Former Surfing Museum setting for two-part art show in Funk Zone
Santa Barbara summers are dreamy, with hot days, cool water and moments suspended — elements that Marcello Ricci hopes to evoke in a two-part show he calls “Double Up” at what was formerly the Surfing Museum, a legendary space just a half block from the beach in the Funk Zone.
Featuring approximately 20 artists from Santa Barbara, New York, Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Seattle, the exhibitions honor the long surfing legacy of the building and refer to the geometric abstract designs throughout the space.
“Double Up First Wave” is on view through July 31, and the “Second Wave” will take place from Aug. 5 through 28. A reception is planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug.12.
The group exhibition, which showcases painting, sculpture and photography, references the history and aesthetics of the Surfing Museum, and “Double Up” refers to what happens when two swells merge to form a single unpredictable wave, according to Mr. Ricci, who grew up in Santa Barbara and now makes his home in New York City, where he owns My Pet Ram Gallery.
Explaining the unusual name for his art gallery, the 2006 graduate of Santa Barbara High School said, “A ram felt like a good totem. They are distinctive and have good qualities but don’t make good pets, so I thought it was kind of quirky. I wanted the gallery program to be lighthearted but also be taken seriously. I imagine starting a gallery on the fly like I did is akin to raising an unruly pet, never quite knowing where it will take you.”
Mr. Ricci earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations studies in 2012 at UC San Diego.
From 2013 to 2017, he ran The Arts Fund, an arts organization that was until recently based in the Funk Zone. He was also very involved in the neighborhood’s art scene through programs like our Community Gallery, the Funk Zone Art Walk and the Public Art/Mural Program.
“I moved to New York City in 2017 and last year started My Pet Ram. I am very excited to be back in Santa Barbara this summer to do a pop up gallery-exhibition at the former Surfing Museum,” he told the News-Press.
“For almost four decades, the museum’s founder, Jim O’Mahoney, filled this beach-adjacent location with his unique collection of surf memorabilia. The museum housed rare surfboards, including a one-of-a-kind ‘hot rod surfboard,’ vintage skateboards, skate competition trophies, guitars, ukuleles, photographs and surf magazines in a Polynesian-inspired setting with reed-lined walls and hand-painted designs,”
Before the district became known as the Funk Zone, Mr. O’Mahoney dubbed the Surfing Museum’s aesthetic “tribal funk.”
Included in the “Double Up” shows are works by Merrick Adams, Sean Anderson, Bradley Biancardi, Jes Cannon, Nicholas Cueva, Matthew Fischer, Matthew F Fisher, Damien Hoar de Galvan, Nick Irzyk, Amy Kim Keeler, Dan Levenson, Brian Lotti, Giordanne Salley, Jake Sheiner, Sarah Schlesinger, Gillian Theobald, Zuriel Waters, Todd Weaver and Aaron Wrinkle.
“The domain of surfing possesses many potential streams of comparison for abstraction.” said Mr. Ricci. “In the paintings of Nick Irzyk, wavy cells of gritty color blanket a shallow three-dimensional space with skin reminiscent of the surface tension of the ocean. Aaron Wrinkle’s ‘POT’ confronts us with a biomorphism resembling a monster wave doubling over onto itself with crushing force.
“In Dan Levenson’s ‘Frankl Locher,’ translucent circles seem to rotate around one another like tide-altering celestial bodies. The appendages in Zuriel Water’s ‘Fever Bloom’ may evoke a metamorphosing surfer’s balancing limbs, and Jes Cannon’s work conveys the transcendence of surfing through a shell-like logarithmic spiral.”
Alongside these abstract works are realistic images of waves, surfers and beach life.
“In a tiny work on paper, Matthew F Fisher depicts a wave’s crash frozen in flat space. Surfers in Todd Weaver’s 35mm photographs seem to revel in their imminent pictorialization. Big sets looming offshore in Sarah Schlesinger’s seascapes rumble with a sensitive materiality, and a quintessential beach scene is rendered with breezy panache in Brian Lotti’s ‘Evening at Surfrider,’ ” said Mr. Ricci.
Despite being involved in the art world for the past decade, he began only recently to create his own work, which he creates under the Instagram name “@basketbology.”
“The name just had a fun ring to it, and I feel like it embodies the playful spirit of my art. I became aware of this intersection of art and basketball through a chance encounter with an artist in New York. Being my two greatest passions in life, I was excited to know about the niche and began learning more about the players in the space,” Mr. Ricci said.
“During the lockdown in NYC in March 2020, I began collaging basketball cards as a way to stay busy and keep calm. I kept finding different ways to reimagine them and now have a decent little series of cards that include players, numbers, team names, basketballs, crowds, players’ names and more.”
He creates whimsical drawings by using his left/non-dominant hand in order to lean into the childlike aesthetic of his work, which is a reflection of his own playful personality. His primary tools are crafty art materials such as construction paper, cardboard, glue sticks, pencils and basketball trading cards from the ’90s.
“I really like artworks where you can see the artist’s hand in them — you can tell that a person made it, and it doesn’t feel manufactured. Like wabi-sabi, there is beauty in the imperfections.”