At a party for artists involved in this year's Art Labs, the official off-site happenings of this year's Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair, Labs curator Susan Myrland put out a guestbook and asked people to answer a question: “How would you describe the San Diego art scene?”
“Limited,” wrote one guest.
“Growing,” wrote another.
“Magnifico,” yet another guest drew in big orange lettering surrounded by a few hearts for added emphasis.
Whatever your opinion of our city's art scene, one thing's certain -- this week is your chance to really get to know it.
With 18 official Art Labs featuring more than 175 artists and locations stretching from North Park to Tijuana, the city's galleries, curators and underground art spots have responded to Myrland's call for “emerging, challenging or experimental projects.” From Thursday, Sept. 1, through Sunday, Sept. 4, it's your chance to see the shows and decide for yourself whether San Diego's art scene is a boom or a bust.
Here are a few of the Art Labs on our list:
* From 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3, Space 4 Art (325 15 St. in East Village) will open an exhibition of Los Angeles artist Marie Thibeault's abstractions of urban decay. Outside, nearly 40 dancers, musicians, composers, poets, filmmakers and performance artists under the lead of former Sushi artistic director Patrick Stewart will present a collaborative production on Space 4 Art's massive, multilevel stage, and they'll be showing off what artists and curators came up with for 8x8, an exhibition of installations in 8-foot wooden cubes. And that's in addition to an open house for the live/work space's 35 resident artists. sdspace4art.org
* Always the edgy outsiders, The Periscope Project (300 block of 15th Street in East Village) will present Drone Ready-Made: Fine Military Detritus. The people behind Periscope found a used Predator Drone shipping container on craigslist this past spring and transformed it into a modified habitable unit that was carted to, and photographed at, politicized hotspots like the General Dynamics / NASSCO shipyard and the General Atomics Aeronautical plant in Poway, which manufactures the controversial drones, unmanned aircraft widely used in Iraq, Afghanistan and along the U.S.-Mexico border. The drone container will be on display alongside an installation by artist and filmmaker Bill Daniel. The public opening's from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3. theperiscopeproject.org
* Casa Familiar's The Front (147 W. San Ysidro Blvd. in San Ysidro) has teamed with La Casa del Tunel in Tijuana (133 Chap Marquez, Colonia Federal) for Twins in Twain: Agreed Invisible Tethers Between Strangers, an exhibition of 10 San Diego artists and 10 Tijuana artists. Opening night will take place simultaneouly at both galleries from 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3.twinsintwain.org
* Artists Alexander Jarman, Savannah Jarman and Zoe Crenshaw invite the community to join them on more than 1,000 feet of fabric found in San Diego's neighborhoods for a “Picnic” performance piece (read: communal picnic on the big blanket) from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, at the Hilton lawn and Embarcadero Park South (1 Park Blvd., Downtown). Click here for details.
The Barrio's blowing up
Carlos Beltran said that when Voz Alta Project moved from East Village to Barrio Logan more than three years ago, the group was lonely. But then came The Roots Factory, The Glashaus and other artists and organizations.
“Pretty much it's becoming an arts district,” Beltran said. “Definitely an art hangout. There are a lot of artists in the area now.”
Hence the new Barrio Logan Arts District organization and the second annual Barrio Block Party, happening from Sept. 1 through Sept. 4, with participating groups like Voz Alta, The Roots Factory, The Bakery, Bosh Studio & Gallery, Woodbury University and The Spot, a new cultural venue that's celebrating its grand opening with a huge group show curated by Chikle and Sonia Lopez-Chavez featuring modified spraypaint cans, a mini car show and music from 2 to 8 pm. Saturday, Sept. 3.
On the inside
All of this artistic activity, of course, is mainly inspired by the Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair, which costs $15 to $20 for a one-day pass. The admission is worth the huge collection of international contemporary art you'll see in dozens of diverse gallery booths.
Our pick for a must-see installation is booth No. 57 in the furniture-design section. Giacomo Castagnola will mount his minimalistic sustainable stools on one wall, place a repurposed egg-crate “accumulation” pile in the middle and stand two of his “Loitering Benches” -- mobile pieces that play with the legal definition of loitering and address the lack of public infrastructure -- up against another wall. germenestudio.tumblr.com
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