Sunday, December 26, 2010


No, it's not Santa's eighth reindeer. The R. Blitzer Gallery, over on the west side, is the best-kept art secret in Santa Cruz. Occupying a vast, spacious loft area in part of the old Wrigley Building, this impressive space—less than a year old—is a new resource for local art lovers. Genial proprietor Robert Blitzer originally rented the space as a studio for building his own massive metal sculptures, but in recent months he has generously made it available for public art exhibits. Which is great news for the rest of us in a county bubbling over with artists, yet chronically short of designated art spaces.

Some 34 local artists are represented in the current Blitzer show, Art for Art. Originally scheduled as a weekend show earlier this month to benefit the Santa Cruz Artists' Assistance & Relief Fund (SCAARF), the Art for Art exhibit is held over by popular demand for the rest of this year and on through First Friday (Jan 7) in the new year. Now that the first wave of holiday madness is over, if you have some quality time to spare, I suggest you run right out and see it.

Of course, there are strengths and weaknesses in a show of this size, with so many artists working in a variety of media —painting, glass, sculpture, encaustic, ceramics, photography, assemblage and installation. But there's plenty to love, as well. I was mesmerized by Coeleen Kiebert's series of "Scouts" and "Navigators." In these ceramic sculptures, figures with piquant faces in steampunk goggles and gear-studded helmets float through weirdly organic, distressed Art Nouveau-type structures of flowering tubes in metallic colors (copper; patina green) that might be kelp beds underwater (or in deep space), prison bars, or labyrinths of the mind. These pieces pass the first essential test of successful art—they invite you to keep looking, and you find there's always more to see.

Intriguing too are the playful new figurative paintings of D. Hooker. (That's one of her new images, up top, used to publicize the show.) Best known for her close-up portraits of "real and imagined" subjects, her fresh, cheeky mixed-media paintings on wooden boards and cigar boxes, have plenty of attitude and brio. Jenny Morten shows an array of her evocative, sculptural porcelain bowls with their distinctive pinched or scalloped edges, many incorporating subtle citrus colors (lemon; tangerine) to complement her traditional palette of aqua and pale green.

Color and texture pop in Jim MacKenzie's abstract Graffiti series of photographic images laminated onto board. David Fleming offers a selection of loosely rendered, almost impressionistic new landscapes and cityscapes. Assemblages range from Jack Howe's surreal doll-and-found-object pieces to the precise, formalized, monochromatic work of Victoria May. Large installations are contributed by fabric wizard Kathleen Crocetti and Ned Greene. And this is just a fraction of the show. Plan to spend some time and wander around; there's a lot to see.

This is the third exhibit from Art For Art, an organization co-founded and co-directed by D. Hooker and mixed-media photographer Sara Friedlander to curate shows that raise money for the Santa Cruz arts community. Earlier this year, the group lunched SCAARF, a companion organization set up to assist local artists experiencing a career-threatening emergency by providing grants and resources. 20% of all sales at the Blitzer show go to SCAARF. Donations are also accepted at the gallery, and online. Read all about it here.

Then hie thee off to the Blitzer Gallery and check it out. (Here's the map.) Gallery hours are 10 am to noon, and 2 pm to 5 pm. Mon-Thurs this week (Dec 27–30), and Mon-Fri next week (Jan 3-7). The Closing Night reception will be Friday, Jan 7, from 5-9 pm, but trust me, by then it will be way too packed with artists, patrons, and bonhomie to see anything. So, to paraphrase the immortal words of The Moody Blues, if you wanna see the show, darlin', you better go now!

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