With Periscope Project (theperiscopeproject.org), the architect had envisioned a mobile center that explored environmental issues. He opened one show, but then the space became more of a meeting ground— a place for his students and friends to throw around ideas about what the next step for the tiny plot of land piled with shipping containers should be. Then, tragedy struck.
About a year later, when Molly and James Enos pulled open the heavy steel doors of the shipping containers on the 300 block of 15th Street, a wilted, water-damaged version of the one and only Periscope exhibition was still up.
Initially, the plan was to find a new plot of land so they could move the containers and let Perisic's widow sell the property. The Enoses met and worked with Perisic through the graduate program at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design, so they were interested in seeing his work continue.
They never found that plot of land. Instead, the young couple bought a majority share in the property, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The damage done to the first exhibition convinced them to add things like drywall and windows and make the raw containers more like a gallery.
They read through Perisic's lofty goals for the exhibition space but eventually decided to take a new course.
“We are trying to just keep it going in Petar's spirit,” Molly explains. “But he was a man of big ideas, and he set out to do so much. So, in reading some of the writings, it was like, Petar, I love you, but some of it just wasn't attainable.”
Periscope Project's new path has yet to be fully defined. A day before the space's Sept. 4 soft opening for an exhibition and mural by local artist Louis M. Schmidt, the Enoses and a few volunteers worked hard to get the space ready.
“We've tried to get it up and running to a point where it can be an alternative space,” says James, an architecture-trained artist with a background in designing and building skate parks. “We don't want to just have another swank art gallery with local happenings. What we want to do is have a project space where it's about idea work.”
Glenna Jennings, an artist who ran an alternative gallery in Los Angeles, will serve as Periscope's curator. The grand opening in late October will feature Good mourning California, a show that takes a critical look at the myths behind living in the Golden State.
Meanwhile, the space itself is the real show. As a temporary structure, it's a working experiment in alternative development.
And, as a project open to ideas, sweat-equity trades and community building, it's an experiment in social engineering, too.
“Act,” James says. “There's a point when it's, like, ‘Soft anarchy, please.' That's what I want the people in San Diego to know. Stop worrying about what you dress like or what you look like. I mean, the rest of the world thinks we're just a provincial graced-by-God shithole that's uninteresting. Do something.”
Art now: The Thumbprint Gallery (2637 University Ave. in North Park) may be small, but owners / curators Johnny Tran and Paul Ecdao are kings of thinking big. They focus on pop, urban and surreal works, and most of the exhibitions involve at least two emerging artists who show paintings and create murals specifically for the space. If you want to feel the pulse of San Diego's edgier art, Thumbprint is your best bet. Works by Edward Manansala and Velvet De Oro are up now through Oct. 3. Mr. Maxx Moses (aka Pose 2) and Isaias Crow (aka Crol) will take over the space Oct. 9 through Nov. 7. Scott Saw and Nick McPherson will show their works Nov. 13 through Dec. 5. thumbprintgallerysd.com
On wood: When most people try to envision Japanese art, they typically conjure up the image of “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” the white-fingered depiction of an ocean wave by artist Hokusai. The famed image is actually a woodblock print and a great example of ukiyo-e art, a genre of prints created in the 17th and 20th centuries. From Nov. 6 through June 5, 2011, Balboa Park's San Diego Museum of Art will show Japanese woodblock prints from its permanent collection in Dreams & Diversions: 250 Years of Japanese Woodblock Prints from the San Diego Museum of Art. The exhibition will feature 400 prints, from the earliest examples of ukiyo-e to the work of modern masters of the 1920s and '30s. $12. sdmart.org
An eye for amateur: There's something odd about David Humphrey's art and, as is true with most oddities, there's an interesting story behind it. Humphrey hits up thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales in search of the crappy amateur paintings most of us end up tossing. He picks and chooses the most precious parts of the pieces and loosely uses elements of them in his own, skillful work. The end result is cute, kitschy, weird and a ton of fun to inspect. Humphrey will be in studio at Lux Art Institute (1550 S. El Camino Real in Encinitas) from Nov. 18 through Dec. 4, and his work will be on view through Jan. 1. $10 for two visits. luxartinstitute.org
Playing on paper: Inside the building at 2400 Kettner in Little Italy is a goldmine filled with limited-editions prints and other works on paper. Meyer Fine Art (Suite 104) has been doing its thing since 1978, and if you haven't been there, you should first kick yourself, then you should check out the Vintage Italian Poster Exhibition on view now through Oct. 30. And, from Nov. 12 through Dec. 23, Meyer will be featuring original limited-edition etchings, lithographs and other works on paper by such artists as Alexander Calder, Salvador Dali, Armando Romero. plmeyerfineart.com