As the West Coast summer heats up, Santa Barbarans can cool down with a visit to see CA Cool, the current exhibit at Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery. The show’s curator, Jeremy Tessmer, has culled pieces all made by California artists since the 1950s that to him represent the Golden State’s ability to “monopolize coolness.” His goal for CA Cool is to intrigue viewers and introduce new ways of interpretation, hopefully attracting a younger demographic to the world of art. The exhibition certainly demonstrates the ingenuity and talent that Californians have brought to modernist and minimalist art.
The commanding centerpiece of the show is “Monolith,” a massive resin and plywood sculpture by artist John McCracken. The piece’s dark indigo surface is so pristinely glassy that it gives the illusion of both transparency and depth. According to gallery owner Frank Goss, McCracken left “Monolith” to the landlord of his studio to compensate for back rent. Decades later, the piece was acquired by Sullivan Goss; a signature and date were discovered on the bottom of the sculpture, and the incredible value of it was revealed.
Another piece that demands attention is Ken Bortolazzo’s stainless-steel creation titled “Wave.” Upon a light touch, three rippling metal strips extending from the wall on nearly frictionless bearings undulate with a motion as fluid as real waves, and the light reflections and shadows the piece casts on the wall echo the surging surface of an ocean. Santa Barbara native Bortolazzo contributes a flowing movement to CA Cool that integrates beautifully with the rest of the show.
Overall, the exhibit displays a vast range of styles and media — from the abstract, line-oriented paintings of Sidney Gordin, Jules Engel, and Herbert Bayer to the infinitely detailed Prismacolor drawings of Jean Donald Swiggett. A number of sculptures are included, too, such as the work of Ken Price and Alex Rasmussen, as well as R. Nelson Parrish’s bio-resin. Some pieces embrace surf and skate culture — Hank Pitcher’s vibrant painting of a Wayne Rich surfboard and Funk Zone artist Dan Levin’s glittering, blue skateboard piece titled “Rod.”
Another standout is David Flores’s “Louis 1,” in which the artist took a 1950s photo of Louis Armstrong and modified it by painting over the face in a blue-toned version of his signature mosaic style that illustrates his background in graphic design. Louis’s eyes gaze out from within the blue paint, creating a striking and fresh resurrection of vintage photography.
This unique collection in one of Santa Barbara’s best-known galleries is absolutely worth an excursion downtown this summer.
CA Cool runs through September 27 at Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery (7 E. Anapamu St.). For more information, call (805) 730-1460 or see sullivangoss.com.