Nov. 6 2013 02:15 PM

Contemporary art fair opens in Balboa Park this week

Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair is back for its fifth year, and its second at the Balboa Park Activity Center. From Friday, Nov. 8, through Sunday, Nov. 10, the 38,000-square-foot space will be filled with work by dozens of artists, from as near as here and as far away as Perth, Australia. Tickets (good for all three days) are $15 in advance, $20 online, and below are a bunch of reasons to grab one and go:

Avery Lawrence
Booth 3

The grass may be greener on the other side, but getting there may prove slightly more difficult—at least in Avery Lawrence's "Mowing the Lawn," a multimedia installation that explores the Sisyphean side of yard maintenance. (Is there any other side, really? The grass keeps growing, you keep mowing, lather, rinse, repeat.) Selected as one of Art San Diego's LaunchPad emerging artists, the New Orleans-based Lawrence will be "mowing the lawn" on an artificial and rather oddly shaped strip of grass, while pausing every so often to sip lemonade. Take what you will from the performance, but Lawrence says the piece isn't so much a commentary on the tediousness of chores or being angry about doing them. I asked him if this was a Michael Douglas in Falling Down scenario. "I don't think of the lawnmower [the character] as disgruntled or necessarily burdened," he says. "Heck, he has something to do each day, right?" Well, yeah, but like the story of poor Sisyphus, isn't it tragic when you realize how futile the task really is? "This nonsense activity brings up multiple ideas and meanings. I hope that the viewer can take away different things. For me, it has to do with the Sisyphean elements of existence and how we approach them," Lawrence says. So, one must imagine the lawnmower happy?

—Nina Sachdev Hoffmann

Marcos Ramirez ERRE
Booth 46

If the name Luis de Jesus is familiar, it's because he ran Seminal Projects gallery, formerly located in Little Italy, before moving to Los Angeles in 2010 to open his own space. In April, he exhibited Tijuana artist Marcos Ramirez ERRE's Playing (Series) Serious and is bringing it to Art San Diego, where ERRE—who started showing work in San Diego almost two decades ago, eventually being invited to big-name confabs like the Whitney Biennial and Art Basel—has been selected as a Spotlight Artist. Playing (Series) Serious uses games—labyrinths, Sudoku, crossword puzzles—to explore the subjectivity of language and how problems that might appear to have simple solutions are usually a lot more complex. In an email last week, de Jesus said he was still deciding which pieces he'll display, but he's definitely bringing two of ERRE's labyrinths, etched on full-length mirrors that encourage the viewer to reflect (literally) on the paths from "Right" to "Wrong" and "Yesterday" to "Tomorrow." "Marcos cares deeply about human values and has a passionate commitment to social justice, which form the roots of all his work," de Jesus says. "You could call his practice ‘humanist conceptualism'—the perfect balance intellect and soul."

—Kelly Davis

jdc Fine Art
Booth 17

From gritty reality to socially charged portraiture to stylized narrative to ethnographic still-life, the work of four expert photographers will be showcased at Art San Diego. Curated by jdc Fine Art, the collection brings together local and international artists. Philadelphia-based Nadine Rovner composes photographs that inspire her audience to imagine cinematic narratives. "Creating an atmosphere that the viewer can enter, I come up with a feeling or idea, and then I come up with a scene to portray it." Featured nationally, including at the San Diego Museum of Art, Jess T. Dugan shoots solemn portraits soaked in tasteful sexuality that deconstruct viewers' assumptions about gender identity. Focusing on images of rural stores and shrines in Argentina, Guillermo Srodek-Hart's vibrant photographs have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, one of the most exclusive international art exhibitions in the world. Lastly, taking his audience on a brutally honest tour along the U.S.-Mexican border, Paul Turounet explores themes of reality and hope, tradition and evolving identity.

—Joshua Emerson Smith

Farrah Emami 
Booth 63

As part of the San Diego Museum of Art's Summer Break Festival in August, Farrah Emami created something she called Gift Shop, an installation—inspired by her experience working in museum gift shops—that examined the relationship between fine art and commerce, between displaying art to the masses and selling art to the masses. For Art San Diego, and with the help of SDMA's manager for public programs, Alexander Jarman, Emami is reinventing Gift Shop, this time casting a critical (and celebratory) eye on art fairs. This Gift Shop will appear as if it's the official gift shop for the art fair, Emami explains in her artist statement. But there'll be a tongue-in-cheek element: The items for sale, she says, "will be critiquing the nature and goals of a fair. Looking at the dynamics between artists, dealers, collectors, socialites…." Emami, who graduated from UCSD in 2011, is making many of the items that'll be for sale at the store, like "I Bought Something" pins, but will also carry some affordable pieces made by some of the artists participating in the fair.

—Kelly Davis 

Basile Studios
Booth 12

Paul Basile is an artist, sculptor, designer, fabricator, general contractor and soon-to-be Downtown restaurateur. His craftsmanship has earned his Basile Studios commissions in the hippest corners of San Diego: Polite Provisions, Craft & Commerce, Soda & Swine and the San Diego headquarters for Car2Go. Basile's work looks like he raided an abandoned factory, then welded, refinished and repurposed wood, steel and glass. There are gears, rust and the occasional punch of toolbox red. "We're not slaving over paint colors," he explains. "If there are similarities in our projects, it's in the color tones, because we're using natural materials." This is Basile's first appearance as a contemporary designer at Art San Diego; his contribution is an artistic interpretation of a massive door system with its mechanisms exposed. "It's a functional prototype, with gears and motion and movement," he said. "I'm trying to reinvent how a door opens. It's a really fun idea. I didn't have a client involved, so I'm designing something just for me." Basile's piece will be part of Where Art & Design Collide, one of the fair's Art Labs, that'll feature innovative art-meets-design-meets-functional objects created by MakerSD and includes Basile, Dominique Houriet (oo-da-a studio), Marcus Papay (Marcus Papay Design), Robert Nobel (Ecor) and Curtis Micklish (Micklish).

—Jennifer McEntee

Margaret Noble 
(Near) Booths 7-10

Noble is a sculptor and sound artist whose work's been featured at the San Diego Museum of Art (like last year's 44th and Landis, an aural / visual ode to City Heights, where she grew up) and who's landed upcoming shows at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh and the Mediations Biennial in Louisville. She's one of Art San Diego's five Spotlight Artists, selected to create a site-specific exhibition for the fair. For That Which We Cannot Hold, Noble's created four mixed-media paper sculptures with sound that'll be located in cement corridors next to booths 7, 8, 9 and 10. She created a different "score" for each piece, which will be projected from overhead speakers. "The works are a four-part narrative exploring symbols of human interference," she tells CityBeat. "The audience will hear abstracted field recordings of nature, the human body, as well as various technological sounds as if they were machine ghosts bringing the sculptures of metal, paper bones and antique objects to life."

Nodo Galería
Booth 73

Anyone hoping to see a small bit of the talent emerging from Tijuana should stop by Nodo Galería's booth. Nodo is the only Tijuana-based gallery exhibiting at Art San Diego, and it will feature the work of owners César Vazquez and Jonathan Ruiz de la Peña, as well as TJ artist Miguel Cheram Morales. De la Peña will show a series of abstract drawings that explore geometrical shape and color. Vázquez's pencil-and-dye illustrations are done on layers of paper that form a sort of sculpture. Morales takes photographs of Tijuana's colonias, or neighborhoods, and transfers them in high contrast onto wood. He then paints things like colorful clouds onto the wood to create a juxtaposition of reality and whimsy. For Vázquez, Nodo's participation in Art San Diego is a chance to introduce people to the innovative art coming out of the youthful Tijuana art scene. "I think the most important thing is that we three are young artists," he says. "To exhibit our work in this space, where you can interact with a public different from that of Tijuana, is a great opportunity in our careers."

—Alex Zaragoza

Debby and Larry Kline
Booths 5, 34, 36

Pick up the Art San Diego schedule this year and you'll see the names Debby and Larry Kline so many times, you might think there's been some sort of mistake. The married couple, who collaborate on their multimedia conceptual- and performance-art projects, will have work featured in two exhibitor booths—Beyond the Border Gallery and the San Diego Art Prize space—they'll be doing multiple performances, giving a talk and leading tours through the fair as roving docents. The ubiquity of the Klines is a good thing, giving visitors a chance to get a grasp on the depth, diversity and myriad political provocations of their work. At Beyond the Border Gallery's space, for instance, they'll set up "The Candy Store," an interactive performance piece that'll turn the booth into a literal shop selling small ceramics and other art pieces made with trace amounts of commercial drugs. The installation comments on society's tendency to self-diagnose, over-prescribe and otherwise abuse pharmaceuticals and is a fun-but-challenging conceptual piece perfect for the art-fair setting, where sometimes you'll find art that was created solely to make money and match your couch.

—Kinsee Morlan


See all events on Monday, Oct 24