All of this is for the Savages, a (very) loose collective of local artists in their teens to 30s. Breton identifies 20 artists new to the show this year, and hopes for a similar turnover next year: “It’s a very precious moment in time for me because I’ve met all these people and I have faith and I love all of these artists like they’re my family … and for this one special moment I’m able to share that with the public.”
Upon entering the gallery, the viewer encounters two installations that present themselves for immediate attention. Makers & Allies’ Red S is a web of Americana objects—including saws, scissors, wood, and the body of a guitar—all painted a distinctly savage red. Its existence in the gallery seems inevitable, but Breton attests to the opposite.
“Eric Valdez and myself—he’s one of the participating artists—were like Egyptian slaves hoisting this giant, 150-pound “S” to the ceiling … finally it was done, and it was beautiful.”
The second major installation is Nick Wilkinson’s Sculpture Garden, a series of large-scale painted wooden sculptures. Dreamland and Please, Please, Please, two of Wilkinson’s canvases firmly rooted in Op Art and the 1980s, accompany the sculptures to provide a visual key. Hesitant gallery-goers peek around the corner, unsure how to look at these structures spilling out into the front window.
Ty Hjortland’s signcraft-inspired piece 99 Cents beckons the viewer from across the gallery, exactly as signs are meant to do. Yet it refuses to offer easy visual satisfaction, allowing words to partially disappear beneath each other. Its reference to the trick of setting prices just under the nearest dollar points to the economy we are losing, but also to the more open market we hope to gain and the re-appropriation of “Main Street” skills where those of “Wall Street” have failed. To put a point (literally) on this message is Jamie Coxon’s Big Up, a wooden arrow with a mirror at its center, answering with skill of execution the loose, casual feeling of Wilkinson’s Sculpture Garden. Big Up immediately implicates its audience—you cannot avoid seeing yourself in it.
Opposite hangs No Class Artist Collective’s large-scale graffiti piece reading “NOTHING’S COOL ANYMORE,” a clever nod to the commercialization of graffiti and street art. “I wanted a real, dyed-in-the-wool spray paint mural,” says Breton, although he was unable to secure permission to paint directly onto gallery walls. The raw edges of the resulting canvas send a clear message: We work right up to the selvage.
Throughout the exhibit, the overwhelming impression is that nowhere else is anyone looking at this same thing at this same moment.
“We’ll never have the same show twice,” Breton assures me. Let’s hope not.
When Arts Editor Erin C. Messer isn’t dressed all in black and taking notes at art openings, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.