MAXIMUM SECURITY: It’s been said a writer isn’t ready to write a book until she’s read a thousand. If the same is true of making art, who’s better prepared than the people who spend their days surrounded by paintings, sculptures, and photographs? Now on view at The French Press (1101 State St.) are works by Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) security guards. The works included in Please Do Not Touch! Art by Those Who Guard It include wall sculptures and nature photographs, landscape paintings and portraits. Together, they show an awareness of the span of art history, from Rococo sensibility to post-modern social commentary.

Artist and curator Andi Garcia recently opened Ag2 Gallery at the popular downtown coffee spot and has big plans for a grand opening on Saturday, August 2, from 4-8pm. Her plan is to feature edgy urban art alongside work by emerging regional artists, and to put proceeds from the shows toward youth art scholarships. In the meantime, Please Do Not Touch! is on display through June 26.

There’s something deliciously Marxist about the very idea of security guard art, a theme Bill McVicar picks up in his diptych “Tools for De-Colonization.” Each of these acrylic paintings on masonite features a brick surrounded by shattered glass as if it’s just been lobbed through a window. The bricks carry messages scrawled on their sides. “OUR MINDS MAYBE” reads one; the other, “OUR HEARTS NEVER.” The artist’s spirit, it seems, will never be completely settled. Around the corner, an even smaller work bears out this message. In “The Artist (Siren Song),” a striped shirt floats in space, its arms outstretched as if an invisible sleepwalker wears it.

Less than a block up State Street, SBMA’s been busy in recent years developing its collection of contemporary photography. Meanwhile, security guard Bryan Toro has had one eye on museum visitors, the other on the viewfinder of his underwater camera. His works focus on scenes close to home yet unseen by most: towering kelp forests, brilliant orange garibaldi, and curious sea turtles. In “Playtime,” Toro captures seals just above the seafloor, their bodies swooping in graceful arcs. A layer of translucent gouache brushed over the surface gives the scene a painterly effect. Nearby, Steve Boyajian takes familiar scenes from nature and manipulates them with hallucinogenic effect. “Magic Forest” gives the San Simeon coastline a romantic, gauzy quality, while “Jesusita Swirl” transforms the front-country trail into a dizzy acid trip.

As you enter the café, look left for Will Ashe’s “Itar,” a rough plywood rendition of the Indian sitar with four strings and three whimsically placed holes. While you’re waiting for your Americano, try imagining the music it might play. As you’re pouring the cream, check out Charles Burggraf’s three very different paintings. “Fire and Water” is a scene straight out of sci-fi fantasy complete with a dragon hovering above a burning pier and a full moon casting its pale glow over the choppy sea, while “For Dana” places a couple in a bucolic garden setting, the gentleman in waistcoat and buckled shoes placing a rose in his lady’s basket. It’s the third work, “Please Don’t Touch,” that confirms this show’s self-referential edge. The subject of the portrait is dressed in a white suit, his pinstripe shirt unbuttoned at the neck, a gold watch peeking from beneath one sleeve. He stands with his elbow resting casually on a classic sculpture of a seated male figure, as if he might be hanging out in SBMA’s central atrium. There’s something decidedly off-putting about his pose, suggesting a disregard for the historical significance of the art he uses to supports his arm. Clearly, this guy figures he’s above museum rules.

To learn more about Garcia’s many projects and upcoming shows at Ag2 Gallery, Check out


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