February First Friday recap

Published Mon, Feb 06, 2012 07:30 AM
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Submitted by Melissa Howsam — Correspondent

It's February, aren't we supposed to be freezing? Lucky for First Friday fans, the weather gave us a pretty solid taste of spring. That punk of a groundhog may have cast a shadow on six more weeks of winter, but looks like it was pretty balmy outside of his sun-cast silhouette. So we'll take it. Hence the loads (and loads… and loads) of foot (and bike) traffic about town for the art walk.

Local Color Gallery

On Glenwood South, there was a horde of hopping galleries. Namely Local Color Gallery. And for good cause.

You remember when you were in high school, and it was a big deal to have your artwork on the wall of the classroom? Well, the hallway meant you had really made it. Now imagine it hung on the wall of a hip local art spot. And you got your own FF opening on Glenwood South. Talk about an aptitude for art (not to mention savvy).

Enter the fourth-annual Local Color Gallery student art show, "Made Like That," a high school art competition featuring countywide student artwork selected and entered by area art teachers and managed by two Local Color member artists who also hold post as Wake County art teachers. The competition "gives the students a chance to display their work in a non-high school environment," said gallery manager Adrien Montoya. "It gives them confidence in themselves. All students are invited. They hear comments and see the reaction of people walking through the gallery. It is quite positive. It is their day to shine."

And shine they do — at a gallery teeming with eager onlookers. "The community reaction is great," Montoya continued. "[People] are surprised that these are high school students. They spend some time looking at the artwork. I heard a comment [at the show] about how it is great to give the kids a chance to see their work up. It really is!"

Juried by Joe and Sharon DiGiulio of Jerry's Artarama — who also generously donated gift cards for the winning artists — the show included an early awards ceremony. Josh Marek of Wakefield High drew an award for Artistic Merit for his 3D clay scorpion sculpture.

"I'm pretty excited," he said immediately after winning the award. "This is the first award I've ever won in high school. … I've always had an interest for [art]. I've been doing it since elementary school, but I wasn't that good back then," he joked.

Along with the student work were the "Nothing but Figurative" original raku sculptures — a type of Japanese pottery introduced to the U.S. mid-20th century — by Margaret Griffin and oil paintings by Olga Wagner.

"I had been making functional pottery for seven years when I discovered raku firing techniques and fell in love," Griffin said. "I love the hands-on intimacy of raku. I make something out of mud, and the fire makes it beautiful while I watch. I'm a voyeur peeking in the kiln, fascinated by the flames licking each pot. I'm a firebug caught by the bright orange clay sparking under my iron tongs. And when the flames have died, I thrust my hands into burning embers to pluck my secret love from the smoke and ashes. So, now, I must confess: I'm a raku artist."

Griffin's raku works shared the spotlight with Wagner’s oils, work characterized by strong emphasis on light, shadow and color. Both will be on display through Feb. 25.

Flanders Gallery

Over in the bustling Warehouse District, petulance posed in the limelight via Houston-based Howard Sherman's "Another Impatient Sucker," featuring abstract polychromatic large-scale paintings that uniquely fuse splashed, impulsive, explosive gestural marks with spray paint and hard, graphic lines a la '80s graffiti art. The series featured a mix of media — acrylic, collage and marker on archival paper; acrylic and marker on canvas; mixed media on canvas — and quite literally gave meaning to the term “magic” marker.

Most aptly, there is a childlike, youthful (albeit maybe at times angst-laden) quality to the art. It's volatile. It plays outside the lines. And it's not "pretty." But it's stunning. Artistically sophisticated. It makes you stop. It makes you watch. And if you didn't stop by Flanders on Friday night, you have until the end of the month to do so. And you should.

Still a "young" artist — Sherman made his first solo exhibit at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in 2008 — his take on abstract expressionism is sweeping the nation and beyond. Literally. He's been featured in the Museo de Arte Moderno in Peru; the Mad is Mad Gallery in Madrid; the Muse Gallery in India and across the U.S., and even in our backyard in Charlotte and Raleigh.

Sherman explains the attraction of colorful conflict.

"In my recent artwork, I have surged between abstraction and representation. More specifically, I have integrated biting comedy, social criticism and gestural expressiveness,” he said. “I have developed dualities in my paintings, exemplified by the grand gesture versus the small drawing; heated anger opposing light humor; heavy mass placed against barren emptiness; ferocious spontaneity clashing against careful thought. All of these elements add up to create a language of friction."

That friction is drawing a fervent fan base.

"Last night was one of the best First Fridays we have had since we moved to the warehouse district," Flanders Gallery Director Kelly McChesney said after the reception. "There was a vibrant crowd and genuine interest in the art. … There were serious collectors talking with artists about the work; other local artists coming to see the new exhibits; curators, academics, folks from Durham and Chapel Hill; and a healthy surge of young people. The night felt energetic and exciting, and we are so honored to be a part of it."


Down the street at designbox's new space, patience gets a different kind of showing and is bodied forth in the line out the door at the creative-community hot spot, raising the First Friday curtain on its new (and third) location, now at 307 West Martin St. The draw? The storefront and window display; updated gallery; and retail store presence — plus the dedicated in-house project space for member companies.

"The move is an opportunity for designbox to refine its relationship with the dynamic creative community it has intensely supported and partnered with since its [opening] eight years ago," said co-founder Beth Khalifa, who is also creative director of the firm who started designbox, Gamil Design.

Early on, designbox’s mission was to develop and awaken the community through housing a collaborative creative approach. Now, with the fresh space comes revised mission. While they will still showcase inspired local craft and design, they plan to also venture into "the product and brand scene, and celebrate the local creativity that's going on in that world," said Khalifa. "We will open up to celebrate innovative brands, ideas and products at both the product and national or international level. We will use gallery openings to host launch parties and pop-up shops rather than our past fine art focus, and we will celebrate the creative products of the DB tenants, and as a group, we will produce more and experiment more to show in the space. There are so many great galleries — even on this street with Flanders and VAE and CAM and 311; so we're gonna try and diversify a little bit to balance out what the street is offering."

So, whether you were interested in the overhaul; or the sexy, large-scale storefront; hip to supporting a collaborative creative community; or were just feeling suspicious of whether this is the world you want to raise a kid in — circa earth 2012 — designbox proved the place to be with its philanthropic "Mars Ain't No Place to Raise Yer Kids" premiere, established as a benefit for a "good little friend of the gallery," Oliver Gant, who selected the theme. The show was curated by artist Megan Sullivan.

Oliver has been undergoing cancer treatments since his February of last year, and the exhibit serves as a benefit for him, compiling the work of 20+ local artists and friends who "donated their artistic visions to have fun with the little man, as well as to raise money to help cover some expenses," Khalifa said.

Proceeds from the displayed art, priced at $100 or less, go to Oliver and his family.

You can see the show until Feb. 24.

February photos
Check out photos from the February Gallery Walk.

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