Under the Radar — or on the Dashboard

Art Pop-Ups and Studio Visits Keep Santa Barbara’s Scene Alive

Credit: Courtesy

As we advance through the early stages of reopening, it’s been a pleasure to experience the more ephemeral, less capital-intensive art operations that have sprung up in and around Santa Barbara during the pandemic. In terms of sheer fluidity of approach, it’s going to be hard to top the CA53776V2 gallery that’s currently being curated by UCSB assistant professor of art Alex Lukas behind the windshield of his 2007 Ford Ranger. Every few days, Lukas chooses another single artwork to feature on his dashboard. People interested in visiting the gallery are invited to walk along the 300 block of West Anapamu Street until they spot a white pickup truck. The truck has a website — ca53776v2.gallery — and an Instagram account, @ca53776v2.gallery. Recently featured artists include Kim Beck, E. Saffronia Downing, Madeleine Ignon, Misael Soto, and Kareem Worrell. Soto’s “Little Redwoods” (2021) plays on those evergreen air fresheners that people hang from their rearview mirrors with mordant wit. 

Elisa Ortega Montilla’s Anatomias, 2021, reclaimed plywood and undergarments with steel | Photo Credit: Courtesy

I found the CA53776V2 gallery while it was parked at the Community Arts Workshop, where Elisa Ortega Montilla and Madeleine Ignon staged a pair of dazzling pop-ups on Friday, April 30. Since Ignon was also currently on view in the pickup, the result was that thing where an artist has two shows, and someone gets in the first show and drives it to the second show. Happens all the time, right? Ignon’s paintings are not like anything else I’ve seen, except maybe Francis Picabia’s more Dadaist work from the 1920s. The two have an interest in typography in common, and a reckless disregard for pictorial convention. Ignon’s in a complex relationship with yellow, and whether her work is on the wall or the dashboard, I look forward to seeing more of it soon.

Ortega Montilla’s Anatomies revealed an artist who has emerged from the pandemic on a new level of ambition and impact. It’s as though the compelling manipulation of discarded fiber in her earlier work has burst into flames. Everything radiates a provocative heat, from the plywood she’s layered, cut, and sanded to the reclaimed undergarments and lingerie embedded in it, all the way to the titles. The large mobile “Chocheras” (2021) puts Judy Chicago into a wry dialogue with Alexander Calder, with Ortega Montilla as the sphinxlike presence orchestrating their strange encounter. Her upcoming show at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art is called Objectifying. It opens on May 14, it will include lots of this new work, and it is a must-see.

Richard Aber’s Wall Work | Photo Credit: Courtesy

Richard Aber’s studio and property in the Summerland foothills remains one of the area’s most evocative art spaces. A tidy maze of temporary structures, an Airstream, and endless musings on the transcendental qualities of the trapezoid mark Aber as a member of the art tribe that stretches from James Turrell through Robert Irwin all the way back to Barnett Newman. I could not help but think of Newman’s series “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue” as I gazed deep into the mesmerizing patterns of Aber’s latest large paintings, which employ trapezoidal panels of fluorescent yellow, blue, and black to create vibrant soft panels that Aber refers to as “Wall Works.” In his workshop, he’s been building a series of models for a spectacular compound of light and space earthworks that, while they compare to Turrell’s, are all Aber’s own. Let’s hope that the right location comes along soon so that these extraordinary visions become a full-scale reality. To see what I mean, visit richardaber.com.


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