Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Art town: What’s brewing in lesser-known hot spots

Land as canvas: Albuquerque offers a full palette of art al fresco

By Robin Tierney

Art devotees know the way to Santa Fe, usually bypassing Albuquerque to the south. But expect that to change as ABQ creatives hasten urban and urbane renewal in New Mexico’s biggest city.

The art community there bears resemblance to the five dormant volcanoes that flank the city’s west side: smoldering disparate vents likely to become an inextinguishable force once erupting.

Signs suggest that time is drawing near, with art-centric events now erupting within and beyond ABQ’s revitalized Downtown arts district. New trolley, bus and rail choices make it easy to speed around.

At nearly every turn, there’s some gallery or mural or piece of public art. Nary a day goes by without an exhibition opening or art talk or sighting of artists at work on an installation, particularly with the “LAND/ART” collaboration that in early June unleashed a six-month tsunami of land-based art.

LAND/ART is a sprawling mega-variety show aiming to lay siege to senses and sensibility. Among the five dozen participants is Guggenheim Fellow Michael Berman, whose photos emanated from solitary wanderings through the desert. Basia Irland’s frozen carved books sow seeds as they melt in undernourished rivers. DJ Spooky weaves an acoustic portrait from field recordings made during journeys into Antarctic icescapes. Lynne Hull builds outdoor sculptures that double as wildlife habitat rescues.

A sense-shocking, mind-boggling array of photography, sculpture and mixed media burbles from downtown galleries such as 516 ARTS as site-specific installations emerge on the sacred lands ringing Albuquerque like an aura.
Brandon Maldonado
I plan to catch what’s taken root in LAND/ART when returning for another Albuquerque alt. art event: the GO! Arts Festival. The free downtown event runs Sept. 25-27. Several stages of local music and dance combine with contemporary art, making for a complete sensory assault.

Go! artists include Brandon Maldonado, whose “Los Fantasticos” paintings nabbed Best of Show at last year’s fest, and Daniela and Vladimir Ovtcharov, whose modern icons and other imaginaria are absolutely arresting.

The edgier visuals and vibe distinguish Albuquerque from other New Mexico artspots, says Christopher Goblet on the arts-boosting Downtown Action Team.

 Vladimir OvtcharovNow’s a good time to visit what “The Rise of the Creative Class” author Richard Florida dubbed the "Most Creative Mid-Size City." The arts offerings are diverse: Harwood Art Center (an old school) displays art from full-timers to homeless shelter denizens; Darryl Willison’s trippy comic cowboys color the walls at Old Town’s KISS café; Working Classroom’s new downtown space mounts eye- and brain-teasers from city kids. A new film festival’s set to debut late summer. And there’s always the green and red chile.

If you must go to Santa Fe, the brand new Rail Runner stops in downtown ABQ.

LAND/ART event guide (sites, openings, talks):

Go! Festival info:

Albuquerque visitors info:

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