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FORM & CONCEPT FEATURES EXHIBITS ON ART, DESIGN, AND CRAFT
Form & Concept is the new kid on the block — South Guadalupe Street, that is. The exhibition space opens its doors on Friday, May 27, in Zane Bennett Contemporary Art’s location, and is the brainchild of the gallery’s owner, Sandy Zane. The nonprofit will organize exhibits that look at craft and design as high art forms. Its first show, Made in the Desert, features pieces by more than a dozen artists working in a variety of mediums. Vanessa Michel is the only artist with a painting in the show. “I definitely consider painting craft. I have a broad definition of craft,” she said. On the cover is her oil on canvas Marriage of the Sun and Moon.
ITcame as a surprise when Zane Bennett Contemporary Art announced it was closing its doors last summer, canceling planned exhibitions that had been scheduled through the fall. But it was clear that something else was in the works. Gallery signs were never taken down. Sculptures remained on view outside the entrance. Artwork hanging on the walls could still be glimpsed through the windows. Then, in February, Zane Bennett, owned by Sandy Zane, who used the space to introduce Santa Fe audiences to contemporary international artists, as well as established and emerging regional artists, announced a new venture. Form & Concept, which opens its doors on Friday, May 27, in the gallery’s Guadalupe Street location, is a new nonprofit designed to be a major component of the gallery’s business, which continues to operate under its original moniker online. Form & Concept is organizing exhibitions around art, craft, and design in a contemporary context. “Zane Bennett is going into virtual only,” gallery director Frank Rose told Pasatiempo. “We’re going to continue to deal with secondary market works on paper. We’ve developed a big client list over the past 10 years, and so we’re able to just work virtually.” “I just started working with Sandy in October,” Rose said. “At that point, she wasn’t sure if we were going to do anything in the building. We were getting together to figure out what to do with the owned Zane Bennett works, and she felt like we couldn’t just let the building go. We discussed what would fit well in Santa Fe, and our interests personally, which are kind of centered around craft and design.” When you think of craft, you might associate it with basket-weaving, jewelry-making, sewing, quilting, carpentry, cooking, and other hands-on activities. Design can be associated with home furnishings and interiors. But Form & Concept looks at craft and design’s roles as high art forms. The grand-opening exhibition, Made in the Desert, opens Friday, May 27, and includes works by more than a dozen artists, including Arthur López, Lucrecia Troncoso, and Armond Lara. “We are including local artists, especially in this show — New Mexico and Arizona is the focus. It’s mostly New Mexico and mostly Santa Feans,” Rose said. “As we go along, we’ll see what resonates with people, and we’ll probably start representing artists as time goes on. It’s a pretty big commitment to represent an artist, and it’s not something we want to take lightly.” The art space’s emphasis is not on historical works, or the history of craft and design, but rather the roles they play as a primary means of contemporary artistic expression. “We might reference historic craft from time to time,” Rose said. “We do have some works that will go in the shop by a group that represents indigenous potters in Oaxaca. That work is a little bit more traditional, but they do have a little contemporary spin on it.” The shop, a small space off the main gallery, is a retail store that offers jewelry, prints, handmade children’s toys, and small-scale glass and ceramic artwork that’s priced from high to low. The shop features a ceramic wall installation of Santa Fe artist Nicola Heindl’s sea anemone-like creations, which will be on view through June.
Ceramics, particularly with regard to functional wares, have long been associated with craft. Janet Abrams, Cannupa Hanska Luger, and Courtney Leonard, all local artists in the show, work with ceramics, though not exclusively. Luger, for instance, also works with fabrics and other mediums, combining them in a single sculptural piece. His multicomponent installation >^^iiwii^^< (it is what it is) has a spectral human figure, made to scale and floating cross-legged, suspended in mid-air. The meditative figure is made entirely of crisp white paper. He’s accompanied by a polychrome sculpture of a coyote and a series of conical or phallic-shaped objects. “It’s a new legend about coyote and New Age theology,” Luger told Pasatiempo. “It’s about sex and spirituality. It’s about consumption of culture. These are all tidbits of what I’m touching on with the piece.” How the components of the installation interrelate is left to the mind of the viewer, hence the title. “This space wants to talk about craft and put that into the light of high art,” Luger said. “That’s what inspired me to do this piece. I work primarily in a fine art industry, but I’m a maker — a ceramic artist — and there’s a lot of craftsmanship that goes into it, as far as honing your craft. One of the big delineators for me is function. How do I take something I make and make something useful out of the whole thing?” Luger regards the development of ceramic arts as a cultural milestone that’s universal, since virtually every culture in recorded history has developed techniques for working with clay. “I use a lot of steel, too,” he said. “I like playing with these materials that I feel like were technological advancements in civilization. You’ve got ceramic work. You’ve got textiles. You’ve got steel. As material science advances and we’re working with composite materials and whatnot, steel is becoming as archaic as textiles and ceramics.” With the rise of industrialization in the 19th and 20th centuries, steel works, pottery, and fiber arts became mass- and machine-produced. Before that time, as Luger put it, “It was hands that did the work.”
Janet Abrams made outlines based on Google Earth images of the world’s busiest airports and used them to design a series of terra-cotta bas-reliefs modeled on the airport terminals. Her installation, called In the
Unlikely Event, was originally intended as a wall piece, but was installed flat on the floor instead. She writes of the piece that it “takes as its point of departure an icon of contemporary architecture, the International Airport, a building-type whose global variants exhibit extraordinary diversity, despite the fact that they ostensibly serve the same function: to move people from one point on Earth to another.” Viewed from the gallery’s glass-floored catwalk, each small terra-cotta component resembles a cross between a mark made in an unknown or forgotten language, a misshapen Lego block, and an organic life form like a caterpillar, insect, or plant. The installation is part of her ongoing series, A Natural History of
Technology, which looks at the evolution of man-made objects as though they were organic specimens.
Vanessa Michel, a Santa Fe-based painter and textile artist, is the only artist in the show who is exhibiting a painting. “I definitely consider painting craft,” Rose said. “I have a broad definition of craft. A lot of galleries carry paintings; it’s something that’s well represented, so I want to tread into it carefully. How do we want to show painting within the context of craft?” Michel’s composition offers a viable solution. Her canvas Marriage of the Sun and Moon is vibrant and intricately detailed. It’s a portrait of a man shrouded in a quilt of kaleidoscopic, colorful patterns. The quilt in the painting is based on a textile of her own design called Walk Like Thoreau, a 9-foot tapestry that took her three years to make. She has six quilts in the show in addition to the painting. “I was making paintings with imaginary quilts, and I wanted to make one specifically for a painting,” she said. “One of the first references I read about quilting was by Joan Didion. It’s a pretty overlooked quote where she’s talking about her ancestors, and they’re traveling across America in covered wagons, and they had hand-sewn quilts with a multitude of stitches. That was the one of the first things that inspired me. I handstitch all my quilts. They take a really long time. But I like the way the hand-stitching — because it takes so long — documents time. Thoreau, who’s one of my favorite writers, said, ‘I saw a stitch in time,’ and that coalesced with what I was making physically; these stitches were like moments in time, documenting minutes and seconds.”
In addition, Armond Lara is exhibiting several of his marionettes: thick, hand-carved puppets made in the likenesses of koshare, the sacred clowns of Pueblo ceremonials. Lara’s koshare straddle a line between folk art and sculpture, and undermine, not so subtly, the legacy of 20thcentury modernism, some of whose proponents freely appropriated from Native art forms and other histories. The marionettes show the koshare behind masks whose visages reflect famous figures such as Man Ray, Billy the Kid, and the Mona Lisa. These bold figures are a comic take on the histories they reference. When the masks come off, the spirit of the koshare remains. Made in the Desert also includes works by New Mexico-based artists Brian Fleetwood, Julia Barello, Jaque Fragua, Maria Hwang-Levy, and Laila Ionescu, and Arizona-based artists Susan Beiner and Melissa Cody. Although Form & Concept serves as an art space, the organization is taking a dynamic approach atypical of most galleries. “We want it to be a place that’s a little more open, in general,” Rose said. “We’re programming workshops and collage groups. We want it to be a really living space.” The first of such programs starts on Memorial Day weekend, with a collage workshop on Sunday. “I think the space fills a nice niche in Santa Fe,” Rose said. “There’s not really any gallery that looks at craft in a real broad sense.”