The hills of Glendale surrounding the Brand cultural center are a brilliant electric green after the winter rains. It’s a color that doesn’t hold in Los Angeles but that sets the perfect stage for the bright and captivating NEXUS IV: RAIZ Exhibition inside the gallery. The exhibit is a diverse collaboration between the Brand, Thinkspace Projects, and Tlaloc Studios. The multi-artist experience works at “creating a platform,” as the Brand library explains it, “for young and emerging artists from around the world to exhibit alongside LA-based artists working in the New Contemporary Art Movement. ”
The Brand gallery is empty during my mid-week morning visit, there is a buzzing silence broken only by my own breath and footsteps, a far cry from an art show opening night, where people commune, full of vibrant energy. Viewers slink thoughtfully from piece to piece; voices point out the details that speak to them. The artists stand by, ready to discuss their art. I like the energy of those opening nights, but today I feel the power of solitude. Instead of the voices and vibes of people viewing art around me, I hear the artwork itself. Creations from over sixty artists, speaking with and to each other.
It feels right that this collaborative exhibition is the topic of my first article for ZO International Magazine, itself a community space to showcase artists across the globe, to bring them together. It also feels right that as I enter the main exhibit space, hanging just past the open doorway, is the curious creature composed by Thai contemporary artist Aof Smith, who won a ZO Magazine expo back in 2015 with his piece “Summer Chaos.” Like an art gallery, ZO Magazine follows the careers of and continues to support featured artists like the Bangkok-based pop-surrealist, Aof Smith. This is an important mission. Engaging in art, whether by viewing it, promoting it, talking about it, displaying it, writing about it, or creating it, is what keeps art itself, alive.
ART IN COMMUNITY
I step forward to admire Smith’s oil painting on canvas. I gaze into the wide turquoise eyes of the furry main character of “Clumsy Soloist,” who holds a brightly colored, futuristic sort of banjo. I can almost hear the otherworldly instrument playing, clunky, off-tempo and eager to please. A song of longing and chaos. The painting is philosophical, political, farcical, and fantastical. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy meets The Never-Ending Story meets The Great Warrior Wall. It is a unique piece, but also very much fits into this exhibition full of art which reflects this moment of time in which we live, right now. Art inspired by the city of Los Angeles, set beside art from around the globe. Together, the works feel loud and rich and collective.
I can see other works in the show complement and contrast with “Clumsy Soloist.” The bright blues, reds, oranges, and pinks in Smith’s work, draw out similar bright colors, used in different ways, and pull them to the forefront. Like the springtime green jacket and puppeteer hand, in “I’m Not Your Puppet,” by Daisy Velasco, an LA artist who speaks in vibrant shades. A green reminiscent of the grass on the surrounding hills outside the museum. The bright colors in the collection, tell their story against the backdrop of the more muted-toned works. The burnt orange in Conrad Ruiz’s “Bye Bye Bulls Eye,” and the pale earthy browns and greens in Brek’s “Broken,” and Emiliana Henriquez’s “The Little Death” and “El Passo,” all Californian in a stark desert way. The colors, bright and muted, paint a larger picture of the pallet of our world.
Another contrast I see working to tell us the story of the RAIZ exhibition is that between the bluntly real and the enchantingly otherworldly. Imaginative, colorful, and broken universes, such as in Mr. B Baby’s “Love Makin”, call out in contrast to the intimate realism of a girl shaving her legs on a tiled bathroom floor sprouting leaves, in Genavee Gomez’s “Overgrown: Sprouting from the Underground Through the Concrete.” Together, a contemporary statement is created. About who we are as a people. About the severity of life and how creative expression, fantasy, and parallel worlds, are ways to make sense of it.
The NEXUS IV: RAIZ show feels like I am stepping into someone else’s dream, but not one person’s, a collective dream, which encapsulates the present human experience. The artworks call out to each other. They work in the way a great anthology of short stories works. There is cohesion, distinction, common themes, and contrasting ones, all strengthened, and deepened, by each other. Bound as the art of now. Showing the viewer that artworks, like artists, and people, are stronger, together.
Catie Jarvis is an author of fiction, as well as a yoga instructor, a competitive gymnastics coach, an English and writing professor, a surfer, and a mom. She has joined the ZO Creative Team as a writer and editor and we are all looking forward to her upcoming column “The Fiction Portal!”