Nipped in Sam Lopes’ opening at Blankspace Gallery in Oakland, CA. To be more specific, the exhibition, “Just because there are questions doesn’t mean there are answers,” is a show of “new collaborative work by Sam Lopes, Joy Fritz and Friends.” The works were what JC (not that JC) might have called craptastic, where craftsmanship seems deliberately hobbled, so that naive drawing styles in odd materials (crayons and oil pastels) take precedence. The show is really colorful and sweet, and compellingly nostalgic for the 1970s. It turns out the depiction of of handicrafts from the shag carpet era might be inspired by nostalgia for a gay heyday.
There were some passages that reminded me, in a good way, of Ben Shahn’s work, where the line seems so unfettered you can’t tell when it’s good or bad, but you just know that it’s exuberant.
In contemporary art, “decorative” is usually used derisively, but I’m starting to re-think this prejudice. Certainly, I’m more interested in work that has interesting and rigorous conceptual intents, but I’m also beginning to suspect that decoration and conceptual rigor are not as oppositional as presumed. In a way, decoration is not entirely free of function—people seem to have an innate decorating impulse, tied maybe to creativity and expression as well as aspirations and the need to see themselves reflected in the world. At a basic level, it seems to fill a desire to find a voice or secure a space in the material world.
There’s a lot of decoration in “Just because.” It’s in the selection of subjects that lend themselves to high-spirited colors and patterns, like bedspreads with fringes, wallpaper, bolero jackets and hand-knit rugs. And while I’m sure this decorative impulse was driven partly by pleasure and the unadulterated love of drawing, I also suspect that the choices were not entirely formal, and the use of pattern and decoration suggests something about art being, fundamentally, a craft, and craft being more akin to hobby-like forms of self-expression, rather than a selling point of marketable art objects.
It’s East Bay Open Studios this weekend, where everyone and their purse-making sister, graf-merging cousin, and urban-artifact-re-arranging uncle open their studios to the public. I think that membership-based art organizations are critical to building and sustaining a vibrant local art community, of course, but the experience of seeing so many different kinds and qualities of art can have low returns when taken all together. It’s like going to an international buffet, and you end up getting hummus on your sushi and chow mein in your bread pudding.
I stopped by a few different studios in Oakland today. I found it strange that only half of the studios in a certain complex were open. I realize that registration for Open Studios requires a hefty membership fee, but still, it seems like a missed opportunity to not be in your studio if the public is going to be wandering through your building anyway.
Terry Furry’s a genuine, nice guy, so it’s hard for me to be objective about his work, but I really enjoyed his latest batch of paintings on mounted Kraft paper. I know that some of their appeal stems from a certain graphic design or illustration-y cleanness. Still, these still-lifes of a boy’s or man’s personal effects are more ambiguous than his previous figurative paintings, and hence, more open-ended and compelling. The empty spaces seem less like formal devices, and a little more affective.