<em>BUILDING BEATERS:</em> Colin Gray’s new series <em>Museum for One</em> challenges the hegemony of the iconic postmodern museum space.

Despite the dark clouds on our national political horizon, Santa Barbara’s art scene this holiday season is more vibrant than ever. Successive nights of celebratory shows in the Arts District (1st Thursday) and in the Funk Zone (Art Walk Friday) revealed thriving subcultures surfacing in places both expected and unexpected. At the epicenter of the 1st Thursday art quake in the Arts District was Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery (11 E. Anapamu St.), where the eighth annual 100 Grand show attracted a record crowd of artists, their well-wishers, and more than a few buyers. The simple concept — 100 works of art all priced at $1,000 or less — brings together a broad range of artisans, and it puts equal emphasis on creating a market for emerging artists and offering collectors a shot at something affordable by the more established. From delicate abstractions such as Fred Wolf’s “Pulse II” to multiple glorious square seascapes by Nicole Strasburg, there’s plenty of work to choose from for every taste. The best of 100 Grand goes fast: Susan Tibbles’s adorable collage portrait of Buttercup, the young Masai giraffe born at the Santa Barbara Zoo in 2014, is, like its subject, already promised to a happy new home.

Across State Street inside Suite 6 at number 1221, you can find a selection of Pamela Larsson’s superbly crafted compositions hanging at Lady McClintock Photography Studio & Art Gallery. If you love traditional oil portraiture and/or poetry, this show is for you. The artist puts her exquisite old-master-style technique in the service of a distinctly contemporary sensibility, and the results are memorable. Larsson will return to greet the public and rotate through other recent work on January 5, 2017, and again on February 2.

The Fuzion Gallery and Boutique (1115 State St.) stakes its reputation on stocking the highest-quality artist-made glassware, but this month there’s an art show that even ought to bring in customers who wouldn’t know a titanium nail from a Beagle bubbler. Martin Diaz has nine paintings in Darkness, a show that demonstrates his skill in deploying black-on-black tones to create geometric images. The three pieces in his Flair series represent some serious value, and, for the high roller in search of the ultimate in holiday wall jewelry, check out the two big ones: “Black Void 3” and “Black Panther.”

In search of sustenance and holiday cheer, we next landed at Roy (7 W. Carrillo St.), where Dan Levin was throwing a one-man one-night stand of his endlessly clever and soulful assemblage work. Fortunately, the show, which is called Please Don’t Touch the Art, will be up for the rest of the month, although the cache of Levinabilia, including his Trump toilet paper, was only around for an evening.

The following night saw another wave of openings crash over the Funk Zone, where Philip Koplin curated Night Thoughts for the Arts Fund Gallery (205-C Santa Barbara St.). This group show includes work by some of our city’s most revered contemporary artists, including sharp finds from the always interesting studio of Joan Tanner. One clear highlight was the Museum of One, a remarkable set of drawings and a sculpture by Colin Gray. This work, which represents the artist’s attempt to come to terms with the phenomenon of the museum as art object — as in Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao or the new Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles — takes seriously the challenge that art faces when competing with architecture for the attention of visitors. The fact that it’s on display in the Arts Fund’s humble yet cool spot, which was formerly a fish market, only makes it that much more appealing.

The days may be getting short, but that’s okay because then we have more night — and more great art to see in it.


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