NATURAL SELECTION: A weathered boot dangles by its lace from a water tap, and chains and padlocks drape a bed like a quilt. In Evolution, the loosely themed group show currently on view at Monlleo Gallery (327A S. Salinas St.), familiar objects appear transformed, mutated, and otherwise altered.
Those who remember the gallery in its former incarnation on upper De la Vina Street will be pleasantly surprised by its new airy quarters on the lower Eastside. For starters, it’s got a spacious second story, allowing ample space for the 56 pieces in this show. It’s also got a small side room, currently devoted to Keith Puccinelli’s installation “Security Blanket.” You’d be excused for experiencing mild claustrophobia upon entering this low-ceilinged, eight-by-twelve-foot space where a single bare bulb illuminates the aforementioned single bed, a side table bearing a distressed Styrofoam cup and a copy of Homer’s Odyssey, and a pair of men’s shoes tucked neatly side by side as if waiting for their owner to return. There are obvious echoes of Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” here, but “Security Blanket” is less vulgar and more threatening, evoking everything from torture to a future where even one’s own sleeping body has to be protected from theft.
On the ground floor of the main space, a lumpy black serpent coils around a white cube. Follow its sinuous form up and you’ll find it’s actually one appendage of a mobile that’s suspended from the ceiling. This is Tera Galanti’s “Untitled Sound,” one of three hanging works by the Cal Poly professor included in this show. All three are made of knit fabric and stuffed like sock puppets, and they all dangle with a heavy fleshiness, odd tentacles and patches giving them the appearance of sewing projects gone awry, or sea creatures not yet fully evolved.
Among the contributors to this show are plenty of names S.B. art lovers will recognize, among them Dane Goodman, Bill McVicar, Brad Nack, Susan Tibbles, and Dug Uyesaka. But there are also works by emerging artists, such as recent SBCC grad Marlene Ruvalcaba, whose untitled work incorporates an ostrich egg balanced in a nest of wood shavings and moss. The egg is pierced with holes through which golden light radiates. Nearby hangs Wayne McCall’s digital print “Homage to Charles,” in which the father of evolution himself sits surrounded by jawbones and fossils, his stern gaze taking it all in.
DESIGN WITH FLAIR: Landscape architect and interior designer Thomas Chock is a relative newcomer to Santa Barbara, but he’s already shaking things up. After years in the design industry in Hawai‘i, he’s eager to share his knowledge with the public and encourage collectors to branch out a little. Chock’s new Design Infusion Gallery (826 E. Cota St.) occupies a spacious warehouse just off Milpas Street, and it’s set up to give visitors a sense of how the contemporary art on view there might complement a home.
The fun starts before you’ve even entered the main space. On a table in the entryway stand three blown-glass vases with almost impossibly narrow necks. These delicate pieces with retro flair are from the studio of North Carolina glass artist Devin Burgess, and their frosted appearance comes from sandblasting.
From the entryway, you’ll step through one of Chock’s prize pieces—a sliding bank vault door from the early 20th century—and into the gallery itself. Here you’ll discover incredible Chinese-inspired screens by Florida-based artist Ted Lincoln, who paints with Sumi ink and acrylic paint on rice paper, then mounts the work on an aluminum panel and shellacs it with automotive paint. The resultant works are luminous, the black ink bleeding its feathery pattern across the white paper. In each piece, Lincoln incorporates a bar code and serial number, giving a contemporary twist to the calligraphy of traditional Chinese paintings.
There’s lots more here to take in, from Stoughton Outlan’s acid-treated steel works to the marquetry furniture of Paul Schürch, whose game table is inlaid with flowers. If you’re lucky, Chock might show you the back room, where he keeps everything from a submarine door hatch to Plexiglas mobiles. What Chock really can’t hide is his enthusiasm for everything from flower arranging to fine art. “I want to help people create unique environments,” he explained.