The importance of the Funk Zone as a distinct neighborhood within Santa Barbara has always been related to the diversity of the creative output that was centered there. And while recent property developments have accelerated the gentrification that is inevitable there, the old Funk Zone is not dead. In fact, a good bit of it has been distilled into a wonderful new exhibition at GONE Gallery on Gray Avenue.
GONE Gallery is one of Santa Barbara’s most beautiful exhibition spaces and is proof that there are still little-known treasures to be discovered in the Funk Zone. The current exhibition, titled Made You Look, features works by 12 artists who take part in the culture of, or are inspired by, graffiti, so it is fitting that the exhibition spills out onto the street. Trenton Rossi’s large metal sculpture greets you as you approach the space. The work is a striking juxtaposition between the fluidity and lightness of forms that suggest plumes of smoke and the rusted heavy-metal essence of the materials. Next to this, on a large rollaway door facing the street, is an expertly crafted mural by Danny Meza, with the artist’s mastery of spray paints on full display.
From here, the exhibition is a cacophony of visual stimulation — a reminder of just how varied and diverse this kind of art can be. As you enter the space, there is a small outdoor section with Wallace Piatt’s super-sized sculptural homage to Warhol’s iconic pop-art soup can. Beyond that, a wall installation by Jerico Woggon brings to mind the Dynaton paintings of Lee Mullican. This is surrounded by the uniquely stylized urban landscapes of David J. Diamant, which help to ensure that every inch of exterior wall space is covered with something to see. Next to this is a large graphic painting by the artist Columnz, whose three smaller paintings installed inside the gallery were a clear favorite on opening night.
The indoor section of the gallery houses floor-to-ceiling wall murals in every direction but one. A single wall offers a more traditional gallery installation with a beautiful painting by Meza, Diamant’s very successful multilayered Plexiglass paintings, 2D pop art by Piatt, and some of the strongest work yet by Skye Gwilliam.
But a traditional gallery experience is not what this show is about. Covering the entirety of the back wall of the gallery is a wonderfully decadent collaboration between Gwilliam and Matt Rodriguez. To the right of that are murals by Uriel Leon and Kyle Navarro, followed by a wall by John Federico, on which hang framed graffiti drawings by Trenton Rossi, which are shocking if only because they are so distinct from the sculpture outside.
Among all this, in the center of the room, is a seemingly out-of-place sculptural installation by Matt Allison. The piece is made from graffiti paraphernalia like ladders and buckets that are used when this kind of art is created in a “less sanctioned” environment. Perched atop this equipment are arrangements of blue-tinted flowers, their colors and arrangements inspired by actual graffiti found along Mission Creek. It is a clever and beautiful interpretation of this generally brash and unsubtle aesthetic.
Clearly this exhibition is not for everyone. Nor is it meant to be. However, if you are curious, willing to learn, or already interested in a kind of urban-inspired art that is hard to find in our town, then this is the single-best place to see it in recent memory, possibly ever. For anyone who is interested in having a comprehensive understanding of the full artistic output of our community at this moment in time, it is required viewing.