GALLERIES IN FUNK ZONE MULTIPLY: Friday night’s Funk Zone Art Walk on July 24 saw the opening of two new galleries and a marked overall increase in attendance. Whether the heavy foot traffic was a simple function of the warm summer evening or a consequence of the concerted effort of the neighborhood’s arts community, the result was the same — packed openings up and down the block, especially on Gray Avenue, which is fast becoming the epicenter of a Santa Barbara painting boom. While it’s too soon to tell what kind of impact these new spaces will have on the scene, one thing is certain: The Funk Zone continues to grow as an arts district.
Before we get to the new galleries, it’s good to remember that new things are always happening in the area’s older locations. The Arts Fund, for example, has a delightfully enigmatic exhibit that opened on July 24. Curated by John Aaron, it’s called How I See It and paradoxically focuses on work that’s designed to be touched. Eleven area artists have contributed tactile works that they are comfortable allowing visitors in the gallery to handle. From the smooth dolphin sculptures of Bud Bottoms to the always-surprising assemblage of Sue Van Horsen, these objects and images represent the seemingly effortless eclecticism and vigor of our community’s artists, especially when called together to make something a little different.
Around the corner and up Gray Avenue, Skye Gwilliam continues to use his GONE Gallery to demonstrate a prolific sensibility that crosses back and forth between fine and street art. His latest show is a dense series of new paintings that teem with organic shapes and anthropomorphized figures. It’s a style that’s perhaps best understood as “Skye vs. Skye,” as in one artist’s ongoing battle to reveal the dualistic nature of his own consciousness. Plus it’s fun.
Next door to GONE, at 219 Gray Avenue, is the new gallery known as GraySpace. For its inaugural show, the directors have chosen three distinguished artists, two of whom live and work in Ojai. Carolyn Fox is represented by her Roller Paintings, which are just one of the many ways she has found to express her fascination with landscape, tension, color, and balance. Steven Gilbar’s abstractions are similarly concerned with discovering the joys of mark-making unimpeded by the domination of a bounding line. Charlene Broudy’s expansive and painterly abstractions in acrylic receive the most real estate, and they will likely resonate with fans of the movement sometimes termed chromaticism.
On the other side of Yanonali at 118 Gray, Michael C. Armour and his partner Chantal Wunderlich have thrown open the doors to what is perhaps the most speculated-about property in the Funk Zone, the grain silo on the corner of Mason Street that was once part of the now-defunct Weber’s Bread Company. Armour’s top-notch work spans a range of styles from cool realism to bold geometric abstraction. He’s been working in the big room of the silo for a decade now, and, with the help of Wunderlich, he has determined to allow this mystery spot to become part of the Funk Zone’s free-flowing open scene. The pair plans to take things one step at a time, but expect to see other artists showing in the dramatic space soon.