The Arts Fund Gallery continues to mount impressive shows that demonstrate how active the contemporary art scene in our city really is. In the case of Stone Soup, the new group exhibition curated by and featuring the artists of Can(n)on Studios, that city is … Goleta. Since 2010, Can(n)on’s open-plan workspace for artists located in Old Town has been a powerful source of new work and new ideas, with husband-and-wife team Kimberly Hahn and James Van Arsdale leading the way.
Stone Soup is actually the second show for the Can(n)on Studios artists as a group, although the roster of artists has changed since they were last featured at SBCC’s Atkinson Gallery. This installation, which was done by the artists with help and inspiration from Arts Fund boardmember Nancy Gifford, makes brilliant use of the former fish store in the Funk Zone.
On the wall immediately across from the gallery entrance, UCSB’s Elizabeth Folk has installed two of her characteristically provocative, mind-bending pieces, each with a story to tell. “You’ll Never Work in This Town Again” (2016) is an abstract version of a pillory, that medieval punishment device which held wrongdoers by the neck and both wrists so that passersby could ridicule and abuse them. In Folk’s 21st-century aestheticized version, the heavy wooden structure has the clean white surfaces and geometric anonymity of a modernist object, but with one unsettling exception — a thin strand of birdseed marking the line where the upper and lower bars of the pillory meet. It’s an interesting variation on the familiar format of the triptych, and it invites viewers to imagine what it might be like to wear the device’s collar and cuffs. Next to the pillory on the wall, the artist has placed a second triptych, this time with three small video screens set inside a broad frame covered in tiny strips of decoupaged shredded newsprint. “Slooot” (2015/16) examines many of the same ideas present in the pillory next to it — public shaming, the need to disappear, and the use of force in capturing people’s attention.
Marco Pinter’s “Pas de Trois: Adagio” (2016) is, as its title indicates, also a kind of triptych, or at least a trio. Pinter’s fascination with dance has, in this instance, led him to animate objects through the use of robotic motors and electronics. Following a program scripted by the artist, a heavy rope, four light scarves, and an unseen object poking nearly through a stretched piece of cloth move together, at some times in unison, and at others in counterpoint. There’s a charming connection here between the interactive robotic present and the modernist heritage that includes Magritte and Duchamp. Rafael Gaete also has a single work in the show, and it’s spectacular. “72 Colors” (2015) is a giant (72”x96”) grid painting of geometric colored verticals against a fuzzed-out black-and-white background, and it’s unquestionably one of the most exciting paintings to be shown in Santa Barbara this year. On the basis of “72 Colors,” Gaete belongs in the elite of area abstractionists — it’s a tour de force of rhythm, balance, and control.
Kimberly Hahn’s “Disconnected #1/3” (2016) haunts the viewer with remnants of a difficult relationship between a father and a daughter (not the artist’s own, but an acquaintance). Finally, James Van Arsdale continues his custom car cruise through the iconography of heavy metal and its fans with two works, “Metal Shield Arc Bolt” (2015) and “Spinning Brass Knuckles with Throwing Star” (2015), and they are a pair of aces.