Sedona Art Scene Part 2
When you drive up Highway 179 into Sedona, one of the first galleries that you come across is the huge Exposures Gallery, which is located on the right side of 179 as one approaches the city.
Over 20,000 square feet, not including the outside sculpture gardens (I assume) make this the largest art gallery in the state, and probably one of the largest in the nation.
Exposures is a perfect example of what makes most Southwestern art galleries so different from most other fine art galleries in the world; galleries which follow the white cube example of white walls and minimalist hanging styles, coupled with total lack of information about prices, etc.
Not so in the Southwest gallery model, and Exposures is a perfect example of this model for Southwest galleries.
Upon entering the huge spaces, the East Coast gallery sensibility is immediately assaulted by a riot of colors and by a fear of empty space that yields a huge gallery space filled to the brim with art, photography, sculpture, crafts and jewelry.
This is 21st century salon style presentation married to the joy of colors that is the Southwest.
There are probably a few thousand pieces of art hanging and displayed in this gargantuan space. In fact, so much artwork, and so much variety, that the snobbery of the art world would immediately tend to dismiss this gallery as another "art store" filled with "wall decor."
Not so fast.
There are plenty of art galleries in Sedona that offer wall decor, and the same in the Southwest, and for that matter all over the nation.
Don't be fooled by the sheer scale and invasion of the senses that Exposure offers. This is a very successful galleries which offers some very good artists, some so so artists and some mediocre artists. In other words, just like any other reputable art gallery, but definitely not a cheesy art store. This is a very good Southwestern gallery working flawlessly on that model.
Exposures' success is clearly evident not only in its size, but in the small army of people that it employs, as well as its history, which essentially repeats the usual gallery story: art-loving couple moves to Sedona, open a small gallery; they do well and open a huge one.
And because Sedona's art buying market is comprised mostly of visitors, this gallery has to operate on the model of exhibiting everything that it has to offer all at once.
It works for them.
So once we get past the fact that this overcrowded gallery space has found its formula for success, and we begin to look at the artwork itself, as I stated before, we find the same mix of great, good, average and mediocre that one finds in any gallery in the world because art truly is in the eyes of the beholder -- or in this case the husband and wife team that picks the artists that they choose to represent and sell.
And sell they do...
On exhibit are works by more than 100 artists; yep, 100... and prices, I was informed, range from $29 to $290,000.
The catchy price range seems to have done wonders for both the artists and the owners.
Not everything is about money and sales; but money and sales make most artists, and definitely most gallery owners happy.
About the artwork itself...
Nearly all of it shares a flawless technical skill and delivery that would make most postmodernists elitists raise their noses a few inches higher. As an admirer of technical skill, I have learned to respect technical skill, but also have learned to then look past it and see content, ideas, context and intelligence in the work.
But before I get to the few artists that stood out for me, I must note that the one thing that, in spite of over 100 artists, the gallery lacked was monochromatic or black and white works in this wildly colored universe of art. It could really use a few drawings here and there to break up the dominance of color and painting. But I am biased.
As far as I could see there were only two artists working in drawing. Of the two, the two delicate small graphite drawings by Charles Frizzell stood out like little orphans in an ocean of color.
The charcoal and watercolor pieces by an artist named Yuroz also could mostly be qualified as drawing, but the works themselves were rather forgettable, as Yuroz seems to be channelling several of Picasso's periods -- including a rather mediocre stab at cubism -- in his paintings and drawings. There is too much Picasso in Yuroz, but there is also too much of Yuroz in Exposures, which in economic terms means that someone must be buying lots of his work. I didn't like any of it.
Let me tell you what I did like.
There was some very good photography by Scott Peck, and yet I personally test all flower photography to the spectacular work of Andrzej Pluta, or Joyce Tenneson, or Amy Lamb. In fact if Peck's work is doing well in Exposures, then the art dealer in me is sure that Tenneson, Pluta and Lamb would do even better at Exposures.
Upon entering any business in Arizona that sells imagery, one is bound to find photographs of the desert rocks and formations. By the time that you visit a dozen galleries, one is sick and tired of desert photography.
And yet, one of the most memorable artists in Exposures is a photographer named Martii, whose spectacular desert shots, coupled with superb presentations, make his or her photography one of the best finds in the gallery. And in writing this, I think that another photographer whose work would do well here, would be the split reverse image digitally manipulated split desert photographs by John DeFabbio, who works out of the Washington, DC area. For years DeFabbio has been trekking around the world photographing nearly everything that he sees, then digitally mirroring each half of the image to discover amazing new images in the manipulated work.
But back to Exposures.
The best work in this amazing gallery are beautiful abstract pieces by a Brooklyn-born artist named Eric Lee, one of the rare non-representational artists in the space. Lee creates wonderful reverse paintings in glass that are standouts of skill and delivery. They are fresh and beautiful and add a calming effect to the gallery's riot of color.
There are two galleries in Sedona claiming to have been voted the best gallery in Sedona. I'm not sure who the voters were, but of the two, Exposures is by far the best and certainly one of the most amazing art spaces in the entire Southwest.