Sunday, August 14, 2011

Blue in Barcelona

Often, as a guest artist, I meet people from far-flung parts of the country who want to know how they can have an art career if they live in, say, Akron (apologies to Akron, if it has a vibrant scene I don’t know about). They often look startled at the suggestion that they could perhaps move, when, in any other profession, normal procedure would be to go where the opportunities are.  It’s possible for some people, I suppose, to make great art in a vacuum, but most of the time when artists aren’t actively part of the bigger conversation, the work lags.

There is, however, another option: make your own scene.

Artist-run galleries, publications, coops that convert industrial buildings for studio space, or even pop-up exhibitions, are just some of the ways artists can band together and take charge of their own environment. This summer, in out-of-the-way places—Folkestone (England) and Wassaic (NY)—I bumped into a couple of art-related events that didn’t exist just a few years back. And in Barcelona…well Barcelona’s hardly a backwater, yet for an artist of a certain sensibility who’s not Spanish, it could present challenges. There are, of course, a number of galleries, but their focus is either on Spanish artists or those 25 or 30 American or European artists whose work is shown in every city on the international circuit.

Jack Davidson, a Scotsman who came to Barcelona by way of New York, has chosen the pro-active approach, starting a gallery with his partner, Miquel Rodes (hence the name, JiM Contemporani) in the vast apartment they share on the Rambla de Catalunya, where Jack also has his studio. What a surprise and pleasure it was to leave the bustle of the street, walk up the wide stairs in this typically baroque Catalan apartment building with its cool, dark hallways, go through the heavy wooden door, and step into white-walled, light-filled rooms hung with spare, blue, photographs and watercolors, the work of Nina and John Zurier. This more informal, less commercial situation also provided San Franciscans Nina and John (who shows with Peter Blum in New York), the rare opportunity to exhibit together and make public their private aesthetic dialogue, here based on their mutual attraction to the indigo color used in traditional Japanese textiles.

Nina Zurier, Sleepwalking, 2011, inkjet print, 34" x 18".
John Zurier, Iceland (loft), 2011, ink on paper, 11.6" x 8.2".

Jack in his studio.
And then I just couldn't resist taking a photo of what has to be the most beautiful bathroom in the world, which echoes the blue theme:

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