Got Down

While indeed I was an active participant in last month’s edition of the uber-cool, warmer weather, monthly arts event in North Adams, it’s been a bit since arts indie has taken a more inclusive tour of the spaces showing artwork along the Main Street route that generally defines DownStreet Art.  This version, the last occurring in summer proper of 2015, was a super opportunity to take in more of what was available to view on walls, floors, pedestals, tables, and other surfaces.

As a whole, each month’s round of exhibits doesn’t specifically follow a unified theme from event to event, but this time out, it may be said that many of the shows, particularly the ones we visited, seemed to gather around identity and how one’s self relates to, and integrates with, a larger faction.

Our first stop was a short stroll over to the MASS MoCA campus for an Artist’s Salon featuring ceramicist Roberto Lugo at Ferrin Contemporary.  Lugo’s show, “Ghetto Garniture:  Wu Tang Worcester”, is the culmination of his recent residency at Project Art in Cummington, MA.  The exhibit, ultimately a collaboration of supergroup proportions, centers around Lugo’s ceramic work with direct hands-on input from an enthusiastic bevy of supporters, which include Jose Bartroli, Charlie Cunningham, Yelizaveta Masalimova Cunningham, Chase Gamblin, Alexandra Jelleberg, Ashley Lugo, Melanie Mowinski, John Polak, Leo Quiles, Eric Smith, Mat Tomezsko, and Bill Wright.

"Ghetto Garniture"

"Ghetto Garniture"

The work brings together vivid biographical/autobiographical elements and customary European ceramic forms, as well as photography and painting, in a whole that is at once reverential, playful, and actively activist.  85 pieces were created in 8 weeks in a monumental undertaking that fuses improvisational methods with traditional studio technique.

"Ghetto Garniture"

"Ghetto Garniture"

Lugo’s presentation, which included supporting video work, moved through an introspective look back to the needle-infested playgrounds where he grew up and onward to building an artistic process that adds considerably to conversations in several genres. Historical icons and a personal contemplation with status symbol bling are juxtaposed with 19th century European decorative patterning; collaboratively created teapots hold eminent space in a gallery full of pedestaled jars, mugs, plates, sculptural pieces, urns, vases, and wall art.  The three-piece Garniture set for which the show is named is a good example of Lugo’s deft yet playful melding of hip-hop culture with traditional ceramics; along with the customary tea pot, Lugo fashioned a matching mortar and pestle as well as a coordinating bong.  Functional belts, chains, and cups in a fine Worcester approach walk side-by-side with resourcefulness and adaptation.

"Ghetto Garniture"

"Ghetto Garniture"

"Ghetto Garniture"

“Ghetto Garniture:  Wu Tang Worcester” will be on view at Ferrin Contemporary through October 12.  Future events to be held at the gallery in conjunction with the exhibit include “CLAY IS HOT! Worcester–Wu Tang, Museums as Muse”, a discussion with the artist and museum curators on October 3, 3PM, as well as a follow-up “Dish & Dine”; dinner the same evening at 6PM with the artist and his collaborators.

"Ghetto Garniture"

Beyond Ferrin Contemporary, we sauntered over to the C Gallery, located at 33 Main Street, the same corner space formerly occupied by the NAACO (North Adams Artists’ Co-Operative) Gallery.  Julian Grey’s fabulously fluid personal thesis on gender identity is currently the featured show there.

"Persona"

"Persona"

Here we see two series of wonderfully flamboyant, star-grade self-portraits composed in various North Adams area locales that exude a panoramous range of expression from sultry to playful to contemplative revelation; image after beautiful image give an impression that seems as if the piece were almost created as a promo shot for a movie.

"Persona"

"Persona"

"Persona"

With a generous helping of noir-like approach juxtaposed with spiritedly supportive props, the work is very effective in evoking a sense of both freedom and contemplative activism towards enlightenment and understanding.  The umbrella title for the show is “Persona”, while the two series are “Voyeurisme” and “Curb Appeal.”

"Persona"

Our timing in our arrival at the show was such that the popular artist was thoroughly engaged in conversation throughout, but patience won out and we were able to make acquaintance; very pleased to hear that arts indie’s reputation preceded itself and to have a chance to briefly connect dots with this super-respected member of the community of photographers.

"Persona"

"Persona"

After exchanging adieus, we moved eastward with a sense of melancholy, recalling that our next stop of interest was to the opening of the very last show to be held at PRESS.  “Printmaking @ PRESS” is a retrospective show featuring a fine and storied selection of work created by students, interns, and others that have satellited the venerable print-making venue over the course of the past 5 years.

"Printing @ PRESS"

"Printing @ PRESS"

"Printing @ PRESS"

"Printing @ PRESS"

The selection process was understandably a very difficult one for this show, but having seen a good many of the previous exhibits here, I can say a fine retrospective this one is.  From Day of the Dead-inspired mandalas to words of wisdom condolences, the well-attended sendoff ran off very well indeed.  And I was very pleasantly surprised to see an “Exquisite Corpse Book” on one pedestal; a nice tie-in and continuity builder to the previous two arts indie blogs.

"Printing @ PRESS"

"Printing @ PRESS"

"Printing @ PRESS"

Then next-door it was to Gallery 51 for an identity experience of a veritable inside out nature.  “eat me alive so that I may see you from the inside” at turns intentionally disguises, disgusts, and discourses laxative fashion in joyfully Technicolor flourishes paired with tones of onyx and saddle-soared drink umbrella accents.  Giddy-up and gallop through Little Shops and bedspring dreams reflected and shadowed on walls and floor charts to identify with…or not…

"eat me alive so that i may see you from the inside"

"eat me alive so that i may see you from the inside"

"eat me alive so that i may see you from the inside"

"eat me alive so that i may see you from the inside"

"eat me alive so that i may see you from the inside"

"eat me alive so that i may see you from the inside"

"eat me alive so that i may see you from the inside"

The exhibit showcases the work of Maggie Nowinski, Alicia Renadette, and Torsten Zenas Burns working in commentary fashion, obsessed even, with the contemporary hell-in-a-bucket…

"eat me alive so that i may see you from the inside"

At this point, time was running short on the allotted time slot for the event, so it seemed appropriate to make good headway in a quicker fashion to the most eastward facility hosting and participating in the string of shows.

Berkshire Artist Museum

Image courtesy of the Berkshire Artist Museum.

Berkshire Artist Museum

Image courtesy of the Berkshire Artist Museum.

It’s a pleasure and an honor to have my latest series of work receive recognition, and ultimately validation with the paint barely dry on the canvas.  It’s been more than a degree or two that I’ve felt a satisfying measure of enthusiasm over my brushed on paint.  This feels pretty good and is especially sweet to be in such fine company with colleagues that share strong mutual respect; we had a wonderful time hanging out and chatting with Sean McCusker and Scott Taylor.

Berkshire Artist Museum

Berkshire Artist Museum

Along with McCusker, Taylor, and myself, Robert LaFond and Ivor Parry are also represented with fabulous examples of their work in the Fresh Paint Gallery.

Berkshire Artist Museum

The Berkshire Classics Group Show in the adjoining room features work by Larry Alice, Kay Canavino, Colleen Surprise Jones, John Maziarz, Michael McKay, Linda O’Brien, Opie O’Brien, David Ricci, and Bill Riley.

Berkshire Artist Museum

Berkshire Artist Museum

Berkshire Artist Museum

Berkshire Artist Museum

Berkshire Artist Museum

Both exhibits run until the end of the museum’s season in October.

My piece, “Censorship Hypocrisy”, shown during the last edition of DownStreet Art in the Fresh Paint Gallery is also still on view longterm in another room of the building.

Berkshire Artist Museum

Ahhh…  What a great evening this was!  So glad to live in an area with such an amazing array of talent and many and various opportunities to see their work in a multitude of outstanding venues!

Article by Leo Mazzeo.  Photographs and images by Leo Mazzeo except where indicated.