It’s Sunday evening of Form & Concept’s opening weekend, and founder Sandy Zane sits at the front desk in the shade of several massive bouquets. She’s counting out the cash drawer in preparation for closing time. In its first three days, the space in the Railyard District storefront that previously housed Zane Bennett Gallery has mostly sold jewelry from its gift shop, and Zane and cofounder Frank Rose couldn’t be happier.
"Jewelry can be more of an impulse buy than art; if it's selling, that allows us to show other cool stuff like this," says Rose, surveying walls filled with colorful quilts by Santa Fe painter and textile artist Vanessa Michel.
Form & Concept's inaugural exhibition, Made in the Desert, features New Mexico and Arizona artists who manipulate a wide array of media, from ceramic to neon. "We really want to do some things that are different," Zane says, flashing a determined smile. "We want to knock your socks off."
Rose ascends to the second floor of the space and follows a balcony bordering the atrium into another series of galleries. There's still a sliver of Zane Bennett Gallery's formidable historic collection on view up here, though that business has mostly moved to an online sales model. An immersive, multimedia piece called La Cocina by Priscilla Dobler is partly installed in one of the rooms, and Virtual Object, a show of sculptures made by 3-D printer, will soon occupy the rest of the second floor. It's not every day in the art world that works by Francis Bacon, Sol Lewitt and Bruce Nauman make way for objects that could be considered craft or design.
"The work of craft has been maligned as something that is just about material and in some ways has been associated with 'women's work' in a derogatory way," says Rose. "In the Renaissance, this split started to happen where craft was associated with labor, and art was associated with ideas. To me, it's a false dichotomy. The lines are super-blurry." Along with the diverse work downstairs, La Cocina and Virtual Object attack these longstanding divisions from every angle.
Dobler's installation is a model of her mother's kitchen made from colorful, woven panels. The Seattle artist comes from a long line of Yucatanian hammock weavers on her mother's side, and her father's mother handwove textiles in Scotland. Multimedia elements throughout the installation trigger kitchen sound effects and audio recordings of people from various socioeconomic backgrounds being interviewed about food and identity. A projection on the stove shows the artist's mother making tortillas.
Dobler originally pitched La Cocina to the Currents New Media Festival but had trouble describing how all of the elements would come together. Rose, who helped produce last year's Currents and sits on the board, caught wind of the project and connected with Dobler. "It's difficult because of the way you label work … is it fine art, or is it craft? Yes it's craft, but there's a concept here—for some reason, Frank understood," Dobler says. "It's the same with identity. I look very Mayan, but I'm also Scottish and German-American. I get pushed into this box, 'Oh, you're Mexican,' when I'm other things as well."
Virtual Object, which Rose curated with Frank Ragano and Mariannah Amster of Currents, features 11 artists from across the world who synthesize art and cutting-edge design. Rose heads back across the atrium to look over some early arrivals for the show in his office. Intricate white sculptures of skulls, animals and insects by Joshua Harker line the shelves next to Rose's desk. Harker, who lives in Chicago, was an early pioneer of 3-D printed art. He spent decades in the industrial design industry, dreaming up ways to turn the surreal images in his head into three-dimensional objects.
"3-D printing really democratizes the sculpture process, which falls in line with issues of reproduction that were pushed with photography, lithography and even writing," Harker says. "We have this notion that when things are reproduced, they have no value. 3-D printing upsets the status quo and makes people rethink what is art, and what's the validity in it."
For Rose and his growing crew of collaborators, disruptions like this open the door to colorful, high-flying explorations. La Cocina and Virtual Object debut at Form & Concept this Friday in conjunction with the Currents New Media Festival.
La Cocina/Virtual Object Opening Reception
5-7 pm Friday, June 10. Free.
Form & Concept,
435 S Guadalupe St.,