An information onslaught awaits whenever I tune back in: breaking-news tweets, distressing headlines, discourses on our country’s deepening divides. Taking a break from the cyber storm, I recently visited Silo118 Art Gallery to view the current exhibit, Stepping into the Unknown, which consists of pieces by nine artists from Santa Barbara and Washington, D.C. Their genres range from installation to photography to figurative portraiture to imaginative abstraction, but all explore the political and social uncertainty of right now.
Immediately after entering the gallery — a tall, skinny, pink former grain silo — I was drawn to area artist and activist Nancy Gifford’s “Crazy Times,” a frenetic figure bursting from a straitjacket. Another standout is Max Gleason’s “Wish You Were Here,” a life-sized portrait of five men, their faces crinkled in camaraderie, the pigments of their skin bleeding into the white canvas like spilled wine. Three of the men, originally from Mexico and now working at a vineyard in Santa Ynez, attended the show’s opening on July 20.
Prolific self-trained artist Matt Sesow’s “Border Crossing” accentuates the work of fellow D.C. installation artist Alonzo Davis, whose bamboo boats float across a wall toward a blue neon circle. Symbols of diaspora are made powerfully concrete by Robin and Robert Jones’s stark black-and-white photography of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece and Antonio Arredondo Juarez’s wood-mounted pictures of California farmworkers.
Sol Hill’s “The Best Art Ever!” series makes an eye-catching statement, both in political satire and color theory. Painted with Cheeto dust and fake gold, his canvases sport Trumpian phrases such as “fake” and “bigly.” John White imaginatively altered newspapers poke fun at fake news. Using paints mixed with ash, Tom Pazderka confronts environmental change in “American Gothic,” his stunning mountainscapes and smoke clouds paying tribute to recent California wildfires.
Despite the serious nature of the show, curator Bonnie Rubenstein, who opened the gallery in November 2016, sees the collection as positive. “I think it’s provocative … thoughtful. People who come in here want to talk about what’s going on, and I always think that’s a good thing,” she said. Stepping into the Unknown will either boil your blood or fortify you in your fight, but above all, Rubenstein hopes, the show will stimulate dialogue.
The show runs through September 13, at 118 Gray Avenue. See silo118.com.