A funny thing happened on the way to the reopening of downtown Santa Barbara following the COVID-19 crisis. For years, if not decades, Santa Barbara artists have lamented the fact that, despite a preponderance of distinguished fine art collections in the city’s proliferation of lavish domestic spaces, collectors have — with few exceptions — tended to purchase their art elsewhere. Now it seems that, along with what has been described as a significant backlog of unfilled orders for new furniture, there is something of a rush to collect art through Santa Barbara galleries and, in many instances, by Santa Barbara artists.
Case in point: Maria Rendón’s solo debut show at Sullivan Goss Gallery, Rain, which opened on Thursday, April 1, is well on its way to an 80 or even a 90 percent sell-through rate, with the largest (and most expensive) works promised to buyers before they hit the gallery walls. Rendón, who was born in Mexico City and holds fine arts degrees from Universidad Anáhuac, Art Center College of Design, and UCSB, seems to have struck a chord with the community with this show, which was inspired, in part, by the rain that created 2019’s super bloom event. Several years in the making, these brightly colored and exquisitely layered abstractions radiate a sophisticated sensibility that’s equal parts cosmopolitan and spiritual, a perfect combination for the present moment.
Elsewhere in the downtown arts district anchored by the Arlington, the Granada, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, two other outstanding galleries are pursuing the rising market for contemporary art. The newest destination on the map, the Thomas Reynolds Gallery at 1331 State Street, arrives by way of San Francisco. Reynolds is an experienced dealer specializing in California artists who inhabit the border between representational and abstract work. He has dressed up the space with vintage desks, a handsome carpet, and several dozen works by artists such as Stevan Shapona, Terry Miura, Sandy Ostrau, Ken Auster, and Francis Livingston. Equipped with a comprehensive knowledge of California realism and an impeccable pedigree of success in the Bay Area, Reynolds fills an important niche in our art ecosystem. Like the great Frank Goss, founder of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Reynolds bears personal knowledge of the history of art in California with wit and grace. He’s sure to be a major resource for those seeking to better understand what forces have shaped our common aesthetic.
Down the block and around the corner at 10 West Anapamu Street, Jan Ziegler provides an invaluable service to some of the city’s most accomplished artists by curating the shows at 10 West Gallery. 10 West employs a different business model from that of most other commercial art galleries, in that it meets expenses through a cooperative dues-paying membership, rather than through sales, although sales are, of course, a key aspect of keeping the members artists happy. Here’s where you will find some of Santa Barbara’s most experienced and ambitious creators displaying their latest work. Lisa Crane, Madeleine Garrett, Pamela Grau, and Pat McGinnis are just some of the artists currently on view, and all of them are working at the height of their considerable powers. As of the pandemic, all of the work that’s on view in the physical space can also be seen on the 10 West website, a decision prompted by both the reduced hours necessitated by quarantine and the increasing prevalence of online sales. The gallery has also recently leased a display window on State Street next to Old Navy, so make sure to check that out next time you are prowling the downtown arts district pedestrian mall.