme animated images: their ubiquity in popular culture as well as their history, from flip books to cartoons to video art of the 1970s and contemporary art’s return to an insistence upon the visibility of the artist’s hand within the parameters of highly technical media. Belasco notes, on the coming-together of the exhibition, in collaboration with designer David Adjaye: “From the start we sought to create a visually sumptuous exhibition so that the experience of the space would match the quality of the art itself. The rich colors and diaphanous scrim system devised by Adjaye has exceeded our already high expectations, and we’re looking forward to [hosting an audience that is] eager for visually stunning video art presented beyond the black box.”

A press visit to the exhibition proved that Adjaye’s lay-out was indeed as sumptuous as it was ingenious: The textile scrims allowed for an all-over view of the show as one moved through it, while the showerhead-type speakers kept the sound discretely individualized. Entering the first section, dubbed by the curators “The Nickelodeon,” the viewer is treated to a piece from 1900 by the Edison Manufacturing Company. Following a circular path, the next section is the immersive “Cinemascope,” featuring new works. The viewer finishes in “WeTube,” a clever section that plays on the idea of the commonality of visual art when it is made to move. As a tie-in to SITE’s “Dissolve,” the Railyard gallery Zane Bennett Contemporary Art offers “Video as Object,” while “Currents 2010,” a consortium of video, sound, and performance artists, opened June 17 at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, also in the Railyard.

SITE Santa Fe undeniably put New Mexico on the contemporary-art map when it opened, transforming a sprawling beer warehouse next to the railroad tracks into a kunsthalle-type of art space, in 1995. Laura Steward, Phillips Director since 2005, joined the organization after a stint at MASS MoCA, and has several exhibitions and biennials under her belt. Now the time has come for her to move on, having announced last September that she would step down after the biennial opened this year. One of her pet accomplishments was spearheading a 3,000 square-foot on-campus workshop that allows for the execution of site-specific installations and other large art works. With a new husband and baby, a seven-year-old daughter, and traveling exhibitions to curate in her near future, Steward has every reason to claim exhaustion as her chief sensation. Noting that it’s been a difficult time for fundraising, she says, “I’ll be glad to be doing more art and less money!” SITE recently announced its new director and chief curator: Irene Hofmann, who comes to Santa Fe eminently primed from her current position as Executive Director of Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum. She hopes to bring more and more people together through art and make it accessible to everyone through things like an online art course and further exhibitions.

Of course, art is not solely about animation–or any one medium, style, period, or venue. SOFA–the International Sculpture Objects & Functional Art Fair–has been taking place in Chicago and New York since 1994. As postmodernism allowed for broader definitions of art, SOFA’s identity crept upwards from a whopper of a crafts fair into a must-do on a par with Art Basel/Miami Beach and Art Chicago for the global art expo set. This year, SOFA WEST’s second, establishes Santa Fe as one of the big-three locations for the exposition, which is celebrating with extra-curricular activities such as the pre-fair symposium taking place from July 6-8, “Historic Bond/Contemporary Spirit: Collecting New Southwest Native Pottery.” Lectures sponsored by Santa Feans Jane Sauer Gallery, Blue Rain Contemporary, SWAIA (the organizing foundation behind the hugely popular annual August event on the
historic Plaza, the prestigious Indian Market), and the New Mexico Experimental Glass Workshop will take place throughout the expo weekend from July 8-11, all at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. SOFA WEST features such stars as Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd. of New York, specializing in contemporary Japanese ceramics; top contemporary ceramics dealers Clark + Del Vecchio of Santa Fe; eminent fiber-art dealer browngrotta arts of Connecticut; New York’s Charon Kransen Arts, leading European art-jewelry dealer; and Linda Durham Contemporary Art of Santa Fe, featuring the ever-decadently delightful–and youthful–Meow Wolf performance and arts group.

It’s also an auspicious year for ART Santa Fe, running from July 15-18, as the art fair turns ten years old in 2010. Emblematic of ASF’s growth over the past decade is its return downtown, this year to the convention center. As part of its expanding “How Things Are Made” program, ART Santa Fe welcomes the artists cooperative Bullseye Glass Co., who will share their unique kiln-forming glass program with a demonstration of various methods of glass application by Ted Sawyer, Bullseye’s director of research and education. Demonstrations take place every day of the fair.

Building on its track record of presenting lectures by such notables as TIME magazine art critic Robert Hughes, former Guggenheim director Thomas Krens, architect Frank Gehry, and New York Times critic Michael Kimmelman, this year “ART Santa Fe Presents” features the Times’ Senior Art Critic Roberta Smith as its keynote speaker. Smith has been writing about art for forty years; earlier in 2010 she raised a ruckus when she called on contemporary art critics to “think outside the hive mind” and create daring and imaginative exhibitions that don’t play it safe.

Charlotte Jackson, the brains and heart behind ART Santa Fe, and one of the town’s foremost gallerists, is a prime example of the importance of the downtown area vis-a-vis the relatively new Railyard Arts District. Truly savvy visitors are aware of the Railyard as Santa Fe’s new “it” location; they also make a point of hitting the downtown area with its galleries and museums. Jackson’s pulling a switcheroo this summer, having moved her art fair from the Museo Cultural to the sparkling new downtown convention center, just across the street from her galleryÕs former location–which is now relocated in the Railyard. Got that? Downtown galleries to watch include those on the GALA route: Galleries on Lincoln Avenue include Skotia Gallery, Evoke Contemporary, and promising newcomer David Richard Contemporary.

Everyone has heard of Canyon Road, and an afternoon walking the road is always revelatory. Long-time contemporary art anchor Turner Carroll Gallery holds down the corner of Canyon and Ca
mino del Monte Sol where the “five nuts in mud huts” lived, those genuine bohemians who came to Santa Fe in the early 20th century to start a new school of modern American art. Just off Canyon on Delgado is Eight Modern, with its superb visual aesthetic. Then there’s the lively gf contemporary, and nearly across the street is Jane Sauer Gallery with its purple doorway. Sauer has championed artists for years whose media are limited only by their imaginations–among them Geoffrey Gorman, whose feral yet endearing animals are made of bits of metal and other objects he finds on his walks through Santa FeÕs citywide arroyos. For historic North American indigenous art, Morning Star Gallery is not to be missed; their knowledgeable staff makes learning downright pleasurable. Located between Canyon Road and downtown, the Gerald Peters Gallery has been successfully bridging the ground between classic Western art, early Modernism, and contemporary art since its founding in 1972.

Of course, Santa Fe is known around the globe for its historic and contemporary Native arts. The Institute of American Indian Arts was founded in 1962 through an act signed by President John F. Kennedy that same year. Quickly, IAIA became a beehive of activity, and produced such stars as Allan Houser, Fritz Scholder, and T.C. Cannon. Now, the school has grown into a new campus on its own grounds on the southwestern end of Santa Fe. Having been named one of the world’s most significant art education institutions by UNESCO and the International Association of Art, IAIA continues to be at the forefront of the contemporary Indian art movement; its museum just renamed itself the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and features some of the best work by indigenous people from around the world. The MCNA is located across the street from the historic Cathedral basilica in downtown Santa Fe, and should be a stop on any visitor’s list of principal–and enchanting–sites on the Plaza.

The Railyard Arts District has ordered itself, more or less officially, into a group of galleries and organizations that represent the latest hot spots in Santa Fe’s arts and culture scene. According to their statement, “The RAD group seeks to create a heightened sense of destination for the area, and to coordinate events, concerts, and exhibitions that will generate increased traffic and recognition to the pedestrian-friendly locale.” Anchored by SITE Santa Fe, the District includes the teen arts-and-music outfit Warehouse 21 and the Farmer’s Market new permanent home (where many of the chefs from Santa Fe’s finer restaurants shop). RAD’s contemporary art galleries are the ever-elegant James Kelly Contemporary; Tai Gallery of contemporary Japanese bamboo arts; Gebert Contemporary’s big lovely space; William Siegal Gallery (they trade in both contemporary and ethnographic arts); the intrepid long-timer Box Gallery; stylish LewAllen Contemporary at the Railyard (they maintain a downtown site as well); Jay Etkin Gallery, recently moved to the ArtYard from Memphis; perennial favorite Santa Fe Clay; and Zane Bennett, whose owner Sandy Zane is piloting a route for RAD’s future. She believes that “our galleries can stand up next to galleries in New York or Los Angeles, or any of the big cities. I think this is a pivotal time in Santa Fe–when you look around and see that we have new directors [or ongoing searches] at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the New Mexico Museum of Art, SITE Santa Fe, the Center for Contemporary Arts, the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, and new operations with Laureate Education, Inc. at the College of Santa Fe–it’s a critical time for us to take advantage of the opportunity to work together.” Rumor has it that the Pew Charitable Trust is moving here within a year or so; meetings have transpired. Says Zane, “It would be fabulous to have their information about the impact of the arts in New Mexico.”

The LA Art Show’s Kim Martindale has been in Santa Fe since he was 16 and helped set up tables and booths at the WhiteHawk Antique show. Next, he collaborated to start the former Ethnographic Art Show, moving on to the Marin Show. Now he’s partnered with John Morris to produce “The Santa Fe Show: Objects of Art” at El Museo Cultural from August 13-22 to show art “in a wide range of media and historic periods including the works of contemporary artists” without classifications such as “folk,” “primitive,” or “fine” art. Martindale has “put together a new kind of show that is about art objects, saying ‘these pieces of Native American, Modernist, [and] African works are all art.'” He believes that this is “an important dialogue for the art world to have. Segmented, we each have a small voice. Getting together, our voices can be heard more loudly, more clearly. Santa Fe is that kind of place already; it comes together in SOFA, ART Santa Fe, Indian Market, [and] Spanish Market.” His boutique fair features some 40 vendors. Martindale points out a specific instance of the impossibility of labeling art today: that many contemporary Native artists struggle with choosing between showing as “Indian” artists, or as simply contemporary artists. With his ambitious fair, Martindale extends that philosophy of blurring categorizations into a celebration of the art object.

Of course, there’s nothing like Museum Hill, with the annual Santa Fe International Folk Art Market returning for its seventh year July 9-11. The Museum of International Folk Art is here–and it’s not just for art geeks. People who normally cannot abide the thought of visiting a museum come here and adore the imaginative exhibitions, including their designs. Also on the hill are the Museums of Spanish Colonial Art, Indian Arts and Culture, and the privately owned Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian. The Wheelwright aside, the above organizations, with the two New Mexico Museums of History and the Arts downtown, make up the second-largest government system of museums in the US, smaller only than the Smithsonian’s. Just for kicks, be sure to visit the exhibition put together by the pun-loving Joseph Traugott at the NMMA; it’s called “Sole Mates: Cowboy Boots and Art,” and, rather like the curator himself, the show is as vibrant as it is as instructive.

An art vacation should flow like a feng-shuied adobe abode, so consider this: It’s easy to make a quick beeline por avion for a summer visit from Los Angeles: Direct flights are now available from LA to Santa Fe’s snug little airport via American Eagle Airlines. La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de As’s (the official name of New Mexico’s capital city, it translates to “The Royal City of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi”) celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2010. Firmly rooted in history, Santa Fe remains ever-young through her art and culture.

front image:
San Antonio River III
Digital photograph (ink) printed on glass, 30″ x 30″ x 3/8″
Photo: courtesy Box Gallery

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