Last night I attended the opening reception of Lucid Dreams, the tremendous new group show curated by local art impresario and all around good guy, Mark Murphy. You’ll remember Mark as the driving force behind last summer’s Survey Select exhibition and event at the Wonder Bread Factory in the East Village. This year, Mark has invited many of the same artists, plus an influx of bright new talent to take on the subject of “lucid dreams” (wonderful dichotomy there!), and has moved the venue to Noel-Baza Fine Art in Little Italy.
While Mark curated the show around a specific theme, there’s lots of additional work on hand from the fine stable of artists who show regularly at Noel-Baza. These pieces mix with great cohesion, as there is definitely a shared aesthetic between the gallery and the show’s primary theme. Even better, the quality of the work from piece-to-piece is maintained and heightened by the eclectic mix.
I was at the gallery for several hours chatting with artists, collectors, and gallery folks, and observed a constant flow of people moving through the space, most staying for quite some time to admire the art and socialize. What I noticed, though—and this is important for anyone out there thinking of curating their own art shows or opening their own gallery—the focus was entirely on the art, with refreshments and other distractions kept out of the way and at a minimum. The art on the walls was easily approachable, invited discussion, and throughout the evening I noticed that most of the people in the gallery were actually facing the walls and looking at the art. Isn’t that what an exhibition of art is supposed to be an about? Well, yeah, duh! Kudos, San Diego art lovers!
::: ranting lecture mode to San Diego gallery owners ON :::
Many of the art openings I attend in San Diego (especially the small galleries that should be promoting upcoming artists) seem to lose sight of the purpose of exhibiting art. That being, showing and promoting art and artists to people who enjoy, buy and collect art. That may seem obvious, but… all too often it seems as though the opening reception is really just an excuse to throw a party, with the art nothing more than wall decor behind the bar, hors d’oerves, or live band. How do you expect a collector with a big fat patron-sized wallet to get close enough to connect to a piece he or she may want to take home; thereby supporting the success of the gallery, the artist, and the San Diego art scene?!?!
::: ranting lecture mode to San Diego gallery owners OFF :::
In any case, the event at Noel-Baza was first rate, and there was a constant flow of people moving through the gallery all evening with several red dots popping up on the walls beside worthy pieces of art. And one of those red dots belonged to me, as I purchased a super cool painting by Chilean artist Jorge Catoni. Take a look!
I was complete new to Catoni’s work, but found myself enthralled by this piece not long after coming across it in the corner of the gallery. Mark Murphy gave me a little background on the artist, who has only recently branched out into the fine art world. I’m very excited to be adding this cool little painting to my collection!
Just think… Had there been a big plate of stuffed mushrooms and a bowl of spiked mystery punch blocking my approach to the piece, I’d likely have just stuffed my face and left into the night…
While this ended up being the painting I bought, there were plenty of other pieces that piqued my interest as a collector. The Marc Burckhardt painting, Kindred, featured on the exhibit card is a remarkable piece. The photo I took (see the slideshow below) really doesn’t do it justice. The piece is truly exceptionally, and the artist took great care to make it appear as though the painting was created in another time and place. Nice job!
The painting by Irene Hardwicke Olivieri is another highlight, appearing on the exhibition’s title wall along with collected series of small, ominous sculptures by Bonnie Marie Smith. Both pieces serve as an excellent introduction to the rest of the show.
I’m realizing, now, that’s its really not fair to highlight only a few pieces, because I’ll surely leave out work that deserves strong mention. In any case, very, very high marks to Marc Bell, Hugo Crosthwaite, Tashs Kusama, Joel Nakamura, Kevin Paulsen (twice, since both his paintings are super excellent!), Souther Salazar, Jonathan Viner, and Marco Wagner. Those were my top picks (and, I’ll repeat, I’m probably missing some). How about yours? If you have a chance to see the show, feel free to post a comment.
The show continues through August 9, and if you’re coming into San Diego for Comic Con you’ll have the opportunity to attend another special event around the exhibition on Friday, July 22.