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Photo Gallery: San Diego Art Labs

One of the welcomed changes to this weekend's Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair (in addition to the name and location change) was the partnering with various local galleries, arts districts, and artist work spaces.

These spaces opened their doors and mounted shows for the weekend, creating a network of ancillary parties, open studios, and exhibits spread throughout downtown, Barrio Logan, and the East Village. The Art SD fair dubbed them Art Labs, and included maps and descriptions in the fair's program materials - a nice bit of exposure for some of the plucky, grassroots spaces involved.

After walking the exhibition floor of the art fair, I ventured out to a few of the Art Labs with my camera (and in the company of art maven Toni Robin) to capture a snapshot of art spaces in the late afternoon, before the evening's scenesters and art lovers descended (see photo gallery above). Basically, I wanted easy parking and to see the actual art, always hard to do once the evening takes off. Of course, there is much to be appreciated about the energy in a room full of art lovers, not to mention great people watching so I certainly understand the appeal of the evening parties.

Device Gallery, housed in a beautiful artist work space in Barrio Logan known as Glashaus, was in party prep mode when I got there - bags of ice were arriving along with a band setting up on the patio. The work on view showed Device's ongoing commitment to sculpture that conjures up a string of clunky but apt adjectives: retro-futuristic, mechanical, "City of Lost Children"-esque, and steampunk. For more on Device, you can listen to a 2009 radio feature I did on the gallery featuring co-owner and artist Greg Brotherton (he owns it with his wife, Amy).

Sculptor Matt Devine also has his studio in Glashaus, and he let me snap some pics of the vast and orderly workspace he shares with Buddy, his dog. I kept thinking of all the cramped New York artist studios I've seen and the envy Devine's space would inspire.

A relatively new artist studio compound (three buildings) in the East Village called Space 4 Art (see our CL post on this space) was also on the itinerary, as was the architect-created, urban intervention project known as Periscope, located across the street from Space 4 Art.

Periscope Project, a narrow complex of stacked shipping containers sandwiched between two buildings, was just featured in the U-T, which inspired the arrival of two well-heeled, older couples who I met upon arrival. One of the women mentioned that she'd read about Periscope in that day's U-T - which then caused a flurry of confusion since I'd read about it online days earlier. It took us a minute to figure out she reads the actual paper. She assumed I did as well and kept telling me I had my dates wrong. It would have been a mildly amusing bit of generational miscommunication if it didn't speak so directly to the awkward transitional state of the industry in which I work.

Periscope was interesting, but a heady conversation with artist and co-founder James Enos added layers to the project's socio-economic underpinnings. After a day of art viewing, subsisting on power bars, and a glass of wine, I'm not sure I wrapped my head around the theory-laden conversation, but I can confidently say that anyone approaching this work space made out of shipping containers as just cool design should talk with Enos.

To those shipping containers he attaches redundancy ("it's been done before for years"), cultural signifiers of third-world subjugation to capitalist forces, an opportunity for the wealthy classes to fetishize the commonplace, and lots of other intellectually rigorous ideas.

I've made a note to visit again and get to the bottom of it all for you. In the interim, you'll have to make do with the photos I took of the space.

It was a glorious day of viewing a lot of both good and bad art, talking with artists and seeing where they work, and admiring the creative collectives humming in our downtown region.

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