When architect James Brown brought Michael James Armstrong, Thomas DeMello, Joseph Huppert and Lee Lavy into the sprawling, cavernous Weber bread factory building in Barrio Logan and told them to pick spots for an art show, they must have felt like kittens in yarn heaven. The four artists, who comprised the former Ice Gallery in North Park, will eventually occupy a small corner of the building, but they're spreading out for their first show, which will open with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8.
"That's the dream," Armstrong says. "You get to a point, someday, to where people just offer you opportunities like that. They offer you a space and say, Do whatever you want.'" The building itself (1955 Julian Ave.) will be known as Bread & Salt. Renovated by Brown's firm, Public, the project will also include gallery and archive space for the San Diego Museum of Art, artists' live-work spaces and other uses.
Huppert, DeMello, Lavy and Armstrong were all there last Saturday—Lavy and Huppert making early progress on their installations, DeMello and Armstrong leaving for a run to get supplies.
Armstrong, who'll create tunnels using doorways, windows and fabric in a small group of rooms, playing with light and color, tells CityBeat that there's no theme for the show, no relationships between the four installations. The artists toured the building, found their locations and let the ideas for how to transform the spaces come to them. No deep concepts are at play; it's simply about aesthetics.
Lavy is the only one of the four using an upstairs space. After choosing the room, he saw an attic, where old machine parts, hoses and all manner of mechanical flotsam and jetsam were stored. For part of his installation, Lavy will replicate a wall where gears hung on racks.
"The attic was super-mysterious. This wall was all laid out with writing, and it was all very systematic, orderly," Lavy says. "I mean, even all these parts," he adds as he places various circular pieces on a taped off portion of the floor, "were all kind of in their proper places. I really appreciated the way that it was set up, and I thought it was pretty beautiful."
At the reception, there will be no signs guiding attendees along their way. Parts of the structure that aren't in use will be blocked off; folks will find their way and view the art however they wish.
"I don't like telling people how to view shit," Armstrong says. "You just wander around. You'll find it."