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Julia Dixon Evans
Detail of Jennifer Vargas' "Shadow Work 01," is shown on Dec. 5, 2021. The wire mesh sculpture is on view outside the Mesa College Art Gallery through Dec. 15.

5 works of art to see in San Diego in December

Speaker 1: (00:00)

San Diego has a lot of visual art with dozens of art museums, and more galleries than we can count. If you want some help narrowing down your museum going plans, KPBS arts, producer, and editor, Julia Dixon Evans puts together a monthly Roundup of five works of art to see each month. And she joins us now to discuss her December picks Julie, you welcome.

Speaker 2: (00:21)

Hi Jade. Thanks for having me. So let's

Speaker 1: (00:23)

Start with an outdoor work, especially since some folks might not be interested in going indoors right now. Uh, this one is outside the Mesa college art gallery. Tell us about

Speaker 2: (00:33)

It. Yeah, it's called shadow work. Oh one it's by local emerging sculptor, Jennifer Vargas. And I really like how she uses fine wire mesh in her work. She'll bend it and layer it. And the density of the mesh plays with the light and the shadow and all the layers and intersections kind of create these gradients and patterns and metal in general is such this hard and cold material, but it somehow looks air and soft in her sculptures. And this one it's just outside of the Mesa college art gallery, part of the sewing seeds of universal language exhibition. This was all curated by the museum studies program there. And the sculpture's huge. It, it almost like undulates up from the cement. There is some splashes of blue, an orange, and it, and it transforms as you move around it, especially when you crouch down and, and look up at the sky at the light, through the mesh and Mesa college art galleries hours are limited to Tuesday through Thursday during the day. But since it's outside, you can visit this work whenever you can get to campus parking. Isn't 24 hours a day, Monday through Saturday, but it is just an dollar an hour and you can park right in front of it. Or you can just visit it on a Sunday. That

Speaker 1: (01:52)

Shadow work. Oh one by Jennifer Vargas on view outside the Mesa college art gallery through December 15th. Next is an interesting performance installation involving actual food. Tell us about artist Maggie Shin's work.

Speaker 2: (02:06)

Yeah, this is another local artist and the work is a mixture of sculpture, animation, music, performance, and, and eating. And she's informed by having spent about 15 years moving from continent to continent, and she would see how, how food and the ingredient and where food comes from is so different everywhere. And she's really honing it to study landscapes and the environment with this installation. I recently talked to Maggie, she, and she says that she wants visitors to think about the large scale systems involved in your food production and the harvesting and the, and also it's impact. And she does this by making everything in the exhibition really tiny because

Speaker 3: (02:51)

I shrunk the, the size of the landscape that make the relationship between, you know, people and land, uh, become more obvious. You know, like what we do to the land sometimes can be very abstract if the, if the nature is so big.

Speaker 2: (03:07)

So the food then is these edible mini sculptures that represent different parts of the landscape here. And audiences do eventually get to taste the food there's stuff like edible sand that tastes like lemon or a sea sponge made from avocado. It's a mixture of realistic and other worldly looking things. And this work, yes, it's intended to be experienced as a performance piece. So the audience is gather and watch as she and an actor take them through like a, a scientific harvesting process while accompanied by animation, augmented reality, and then a sounds scape of found noises. And then we get to eat.

Speaker 1: (03:50)

All right, Maggie shins scape installation performances will take place this Friday, December 10th at 6:00 PM. And again, on January 8th at the athe arts center in Logan Heights, this San Diego museum of art recently opened an exhibition of more than a hundred works of photography from the 20th century to today from iconic photographers like Ansel Adams, Dorthea Lang and minor white to name a few. One of those works stood out to you more than others, Julia, uh, one by Paul. And tell us about that

Speaker 2: (04:21)

First. I will say that it was almost impossible to pick one stand out here. There are so many captivating pictures, but this one by American photographer, Paul strand, who lived from 1890 to 1976. So really solidly working in the earlier part of the 20th century. This piece is called wall street, New York. And it was published in 1915. The setup of the picture sounds simple. It's just like a dozen people rushing to work in front of the very distinct front windows of the JP Morgan building on wall street. But the abstraction in Strand's work, the comp position. It builds on what you'd expect to fixate on in a photograph like that. Like the historical curiosity of 1915 capitalism, but the way he works, the perspective that people seem tiny in scale. And then by nature of the light they're SIL to look almost ghostlike and the building's windows appear ominous too. Just these massive thick black rectangles kind of lording over the street definitely feels like a metaphor. And yeah, the entire exhibition is worth a brows, but this Paul strand photograph, it stopped me in my tracks.

Speaker 1: (05:38)

Wow. Interesting. Paul Strand's wall street, New York work is part of S DMAs masters of photography, the garner collection exhibition, which is on view through February 21st. Let's stay in Balboa park for one more at the Japanese friendship garden. There's an exhibition of textiles from influential Japanese design firm. Nuno tell us about this

Speaker 2: (06:01)

Right. Nuno was founded in 1984 and this exhibition of some of their historic textiles, it's on the lower level of the Japanese friendship garden inside a relatively unassuming gallery room, the in a Mai and inside there's about 30 of these metal rod stands arranged in even rows. The stands are, are part dress, form part kind of glorified coat hanger. And definitely look almost like Erie ghosts. And each form is draped with one of these textiles. And the textiles are really beautiful. It's it's this blend of form function and, and material. And one of my favorites is a 1997 float weaving work called patched paper. And it has scraps of fine white paper slipped in amongst the fibers of this otherwise Shearer white cloth. And they protrude out like chunky squiggly hair or feathers. And I have to say it was hard not to touch it.

Speaker 1: (07:03)

that's part of Nuno, the language of textiles, which is on view at the Japanese friendship garden through February 27th and in Carlsbad Fest gallery is displaying an installation by Wendy Mariama called the tag project. Tell us about that.

Speaker 2: (07:19)

This one is part of Wendy Maria's larger work called executive order 90, 66 named after the order by FDR to authorize what we now know as the Japanese American incarceration camps and for the tag project Mariama, who is a San Diego artist, she created hundred and 20,000 paper tags, replicas of the tags that were prescribed to each Japanese-American sent to the camps. And she divides the tags into hanging bunches. These are divided by camp as well, and then hung from the ceiling. They are huge and unsettling. The inhumanity of what the tags represent is really monumental. And this work gets installed as part of a group exhibition. It's called impermanence ATEST gallery, and it focuses on the transitory aspects of life of objects and art. And it's all a really interesting and, and meditative show. Wendy

Speaker 1: (08:18)

Mamma's tag project is on view through February 13th, ATEST gallery. You can find details and pictures of each of these works of art on our website, I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. Julia, thank you.

Speaker 2: (08:35)

Thank you so much, Jade.

This month, don't miss these noteworthy works on view: Jennifer Vargas at Mesa College Art Gallery, Maggie Shen at Athenaeum Art Center, Paul Strand at San Diego Museum of Art, Reiko Sudo at the Japanese Friendship Garden and Wendy Maruyama at PHES Gallery.

Jennifer Vargas: 'Shadow Work 01'

On view outside the Mesa College Art Gallery

Twisted and layered into gentle patterns, I love local sculptor Jennifer Vargas' use of fine wire mesh in her works, whether large-scale sculptures or smaller pieces. The density of the mesh plays with light and shadow, and layers and intersections create gradients and gradual patterns. It's almost baffling how a material with such a hardness — metal — could look airy and soft. Her work is mesmerizing, and transforms as you approach or move around it.

Julia Dixon Evans
"Shadow Work 01" by Jennifer Vargas, on view through Dec. 15, 2021.

Right now, Vargas has installed a sculpture outside of the Mesa College Art Gallery — part of the Sowing Seeds of Universal Language exhibition curated by the museum studies class. The piece almost undulates up from the cement, with splashes of blues and oranges. Don't forget to crouch down if you're able, and look up at the sky through the mesh.

Julia Dixon Evans
Detail of "Shadow Work 01" by Jennifer Vargas, on view through Dec. 15, 2021.

While the gallery hours are limited to Tuesday through Thursday, you can visit Vargas' sculpture whenever you can get to campus. Parking is enforced Monday to Saturday, 24 hours a day, but permits are just $1 an hour and there is ample parking right in front of the gallery — or hit it up on a Sunday like I did.

Details: On view through Dec. 15, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Mesa College Art Gallery, 7250 Mesa College Dr., Linda Vista. Free.


Maggie Shen: '_____SCAPE'

On view at the Athenaeum Art Center during two performances

In an intricate interdisciplinary installation, artist Maggie Shen is combining food with her study of landscapes and the environment, home and societies. Using performance, interactive edible sculpture, permanent sculpture, AR and animation, Shen wants visitors to think about the large-scale systems involved in food production, harvesting and consumption — and their impacts — by making the scope much smaller. Inside a gallery, for example.

Maggie Shen / Athenaeum Art Center
Some of the edible sculptures in Maggie Shen's work "____SCAPE," which will be performed Dec. 10, 2021 and Jan. 8, 2022 at the Athenaeum Art Center.

"Because I shrunk the size of the landscape, that makes the relationship between people and land become more obvious. Like what we do to the land, sometimes it can be very abstract if the nature is so big," Shen said.

To create that smaller scope, she's turned food into intricate, edible sculptures. Shen said that she just worked with the food like she would traditional sculpture materials, but being mindful of consistency. She also wanted to challenge taste buds — the audiences get to taste the food — with surprising flavors. Imagine edible sand that tastes like lemon, or a sea sponge made from avocado.

While the exhibition is on view at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights (part of the Bread and Salt complex), the work is intended to be viewed as a performance piece. Shen and another actor harvest the food while animation and an original soundscape accompany the work.

"The performance is driven by the music," Shen said. The soundscape is divided into three parts: the sounds of Bread and Salt, forest sounds and a whimsical rhythm.

Courtesy of Athenaeum Art Center
Artist Maggie Shen will activate her performance art installation on Dec. 10, 2021 and Jan. 8, 2022 at the Athenaeum Art Center.

At the end of the performance, everyone can go to the landscape area to enjoy the food. "That represents that we consume our land," Shen said. "By realizing we are part of the whole, we may have a chance to make different decisions."

Details: Performances Friday, Dec. 10, 2021 and Saturday, Jan. 8. 2022, both from 6-8 p.m. Athenaeum Art Center, 1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights. Free.

Paul Strand: 'Wall Street, New York (1915)'

On view at San Diego Museum of Art

Part of SDMA's current major exhibition, Masters of Photography: The Garner Collection, this Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) work somehow stands out among giants. The photography is divided into three sections, but somehow the Strand work feels like it transcends all of them.

Paul Strand
"Wall Street, New York (1915)" by Paul Strand is on view at the San Diego Museum of Art through Feb. 21, 2022.

The seemingly simple subject matter is a dozen figures, rushing to work in front of the distinct J.P. Morgan building on Wall Street, but the abstraction of Strand's composition builds on what you'd expect to fixate on in a photograph like that: the historical curiosity of 1915-era capitalism. In the perspective, the people seem tiny in scale, and by nature of the light, they're shrouded in silhouette to look almost ghost-like. The building's windows appear ominous, too, thick black rectangles lording over the street.

The entire exhibition is worth a browse, but this Strand photograph stopped me in my tracks.

Details: On view through Feb. 21, 2021. Open every day except Wednesday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sundays noon - 5 p.m. SDMA, 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park. $8-20

Reiko Sudo: 'Patched Paper (破れ紙)'

On view at the Japanese Friendship Garden

"Nuno, the Language of Textiles" is an exhibition tucked away in the lower level of the Japanese Friendship Garden, inside a relatively unassuming gallery room, the Inamori Pavilion. Inside, thirty metal-rod stands — part dress form, part glorified coathanger — are arranged in even rows, each draped with a delicate cloth.

Julia Dixon Evans
Gallery view of "Nuno, The Language of Textiles," on view at the Japanese Friendship Garden through Feb. 27, 2022.

These works are from the Nuno studio, the influential Japanese textile design firm founded in 1984 by Jun'ichi Arai, though Reiko Sudo has been at the helm since 1987. Each textile is a harmony of form, function and material, and one of my favorites is the 1997 float weaving work, "Patched Paper," where scraps of fine white paper are slipped in the fibers of the otherwise sheer white cloth, protruding out like chunky, squiggly hair or feathers. It seems both fragile and quotidian, almost toy-like at the same time as being really refined.

Sue McNab / NUNO
Detail of "Patched Paper (1997)" by Reiko Sudo.

Details: On view through Feb. 27, 2022. 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. daily. Japanese Friendship Garden, 2215 Pan American Rd. E., Balboa Park. $10-12.

Wendy Maruyama: ''The Tag Project'

On view at PHES Gallery

This sculpture is part of Wendy Maruyama's larger work, "Executive Order 9066," named after the order by President Franklin Roosevelt to authorize the creation of "military areas" and "evacuate" all persons deemed a threat to national security during the World War II — which would become what is now known as Japanese American incarceration camps.

For "The Tag Project," Maruyama created thousands upon thousands of paper tags, replicas of the tags prescribed to each Japanese American sent to the internment camps — an estimated total of 120,000 individuals. The installation divides the 120,000 tags into a series of hanging bunches, divided by camp, and the bunches are unsettlingly suspended from the ceiling. The sheer quantity of tags and the inhumanity of what they represent feels monumental and overwhelming.

Kevin J. Miyazaki
Wendy Maruyama's full installation of "The Tag Project" is shown in a 2012 photograph. Part of the work is on view at PHES Gallery through Feb. 13, 2022.

The work is installed as part of "Impermanence," a new exhibition at PHES Gallery that focuses on transitory aspects of life, objects and art, and will also include sand mandala construction and dissolution ceremonies by Tibetan monks from the Gaden Shartse Monastery. Mandala creation begins Wednesday at 10 a.m. and continues each day until the dissolution on Saturday Dec. 11 at 2 p.m.

Details: On view through Feb. 13, 2022. Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from 2 - 7 p.m. or by appointment. PHES Gallery, 2633 State St., Carlsbad. Free.

Julia Dixon Evans writes the KPBS Arts newsletter, produces and edits the KPBS/Arts Calendar and works with the KPBS team to cover San Diego's diverse arts scene. Previously, Julia wrote the weekly Culture Report for Voice of San Diego and has reported on arts, culture, books, music, television, dining, the outdoors and more for The A.V. Club, Literary Hub and San Diego CityBeat. She studied literature at UCSD (where she was an oboist in the La Jolla Symphony), and is a published novelist and short fiction writer. She is the founder of Last Exit, a local reading series and literary journal, and she won the 2019 National Magazine Award for Fiction. Julia lives with her family in North Park and loves trail running, vegan tacos and live music.
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