As part of the second biennial Off Axis festival of contemporary art, the County Arts Commission invited Ro Snell to curate a show of regional work. The result is an exhibition of work by 31 artists all gathered around the common theme of “edge.” Snell chose this idea precisely because it lends itself to various interpretations, including physical edges, the concept of the “cutting edge,” and that of social and cultural boundaries. As a result, the exhibition is haphazard, lacking continuity in style and content.
Yet the same diversity that marks this show’s weakness also is its strength in that it creates a venue where emerging Santa Barbara artists can rub elbows with highly established ones. EDGE features illuminating juxtapositions that may not have existed in other contexts. In the case of artists who have long been artistic icons in the community, including Ed Inks, Wayne McCall, Jean-Pierre Hebert, and Dane Goodman, revisiting their work in the company of emerging artists sheds new light on the nature of their staying power-and their influence.
UCSB Art Professor Jane Callister, for example, has an international reputation and often is credited as being part of a movement toward a revival and renewed interest in painting. Her contribution to the exhibition, “Reach,” exhibits her trademarked combination of painting styles, with swirls of glossy, leaping splashes of paint reaching up toward a sweeping wash on the top of the canvas. Callister’s impeccable compositional eye and expert understanding of color is reflected in Sophie Grant’s piece, “In Between,” down to the usage of her organic, metamorphosing shapes and the slick shininess of the canvas surface. McCall’s UltraChrome photo print “Metalwork #7” is a digital reimagining of a metalworking studio transformed into a dense, flattened space filled with tools and machinery. The thoughtful intensity of McCall’s work finds a partner in William Fenn’s photograph, “Beneath the Surface 2,” in which the viewer peers into a window to see a scene straight from the 1950s: a mother smoking a cigarette while her children eat an intricately decorated cake. Like McCall, Fenn deals with layers of meaning within a deceptively simple composition. It is these kinds of conversations taking place across the gallery that bring EDGE into sharper focus.