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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