Two artistic “funk zones” converge in the current show at the Arts Fund Gallery, “The Haley Collective: Homecoming,” showcasing “underground” local artists of yore.
“The Haley Collective: Homecoming”
When: through May 3, 2019
Where: Arts Fund Gallery, 205C Santa Barbara St.
Gallery hours: Noon to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, Monday through Wednesday by appointment.
Information: 965-7321, www.artsfundsb.org
Layers of treasured “funk”—as noun, verb and adjective–are currently nestled into the Arts Fund Gallery. The central Funk Zone venue itself has become an increasingly vital and important haven of grassroots-y artistic enterprise and showcasing, one of the last bastions of the scruffy passions once prevalent in the Funk Zone, before the gathering winds of swankiness and high-roller development began de-funking and polishing up the atmosphere in the area.
With its current exhibition, “The Haley Collective: Homecoming,” the gallery casts its curatorial gaze (courtesy of the show’s curator, Nathan Vonk, of Sullivan Goss fame) across the 101 freeway and back in time to a group of “underground” artists in another unofficial funk zone of sorts. In his introduction, Mr. Vonk, now owner of the upscale Sullivan Goss gallery downtown, waxes nostalgic about his influential encounters with these artists when he came to town 15 years ago.
This erstwhile “collective” of resourceful artists—Tanner Goldbeck, Larry Mills, Jorge Rivas, Vanae Mary Rivera, Joe Shea and Yoskay Yamamoto—were loosely connected to the thoroughfare of Haley Street and its affordable artist work spaces. That many of these artists, who worked locally in the ‘90s and early ‘00s have since moved elsewhere, unable to sustain a living from art in town, is testament to the challenges facing local artists.
A certain nostalgia and funk-loving quality is embedded in the work shown here by the photographer Mr. Mills, who has been a professional photographer both locally (shooting for the Santa Barbara Bowl, for instance), and beyond County lines. He takes aim at vintage vehicles parked in more unspoiled “vintage” blocks of East Haley in “Ron When Parked—” Ron presumably being an old pickup truck—and “Going Green,” so named for a green, and dented, ‘70s model sedan in front of a transmission place on Haley.
Cutting across media, but with a consistent vision, Mr. Goldbeck shows the primitive-neo-expressionist portrait painting “Mask 02” in one corner of the gallery and occupies another remote wall with his “found art” sculpture “Lakers Fans,” made from besmirched—and art-ified—sports fan sign fragments.
Vanae Mary Rivera mixes media in her own way, with pieces such as “Chained Up,” a linocut block normally used for making prints, but here serving its own purpose as a discrete, three-dimensional artwork. Melding subtle illustration skills and street cred, the artist—now a tattoo artist by one of her trades—portrays a young woman in a quasi-romantic setting, fringed by roses, a homey border of blue gingham… and also chains. Elsewhere, she toys with the idea of faux poster art with “Much Needed,” as if an advert for the power of sleep.
The drawing arts niche of this varied exhibition is owned by Jorge Rivas, a self-described Hip-Hop veteran and former graffiti “tagger” artist who now works in the clothing field. His fine, detailed drawings depict young and tattooed (“tagged?”) female nude subjects and post-Pop Art chair subjects.
Other artists in this post-underground, post-Haley Street cred mix adopt distinct expressive angles entirely. Joe Shea playfully tickles the gallery air with his suspended, sci-fi meets surrealistic toy-like sculptures, including “Time Traveler” and “Blue.” Tokyo-born Yoskay Yamamoto comes from a more fluid and sensual place, on the evidence of “This Time Tomorrow”—a woman’s face half-buried in blue blossoms—and the abstractly floral, post-impressionist gesture of the aptly-named “Sunset Matisse 01.”
Even Matisse’ influence was making the scene down on Haley back when–and does likewise now in the art-heart of the Funk Zone.