SEEING DOUBLES: You never know where the next hip, contemporary art exhibition might appear, so it pays to keep your eyes open. Still, you’d be forgiven for doing a double-take on your way to the locker room at the Tennis Club of Santa Barbara (2375 Foothill Rd.), where Erika Carter’s mixed-media paintings are on display in the foyer through November 10. Upon entering the club, you’re greeted by “Vuelo Azul,” a triptych of birch panels layered with acrylic paint, across which a few healthy bluebirds dip and soar. Nearly illegible writing scrawled along the lower third of each panel draws the viewer in for closer inspection, revealing deep reds and greens lurking beneath the pale yellow surface. Around the corner, these themes evolve in intriguing ways. In “Nuestra Casa,” a modern Mother Mary in blue dungarees and hoop earrings balances the Christ child on one hip while dipping her other hand into a bucket-of birdseed?-all the while standing inside a golden birdcage, the door to which is flung wide. And while you’re contemplating that symbolism, you can always take a moment to watch a doubles match from the comfort of the club’s cushy sofas. You’ll get used to it. Carter’s show is one in the club’s new monthly series of exhibits, which kick off with a public, catered reception on the second Friday of each month.
POP GOES THE EASEL: Ever since Warhol glorified the Campbell’s soup can, American artists have had permission to invest the symbols of our consumer culture with varying degrees of nostalgia and irony. The young, Los Angeles-based artist Robert Townsend toes that familiar line between commercial design and social commentary. On display through November 29 at Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery (7 E. Anapamu St.), Townsend’s oil paintings and watercolors depict the billboards, packaging, and electronic gadgets of the earlier 20th century, imbuing them with the power of icons and at the same time casting them in the harsh light of museum relics. Whether his subject is a signboard, a box of detergent, or an electric mixer, it’s given the same distant, reverential treatment, down to the shadows cast by a radio’s knobs in “AM/FM diptych.”
‘TIS WHAT SEASON? A visit to UCSB’s University Art Museum (UAM) will remind you that Halloween is just around the corner: On display through January 31, you’ll find an eclectic collection of images centered on the theme of death and dying. After Life’s got everything from Dali’s nightmarish visions to 19th-century post-mortem photography, as well as more contemporary musings on art as an examination of life and death. In a similar vein, Jillian Mcdonald’s video installation work, Horror Make-Up, consists of footage of the artist applying lurid zombie makeup to her face while riding on a subway, and was filmed without the knowledge of her fellow commuters.
Meanwhile, starting on November 4, an annual Santa Barbara tradition kicks off with Brad Nack’s 100% Reindeer Art Tour opening reception at Paul Cumes Fine Art Gallery (131 E. Anapamu St.) from 6-9 p.m. We’re the first stop before the show goes on to Brooklyn, Portland, and Miami, so Nack fans will want to seize the chance to add one more wacky reindeer to their collection, or at least sample the holiday ales.