For this look back at the most compelling art and exhibitions in San Diego during the last year, I asked a handful of artists, curators and critics to do most of the heavy lifting. But I couldn't help but jam in a few of my own shout-outs, too.
— Kinsee Morlan
Meegan Nolan: Omar Lopex
This summer, Omar Lopex, using the assumed identity of Ibn al-Presto, transformed Disclosed unLocation gallery into "Orange Blosomm Special," a Moroccan bar that served things like a pig molded out of bacon, Velveeta and chocolate and a salad made from locally grown veggies and Cheetos.
"We all sat around drinking Tecate with chrysanthemums in them and eating bits of the giant chocolate / Velveeta pig," Nolan says. "It smelled wonderful in there, because there were flowers all over the floors and the walls. All the senses were satisfied."
Patricia Frischer: Spitting in the Wind
San Diego Visual Arts Network coordinator Patricia Frischer chose as her top pick the midcentury-focused exhibition Spitting in the Wind: Art from the End of the Line by Richard Allen Morris, John Baldessari, Bob Matheny and Russell Baldwin. The memorable show was curated by local art historian Dave Hampton and staged at the Oceanside Museum of Art from July through November.
"This exhibition showcased the work of four local gentlemen who knew each other and shared an obvious interest for stretching the boundaries of art in the late 1950s, '60s and early '70s," Frischer says. "Like all of the best curated shows, [the idea for the exhibition] seems obvious, but no one did it before."
Robert Pincus: David Adey, Lee Materazzi and Gauguin to Warhol
Art critic Robert Pincus has a weighty rep, which is why I let him slide when he picked three instead of just one of his top exhibitions from 2014.
"David Adey's Hither and Yon at Scott White Contemporary Art took shape with a premise, and the artist did a great deal with it," Pincus says of the local artist's solo show. "His basic notion: how to create a self-portrait that was a map of the body. The results were fascinating as much for the process as the outcome: He turned three-dimensional scans of this body into two-dimensional form, using the logic of the technology illogically. And Adey did so to excellent effect."
Pincus also singled out Lee Materazzi's exhibition DIY at Quint Contemporary Art. "Her pictures deal with illusion and reality, the difficulties of making art and the challenges of balancing motherhood with artistic creation," he says. "She addresses these themes with a light touch and conceptual sophistication that is thoroughly persuasive and delightful."
Finally, Pincus gave a nod to the San Diego Museum of Art's expansive exhibition Gauguin to Warhol: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which is up through Jan. 27, 2015. "It presented a fairly standard history of modernist art, but the examples are all so stellar..."
Alessandra Moctezuma: Whysidro
Alessandra Moctezuma, arts professor at San Diego Mesa College, selected the Whysidro exhibition by artist-brothers Jamex and Einar de la Torre at The Front in San Ysidro. She appreciated their "innovative use of materials, lenticulars with the layering of symbols and their glass figures, large and small, all imbued with witty allusions to social ills."
Angella d'Avignon: Scott Polach
Independent curator Angella d'Avignon chose an educational and avant-garde exhibition at A Ship in the Woods. Artist Scott Polach's solo show, OVERFLOW, was staged at the home-turned-gallery in August and included a video and other multidisciplinary works looking at the history of man's attempts to artificially make rain.
"Being obsessed with San Diego history, I was really pleased to see a mention of Charley Hatfield in the OVERFLOW event description as one of Polach's points of departure," d'Avignon says. "As the story goes, 'Hatfield the Rainmaker' was so successful, he caused a water flow that apparently lasted for years. Polach's video piece, 'Make 'em Hum #020814,' features multicolored balloons full of saved shower water, transported 60 miles east and thrown across a dry reservoir floor. For OVERFLOW, it was projected on A Ship in the Woods' large-scale backyard-movie-screen-arena thing. The effect was magical, making a playful but strong comment on California's current state of conservation—or lack thereof."
Ariel Plotek: "Rhodopsin" and A Ship in the Woods
Ariel Plotek, associate curator of Modern Art at San Diego Museum of Art, gave a general shout-out to the artistic experimentation happening at the alternative art space A Ship in the Woods. More specifically, he thinks "Rhodopsin," the collaborative traveling installation by A Ship in the Woods, Salk neurobiologist John Reynolds, sound artist Greg Smaller, a design team from New School of Architecture + Design and researcher Daw-An Wu, deserved an extra thumbs up.
"For a quintessential California art party, you can't beat A Ship in the Woods," he says. "Their house shows and gallery exhibitions feature a brilliant mix of art and music. And don't miss 'Rhodopsin,' a more-or-less permanent light, sound and architecture installation. This un-photographable sensory experience leaves you with an ethereal afterimage. Immersive, ingenious, informal and social, it's emblematic of what A Ship in the Woods brings to the San Diego scene."
Susan Myrland: Zac Monday
Independent curator and CityBeat contributor Susan Myrland goes to more art exhibitions in one year than most people do in a lifetime. She had a tough time whittling down her list, but eventually settled on Zac Monday's Obsidian Arrow summer exhibition and performance piece at HB Punto Experimental.
"It was disorienting, multisensory, funny, dark, random and it drew a completely different crowd than the typical San Diego art event," Myrland says.
Paul Ecdao: Buffalo One
You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone as well-versed on San Diego's street, urban and pop-art scene as Thumbprint Gallery co-owner and curator Paul Ecdao. While his pick came with a disclaimer, I let it go since the young artist he nominated absolutely deserves it.
"I'd like to nominate Buffalo One and his highly intricate and detailed outdoor installations like the one he did at Balboa Park," Ecdao says. "Although he has exhibited with Thumbprint Gallery, [the work I'm nominating] was a street-art piece unrelated to any gallery showing. He went on to participate in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's 25 & Under Art Contest and several gallery exhibitions, balancing his street art and fine art very early on his career as an artist."
Kathryn Kanjo: Object, Object!
For the second year in a row, Object, Object!: A Selection of Smaller Works at Helmuth Projects, an annual group show curated by John Oliver Lewis and Jessica McCambly under the moniker "good good things," made it into our roundup of interesting art. Kathryn Kanjo, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, says the show, which featured small works by heavy hitters like Matthew Hebert, Allison Wiese, May-Ling Martinez and Bhavna Mehta, delivered a big punch this fall.
"The show provided a snapshot of the contemporary moment with pieces that were reasonably scaled and bargain-priced," Kanjo says. "In their community-galvanizing manner, Lewis and McCambly organized the exhibition with a honed eye and generous spirit."
A few more quick shout-outs to this year's movers and shakers
La Bodega gallery and art studios opened in Barrio Logan in January. In 12 short months, the space, led by owner and manager Chris Zertuche, has helped reenergize and engage the local art scene by staging large, entertaining group shows featuring work by some of the city's best emerging artists.
It's only been a year since Ginger Shulick Porcella took over as the executive director at San Diego Art Institute, but by hosting events like the high-energy "Monster Drawing Rally" and international exhibitions like Beyond Limits: Postglobal Mediations, the young art administrator has already made exciting and noticeable changes to the old Balboa Park institution.
Bob Matheny and his work at Not An Exit Gallery at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights shouldn't go unnoticed. The gallery isn't any bigger than a storage closet, but the longtime San Diego artist did fun things in the tiny experimental space, exhibiting artists like Leslie Namour, Richard Gleaves and David Fobes. This year, Matheny passed the torch to Fobes, who'll be curating shows there in 2015.
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