A Scene for the Unseen

Unscene. At Arts Alive! Gallery. Shows through February 5.

Reviewed by Kami Shallenberger

Even from outside the newly renovated Arts Alive! space on Calle César Chávez, you can see the electric glow of a neon sign spelling out “art gallery” in cursive letters. The sign casts an intoxicating purple haze through the long corridor in which an impressive collection of 10 local artists’ works is currently displayed.

LauraLangley.jpgUnscene is the first group show at Arts Alive! Gallery since its recent makeover, an improvement made possible by a much-needed grant from the Santa Barbara Redevelopment Agency. The brainchild of artist and graphic designer Zack Paul, who is originally from Buenos Aires, Unscene is dedicated to encouraging mostly younger artists whose work has not necessarily been shown locally before. The show originated when Paul inquired about having a show in the space, and Laura Inks, the director of Arts Alive!, willingly agreed to exhibit his work — as long as he could round up at least eight other artists. Six months later, the result is a thoughtfully curated sampling of contemporary art created in Santa Barbara.

After months of networking, Paul finalized the roster of 10 artists. They include himself, Calico Brown, Rafael Gaete, Kathleen Hinson, Laura Langley, Jake Montefu, Nancy Neil, Danielle Rubi, Joe Shelton, and Erica Urech. There are five painters, four photographers, and one sculptor, all of whom are overdue for an opportunity to exhibit their work.

Works range from the delicately intimate paintings of Calico Brown, who employs organic colors and abstract forms to inspire thought and reflection, to the hazy, dreamlike enlarged Polaroids done by Jake Montefu, whose manipulated images burst with light and saturated color, bringing life to neglected landscapes. Danielle Rubi’s distinctively composed photographs transport viewers from the candy colored pastels of Guanajuato, México, to the lush fairytale country side of Grindelwald, Switzerland, all while paying due respect to the inhabitants of Rubi’s imagined world — fragile, doll-like girls intertwined with vintage carousel animals. Even Zack Paul’s own modernist-inspired abstract paintings show he’s in it for much more than merely becoming another local art star.

Unscene is ultimately the result of an increasing need for representation and exposure among bright young artists in a town where existing galleries may be already committed to showing other work. The opening night was very festive, and there will be a closing reception with the artists of Unscene on January 26.

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