“The Long Game”
When: through July 5
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
Elements within and behind the current Arts Fund Gallery exhibition “The Long Game” could incidentally qualify under the category of “site-specific” or at least “site-proximal” art.
Greeting the visitor in this cherished Funk Zone venue, a few blocks from the beach, is the looming tall, oceanic-referential “Cocoon,” one of sculptor Blakeney Sanford translucent blue creations from her “Shades of Blue” series. Made of bio resin, fiberglass and steel, “Cocoon” manages to be an inviting, meditative enclosure both industrial and steeped in references to nature.
In a corner of the gallery space, sculptor Inga Guzyte, who has been creating artwork from painted, and “repurposed” skateboard decks, presents “Paradise City.” It is a mash-up depiction, in punky pictorialist style, of two landmarks, three blocks away on Cabrillo Boulevard—the iconic small lighthouse marking the restaurant (presently the Bluewater Grill), and the seaside skate park and haven for youths known as Skater’s Point.
Not incidentally, the very exhibition “The Long Game” is site-suited because it serves as another fine example of the inventive and not-necessarily-commercially motivated shows in this important alternative art space in town. The show was curated by writer-critic Charles Donelan–following his successful 2015 venture as a curator here, “Unintended Consequences–” and is geared around the general theme of creative and committed women artists in town, pursuing personal visions and in it for the “long game.”
Mr. Donelan explained that the idea for the show began percolating around the time of Trump’s White House takeover and the massive Women’s March, with its strong ripples of subsequent influence.
One “long gamer” artist, based in Santa Barbara but extending outward into the artworld, is Barbara Parmet, a fine photographer who has been engaging in evocative image-manipulations and medium-extensions for many years. Her piece “Dragon Tree” is one of the bedazzling works in the space, and not only because of its scale, more or less consuming one gallery wall and sharing with “Cocoon” status as epic artworks in the room.
Despite the sweeping scale, it is a bold yet understated, chromatically minimal piece. To suggest—and expand upon–the spindly, primeval mystery and majesty of the large tree (which lives in Alice Keck Park park), Ms. Parmet has carefully stitched together 47 cyanotypes on muslin. It asserts a powerful, semi-mystical presence, mixed with the palpable feeling of a handmade and hand-stitched art object.
Claudia Borfiga, a British artist who relocated to California in 2017, limits her input in the exhibition to a deceptively casual series of variations on the theme of… watermelons. With her lean, playful serigraph watermelon deconstructions, and the almost Stuart Davis-like swirl of forms and succulent fragments in the screen print on birch plywood piece “Watermelon Harvest,” Ms. Borfiga proffers the aesthetic rules of a game to call her own.
Another significant strain of Ms. Guzyte’s work (also on more extended view in her current Sullivan Goss show called “#REBELWOMEN”) is based on portrayals—also on repurposed skateboards—of powerful women and a sense of gender solidarity in the current “#metoo” atmosphere. Here, she shows the piece “Our Walls Never Crumble,” with a strategically shaped portrait of a bold woman, with lettering dangling to the floor, spelling out the work’s title.
Zooming out from the gender-specificity of her expression with the work, we can reasonably adapt the phrase “our walls never crumble” to a hopeful prognosis on the life and health of this vibrant art space. “The Long Game” offers further proof of the artistic pulse still beating in a gentrifying Zone threatened by de-funk-ification and artistic flight.