Wednesday, May 01, 2019

May 2019 Unicorn Of The Month: Tavarus Blackmon aka Blackmonster



Tavarus Blackmon aka Blackmonster, is a Sacramento based artist and a current Graduate Fellow at Headlands Center for the Arts. Blackmonster’s practice comprises painting bold canvases that are full of cultural, societal, and personal notions, and how they relate to larger questions in art movements. He works digitally, creating videos, time-based art, web-based projects, and digital collages and paintings. His work often references art history, particularly the Funk Art movement, which was a prominent artistic style in Northern California in the ‘60s and ‘70s. His conceptual practice also includes a vast collection of sound art and audio based projects.

He recently had a dual show with Kumasi Barnett entitled 
"THE AMAZING BLACK-MAN AND EXQUISITE DIVERSION" at Verge Center for the Arts in Sacramento California. For those of you outside the Sacramento, Northern California region reading this post that were not able to see the show in person, or were unaware of it, you really missed out. It was a visually intense show, and the work of Roy De Forest immediately came to mind. But that is where the similarities for me ended. Imagine if artist from "The Funk Movement " dealt with real shit: police violence, mass shootings, poverty, racism, you know the flip side of the American dream. But it's not all doom and gloom with Blackmon's work. From the large canvases, to the unnerving sounds to the gingerbread-man chalk outlines on the floor, the work teetered right on the edge of playful and " Jesus Christ this guy is DARK!"





His 2018 thesis from The University of California Davis, "The Politics of the Cartoon and Contemporary Art", he investigated the development of Outsider Art through the lens of Funk Art, Chicago-based Imagists, the Hairy Who and German Expressionism. He has exhibited at Shy Rabbit Gallery, Pagosa Springs, CO; The Midway, San Francisco, CA; American Steel Studios, Oakland, CA; The Center for Digital Art, Los Angeles, CA; Arc Gallery, Chicago, IL; FE Gallery, Sacramento, CA; BrickHouse Gallery, Sacramento, CA; the Blue Banana Video Art Festival in Berlin, Germany; and recently at Verge Center for the Arts, Sacramento, CA. He has an upcoming installation at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento for May’s Art Mix and a screening at SoundPedro, Earmaginations Sound Art Festival at the Angels Gate Cultural Center in San Pedro, CA. He is a current Graduate Fellow at Headlands Center for the Arts.


To view more of his work, visit his Website, and his Instagram Page. And check out his manifesto: Black-Monster Review.

Monday, April 01, 2019

April 2019 Unicorn Of The Month: Rafael Vega

Rafael has an enviable studio space in NYC and I frequently tell him so on Instagram.

Like last months Unicorn Edra Soto, Rafael Vega is School of the Art Institute of Chicago alumni. Since Rafael is the third SAIC alumni to be featured on this blog, it may seem like I am a bit biased toward artists from my alma mater. The truth is I am, and I am ok with that! 

Vega lives and works in New York and Puerto Rico. After completing his BS-Industrial Chemistry (2003) and BA-Painting (2007) at the University of Puerto Rico, he received his MFA with a major in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012.



Untitled. Acrylic, charcoal, canvas on panel. 24 x 18 in. 2018
Untitled. Acrylic, charcoal, canvas on canvas. 64 x 48 in. 2016

One of the many aspects that I enjoy about this portion of the blog is learning about the influence of other artists. When I look at Rafael's work I can instantly see the influence of icons like Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. The way that Rafael cuts and slashes the canvas and really trashes the surface, in a good way, strongly references Lucio Fontana. On this blog I try to feature artists who, like Rafael, contribute to conversation of art history, in a way that looks back and forward at the same time. 


Untitled. Acrylic, charcoal, canvas on canvas. 64 x 48 in. 2018
Untitled. Acrylic, charcoal, canvas on panel. 24 x 18 in. 2018
Back in 2011, I sat down with my friend Jose for a full top to bottom, nuts & blots interview about his life and his practice. It was one of the most fulfilling, and viewed posts from the Unicorn Shop! But it took me a whole month to transcribe and edit and tweak before I posted it. I really wish I had time to conduct full interviews again, and an intern who could transcribe and post them, but sadly at this point I don't. Maybe in the future I will come up with some sort of standard questionnaire. Until then, below is a portion from Phaidon's Vitamin P3, " Why I Paint" series that. 

Who are you? ...I always wanted to be a scientist; first a paleontologist, then an archaeologist, a nuclear physicist, astrophysicist, etc: Every option highly influenced by the Science section in the Sunday newspapers I read as a kid. But at the same time, for which I have no explanation, I also wanted to be a painter. So I went to college, completed my chemistry major and almost immediately started my fine arts education.

What's on your mind right now? Everything and huge moments of nothing. I'm easily distracted, kind of like a cat. That's why I say "everything and huge moments of nothing." Recently, I was really concerned with how to read faster, how to be more efficient when it comes to reading a book. My main problem is not just that I spend too long on one page, it's that subsequently I spend like two hours pulling, pushing, and forcing weird connections from sports to arts to science. At that point, my mind looks like a nautical chart, and I have to re-read the same page. It's not an eternal cycle, but it definitely slows things down. Every day I have to confront several unfinished books and their judgmental silence.

Untitled. Acrylic, charcoal, canvas on panel. 24 x 18 in. 2018
Untitled. Acrylic, charcoal, canvas on panel. 24 x 18 in. 2018
Detail


How do you get this stuff out? Putting it out is the easy part. Putting it out in a way that makes sense to you (the artist, that first and contaminated viewer) and at the same time can fit into an external narrative, that's different, that's the balancing act.

How does it fit together? In general, I maintain tons of distance and skepticism, a kind of apprehensive state in which you are not too close or far from your ruminations. It helps build some awareness and a sense of editing, and not just editing during the making, but beforehand. What's relevant? What's just fog? Remember the nautical chart? Well, this strategy is really helpful for me. In terms of my paintings, I have a kind of fragile genealogy or lineage of shapes that, with a specific and immediate context, become forms pertinent to me: a personal mythology. Every new painting should - or at least I expect it to - question the previous one. It must force its immediate past into a state of "vibration" (try to imagine a delocalized electron), by small tweaks, never too dramatic. It must question its assumptions/urgencies/resistances/negations not for the instant gratification an answer can provide, but because that's the only way for a painting to breathe and be pertinent. A painting becomes a moving target, similar to what the theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman calls 'an adjacent possible'.


What brought you to this point? Patience, plenty of time in the studio, and discipline. Doing, doing, doing. Lots of sketches and notes.

Can you control it? Well, there's no absolute answer for that. Where in the equation should we put training (self-taught or art school), muscle memory, taste, etc? That educated intuition seems to have a prefixed set of solutions depending on the problem, solutions that keep emerging/repeating from painting to painting. I could say ‘yes,’ if a certain impulse or urgency is added, but we can also spend an infinite amount of time identifying the burden of proof for each argument.

Have you ever destroyed one of your paintings? The kind of destruction that looks for the total oblivion of the image or picture? Nope. Honestly, I don't recall ever destroying any painting. For sure pentimento (alteration), but no destruction per se.

What's next for you, and what's next for painting? No idea.


To view more of Rafael's work, visit his Website, and his Instagram Page. He was also featured in
Vitamin P3 - New Perspectives in Painting, so be sure and get your copy.

Friday, March 01, 2019

March 2019 Unicorn Of The Month: Edra Soto

An exhibition view at the Chicago Cultural Center with work by Edra Soto and Yhelena Hall.

This months unicorn is Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist, educator, curator, co-director of the outdoor project space THE FRANKLIN, and School of The Art Institute of Chicago alumni art powerhouse Edra Soto! She recently collaborated with artist Yhelena Hall on a major show at The Chicago Cultural center entitled "Forgotten Forms" and was recently featured in Newcity's annual Art 50 issue Chicago's Artists' Artists. 

For her exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center, she revisits Puerto Rico’s vernacular architecture through her GRAFT installations and architectural interventions.


"GRAFT is an ongoing project representative of vernacular architectural interventions that take the form of immersive installations and accompanying publications. Citing structures known as quebrasoles and rejas found prominently in Puerto Rico, GRAFT physically interconnects this existing architecture to a site specific place while conceptually representing an imaginary transplant or migratory gesture. The ductile nature of this architecture, which marks domestic space, allows for the representation of multiple states of visibility and invisibility. These architectural elements permeated my home and urban surroundings in Puerto Rico and as a result the fractal geometry of these structures inevitably became a part of my visual lexicon."


Visitors peering through Edra Soto's work. Sculpture by Yhelena Hall.
Edra Soto and Yhelena Hall.

Quebrasoles are ornamental concrete blocks arranged in decorative patterns used to create shade from the sun and are more often than not complimented by rejas, wrought iron fences or screens that act as a protective barrier between the street and the home. In his book, La Ciudad de Los Balcones, author Edwin R. Quiles Rodriguez notes how the use of reja complement the layout of working-class residences made of concrete. In a recent essay about GRAFT, Albert Stabler highlights, “these residences were adapted from the Yoruba dwellings of African slaves, which were developed in Haiti and then migrated abroad with hacienda owners after the slaves revolted.”

The manifestation of these patterns in artistic form is not uncommon among Caribbean artists. While quebrasoles and rejas are popularly recognized in Puerto Rican’s visual culture, there is little exploration or research on the origin of these patterns. Contrary to the inundated familiarity of colonial architecture, vernacular architecture has yet to be included as an exploratory subject in primary and secondary education in the Caribbean. A significant aspect of GRAFT uncovers and honors the history that has been accepted rather than explained.


A close up shot of Edra's work.
Each iteration of GRAFT includes a literary component.The content is published in both
English and Spanish and is available to the public as hard copies, publications and a pdf.

Professor Jorge Ortiz Colom’s monograph, The African Influence in the Design Build Edification of Puerto Rico, states that criollo architecture, which incorporates quebrasoles and rejas, originated from sub-Saharan Africa through the population brought to Puerto Rico as slaves to work plantations during the rise of colonization. He argues that this influence is largely overlooked by historians due to the impression that, “Africans could not transplant their ancestral ways of life under the inhumane conditions of their transfer, and the lack of freedom in their new home.” It was previously thought that this decorative architecture was an amalgamation of European features that had undergone a topicalization through the Western lens. Due to the growing commercial sugar trade between the U.S. and Puerto Rico in the late 19th century the “style” of criolla architecture was rampantly appropriated in the Southern U.S. and according to Ortiz-Colom sometimes even purchased outright as entire homes and relocated to the U.S.

"GRAFT allows me to expand the multidisciplinary aspects of the project and explore visibility by providing a format that can be disseminated beyond the gallery experience. Each iteration of GRAFT includes a literary component. Writers from disciplines of art history, art, architecture, politics and others are invited to reflect on rejas in the contexts of their individual fields of expertise. The content is published in both English and Spanish and is available to the public as hard copies, publications and a pdf. The elements of GRAFT are specific to each space and sometimes include a shelter reminiscent of a bus stop acting as a functional representation that serve as benches for visitors to sit and read the accompanying publication."


 GRAFT includes small viewfinders.

"As an evolving installation, the newest iteration of GRAFT includes small viewfinders embedded in the circular spaces of the structure. In peering through the viewfinders, the audience is met with an image documenting my everyday life during visits to Puerto Rico. Photos of my childhood home, scenes from various neighborhoods, and destruction from hurricane Maria are just some of the images viewers will see. The act itself is akin to peering through the quebrasoles and rejas surrounding a Puerto Rican home to glimpse a small portion of the home behind the walls challenging ideas of privacy."

The object of GRAFT is multi-dimensional. The intention is to highlight the true origins of these architectural elements prevalent throughout Puerto Rico, the severe lack of information represented in the cultural knowledge of both Puerto Rico and the U.S., while celebrating the form itself through interaction as a work of art.

To see more of her work, visit her website, her Instagram Page, and she what she is up to with THE FRANKLIN.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

February 2019 Unicorn Of The Month: Danielle Cole

"Roxy" Analogue collage on wood panel. 24x48inches. 2017

It took over four years to gather the materials for the Pile On series. And for four years I filled box after box of cars and legs without a clue what to do with them. Previously, all my work was narrative in nature. I always had something to say about domesticity, gender roles, the pursuit of material goods, and here I was with piles of cars and legs with no clear idea of what they wanted from me. My initial pieces were terrible mixed media compilations - I painted in landscape and made the cars into dynamic warriors with station wagons pitted against convertibles. Work so terrible, that I have since taken them apart so I could re-use the collage elements.

"Betsy" Collage on original 1859 print. 11x14 inches. 2016
"Charlie" Collage on original 1859 print. 11x14 inches. 2016

It wasn’t until I let go of the narrative as a goal that I started to create compositions focusing on the shapes and interactions that I was able to move forward. Eventually, through curating specific cars and arrangements, the story telling nature of my work returned. The body of work solidified, five years after I started, while I was traveling in San Francisco. At first in small pieces, I found 1859 Scottish landscapes at John Windle’s antiquarian booksellers space. I bought some and later I volunteered to organize some materials and received a total of 12 original prints that I later made into unique pieces with singular images of a car with legs roving through the Scottish landscape. 

While traveling, I had brought with me folders full of cars and legs for my ‘Pile on,’ series with the intention to build large scale pieces when I got home. I used to call these elements my, ‘kombucha scobies,’ these things I carried around that were necessary to grow other collages. While in San Francisco I met Megan and Rick Prelinger, co-founders of The Prelinger Library , a library that consists of a ‘collection of 19th and 20th century historical ephemera, periodicals, maps, and books, most published in the United States. The Prelinger’s being perpetual patrons of the arts and community-based activities extended their generosity to me by giving me access to their space, their collection, their computer and large flatbed scanner.

Using the large scanner provided by the Prelinger’s allowed me to experiment with analogue piles of cars and legs in a digital environment. These early compositions led to more evolved work months later when I returned home and provided the backbone of my current work. I began creating large-scale arrangements on wood panel and I returned to experimenting with compositions using a large scanner at my local library. I created compositions by placing arrangements of cars and legs upside down on a large flatbed scanner. These pieces exist for only a moment in time as they are scanned and were later made into 18x24 archival prints.
"Inspiration point" Archival print. 18x24. 2017
"Gwendolyn" Analogue collage on wood panel. 24x36inches. 2017
"Speed Trap" Archival print. 18x24 inches. 2017
"Jack Knifed" Archival print. 18x24 inches. 2017


To see more of Danielle's work, visit her Website, and check out updates and progress shots on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr. And if you're in Toronto Canada between February 21-24, go visit her at the Artist Project Contemporary Art Fair and buy her work!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

January 2018 Unicorn Of The Month: Galen Cheney

Optimist, oil, acrylic, and liquid textile color on collaged canvas, 63" x 68."

Painting is a sort of heartbreak. Initially there’s the seduction—the painting seems to paint itself and everything is working. Then, the veil slips and all the flaws are revealed, one by one, and I have to undo everything that I at first thought was so beautiful. This plays out again and again in each painting until something new pushes forward, hopefully stronger, stranger, unanticipated. And by flaws I don’t mean mistakes, for I think any strength my paintings may have is born of the accumulation of shifts in direction, which manifest as surfaces that are built up, scraped off, carved into, and built up again. The painting is a record of its making.


Return From Exile, acrylic and oil on collaged canvas, 72" x 56."
The Heart Knows What the Eye Can't See ... textile color on canvas, 56" x 65."

That physicality is intrinsic to these process-driven works. I have long been drawn to abandoned city walls given over to graffiti as well as to the peeling frescoes of Pompeii and ancient cave paintings. I relate to them both aesthetically as well as emotionally. The work I was doing previously more overtly related to contemporary graffiti. I have since stepped back from that, though I am still hooked on bright colors and the combination of slick and gritty surfaces.

Light Falls, textile color, acrylic and oil pastel on raw canvas, 40" x 36."
Limbic, oil, acrylic and paper on collaged canvas, 60" x 44."

I had never before felt so foreign or out of my element. I was in a heightened state and I put all of my expressive energy into my work. With papers bought and found I got to work. The most potent expression of my feeling of being unmoored and disconnected yet very alive was to rip, alter, and recombine what became small mountains of paper in my studio. This is when I began working in collage in earnest. I felt like I was in a kind of trance, and when I came out of it I not only had a whole new body of work, but a new way of working as well as a path forward.

My current work has everything to do with a residency I had in China three years ago. I went there with only a few pencils and a couple of my favorite ink brushes, as my intention was to explore the beautiful papers and inks that I would find there. Being in China was an eye-opening experience for me; I was one of very few westerners in this small city, and, apart from a few phrases, I spoke no Mandarin.


Optimist, oil, acrylic, and liquid textile color on collaged canvas, 63" x 68."
Untitled (Chartreuse) Textile color and oil on collaged canvas, 60" x 48."

When I got home I wanted to apply the ideas I had developed with paper in China to canvas and other textiles. I am still working in this way—ripping paintings up, collaging them back together, adding paper, pulling elements off, adding others. It is creatively rich and satisfying and I see no end in sight.

To see more Galen's work, visit her Website and Instagram Page. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

4 Holiday Events in Sacramento

It's been a great year, and the holiday season isn't quite over yet! Here are four events you can still consider attending with family or friends to continue celebrating the holiday season in Sacramento. If you're looking for a way to get around town safely, be sure to consider Party Bus Sacramento CA


It's always a good idea to enjoy yourself responsibly, during the holidays and the rest of the year.

December 29

Giggle Bells Holiday Improv at All Out Comedy Theater

There are two holiday themed improv shows, and tickets are around $10. The later show is more suitable for adults, while the earlier show is more family friendly. The intermission will have refreshments and appetizers. The show is based off of suggestions from the audience, so it's sure to be fun.


December 31 

NYE Bar Crawl at various locations in Sacramento

This New Years Eve bar crawl is going to be a memorable time. Wristbands are $30 which gives you access to five different bars in downtown Sacramento, free NYE swag, an appetizer buffet, champagne toast, and VIP viewing of the ball drop. The selected bars include Republic Bar & Grille, Streets Pub, Firestone Public, and Amourath Patio.


December 31

2018's Last Laughs at Punch Line Sacramento

Are you looking for a low key New Years event to attend with friends? Here's another awesome comedy show to check out! This show is celebrating the end of the year with eight different local comedians. Tickets are only $11.50, and they're sure to come with a lot of laughs.



December 31

Motown New Year's Party at LowBrau

Are you a fan of Motown? It's going to feel like Detroit in Sacramento at this New Years event. There will be two DJ's spinning hits from the Motown era. General admission is $25, and the $45 VIP tickets include bottle service, a bottle of champagne, appetizers, and access to the VIP bar.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

December 2018 Unicorn Of The Month: Jacob Fossum


Artist, teacher, musician, and one of my favorite figurative painters working today. I first met Jacob when we were studio mates at the original Verge Center For The Arts location at 19th and V in Midtown Sacramento. He is a highly skilled draftsman and storyteller and when I feel frustrated with a composition I'm working on, I ask myself, " How would Jacob solve this problem?" His work deals primarily with the uniqueness of personal experience and what is lost in translation.




The journey inward is much like Terrence McKenna’s description of the psychedelic experience: “It’s like building a bonfire bigger and bigger only to discover there’s an awful lot of darkness.” As a child raised in the Mormon faith I experienced a great sense of trauma when I came into my sexuality as a gay man.


I associated that trauma with a darkness, but I have since discovered the limitless creative potential in its exploration. My work is a response to the profundity and boundless complexities inherent in darkness, and results in a series of questions without answers. It is an infinite cycle of inquiry perpetuated by my creative process.

I create multiple bodies of work that draw from Non-duality, the New Age movement, and the Mystical experience. The process of creation and close observation induces a spiritual journey of form, color, and space rooted in the Biocentric Principle, in which external and internal perceptions are inextricably intertwined and inseparable. In this realm, truth exists only as self-realization, and the individual assumes the role of Shaman, Guru, Priest, Witch or Artist.


To view more of Jacob's work, check out his Tumblr, and Instagram Account.