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5 Works Of Art To See In San Diego In June

Don’t miss these new and notable works of art in San Diego this month from Cataphant, Akiko Surai, Roberto Salas, Kelsey Brookes and Johnny Nguyen.

Akiko Surai's

Credit: Ruth Mims

Above: Akiko Surai's "Pacific Stratum" installed at the Mission Pacific Hotel in a May 2021 photo.

'Pacific Stratum' by Akiko Surai

On view at The Rooftop Bar at Mission Pacific Hotel

North County's new Mission Pacific Hotel's art program was co-curated by Rebecca Webb and Oceanside Museum of Art (there are also works at Mission Pacific's sister property, The Seabird). Plenty to discover by many incredible regional artists, but let's start with Akiko Surai’s outdoor fiber installation at a particularly striking locale: the ocean-view rooftop bar.

I'd recently seen Surai's fiber art in the Illuminations exhibition at San Diego Art Institute, where her small-scale sculptures were inspired by study of how the brain processes trauma on a cellular level. Surai’s work is powerful, vivid and textural, and at the hotel, the scope is huge — wrapping two entire walls with brightly-colored rope-wrapped loops, shapes and circles. This massive work seems to echo the biological nature of her smaller works, the shapes representing structures and layers of a cell under a microscope. The pieces, 31 in total, are mounted at an offset from the wall so as the sun moves in the sky, the shadows transform throughout the day. There's a fire pit nearby, so there’s a possibility of some shadow magic at night too.

Photo credit: Ruth Mims

Akiko Surai's "Pacific Stratum," pictured in a May 2021 photo, is newly installed on the rooftop at Mission Pacific Hotel, part of the new art program there.

Details: Viewable during business hours, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, at The Rooftop Bar at Mission Pacific Hotel. Reservations suggested (book here).

'Euthymia' By Cataphant

On view at Swish Projects

San Diego artist Catalina Bellizzi-Itiola (known as Cataphant) opens her first solo show at Swish on June 5. The exhibition, "All My Thoughts Multiply," is Bellizzi-Itiola's exploration of her bipolar disorder — both her lived experience and her intensive study and research. In the exhibition statement, Bellizzi-Itiola wrote: "The show explores the architecture of the peaks and valleys of this mood disorder, visually portraying how chemical fluctuations in the brain lead to feelings of euphoria, goal-oriented behavior, irritability, aggression, anhedonia, and everything in between."

Photo credit: Catalina Bellizzi-Itiola

"Euthymia" by Cataphant is on view at Swish Projects beginning June 5, 2021.

Bellizi-Itiola's work manages to be both bold and delicate at the same time. Her paintings are vibrant and obscure with impasto textures evoking process and movement — not just in terms of paint. Cataphant's work has a velocity to it, a hyper-charged sense of being raring to go. This work, "Euthymia," is the first in a series of works that represent her manic episodes, with euthymia meaning an even mood. Each painting is paired, via QR code, with a song, and "Euthymia" is matched with Drake's "Started From the Bottom."

Details: Exhibition information. Viewable by appointment June 5 - 27, 2021. Opening reception Saturday, June 5 from 6-9 p.m.

'Iceberg' Series By Roberto Salas

On view at The Athenaeum Music and Arts Library

Of an exhibition of 49 artists, it's a tall order to pick just one standout work from the "Marking Time" group show at the Athenaeum. With such fantastic variety in form, meaning and artists, I've fixated on a different piece at any given moment since viewing this exhibition a few weeks ago. I keep coming back to Roberto Salas' beautiful "Iceberg" diptych, featuring two identically sized large paintings side-by-side. The two works show how a subtle shift in daylight or weather could change all the colors or visibility — or maybe it's a less subtle shift like climate change or ice melt. Both paintings capture a devastating swirl of beauty and terror.

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Athenaeum

Roberto Salas' "Iceberg" diptych is on view at the Athenaeum Music and Arts Library through July 9, 2021.

Salas’ work is informed by indigenous histories and identities, as well as community-based social practice works (like his 1988 reflective signs along Park Blvd., “Night Vision”). In his paintings for the "Marking Time," exhibition, he paralleled the pandemic with other issues. "The notion of people vanishing as part of the landscape made me think of the association between native indigenous culture and the lifespan of a floating piece of ice. Climate has accelerated this parallel. After dislodging, fragmented ice searches for upright turmoil, buoyancy and balance," Salas wrote in his artist statement.

Details: Exhibition information. Viewable for Athenaeum members Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; viewable by appointment for non-members. Through July 9.

'Veil (Medium Blue to Light Blue)' By Kelsey Brookes

On view at Quint Gallery

San Diego artist Kelsey Brookes' solo exhibition at the main Quint Gallery is a survey show, spanning the last twelve years of his work with varied selections from multiple series. Brookes' work is abstract and intricate, drawing on his background in molecular biology. While these paintings look incredible at first glance, beneath the surface they're brainy and just on the edge of comprehension.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Quint Gallery

"Veil (Medium Blue to Light Blue)" by Kelsey Brookes is on view at Quint Gallery through July 24, 2021.

My favorite piece is part of his Veil series from 2019, which marked a departure from his science-based paintings; these works were instead inspired by his practice in "insight meditation." Set against a vivid sky-blue backdrop, miniscule linked shapes are draped, bunched and tangled like some sort of dense, web-like chandelier.

Details: Exhibition information. Viewable Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Through July 24.

'Girl At The Salon' In The 'Saigon In Little Saigon' Series By Johnny Nguyen

On view at 4465 University Ave., City Heights

The "Saigon in Little Saigon" series of wheat-paste imagery was originally pitched in 2018 through San Diego Art Institute, but the project was dropped. Three years later, photographer and activist Johnny Nguyen has paired with Teros Gallery and Burn All Books to bring the project to life for Ghidorah Lives, a group show of art by local Asian American Pacific Islander artists. For opening weekend, Nguyen pasted copies of the large-scale photographs onto plywood boards on view at the gallery, but he's also pasted three works across various locations significant to Vietnamese communities in San Diego. On the project's Instagram profile, Nguyen has noted the locations, as well as provided stories, background and significance of each. There's also a special Google Maps layer.

Photo credit: Courtesy of the artist

Johnny Nguyen's "Girl at the Salon" installed on the side of a former salon in City Heights in an undated photo.

"Girl at the Salon" features a woman with a white peel-off facial mask seated near a quintessential salon hooded dryer chair. She’s idly checking her phone while waiting for the facial mask to set. Nguyen’s original photograph was taken in Vietnam in 2013. But Nguyen installed this work at the spot — China Beauty Salon, now a coffee shop — where his own mother used to get her hair cut for decades, until the business was priced out of the neighborhood due to astronomical rent hikes. "Does the building owner understand the community these businesses are serving? You wonder how long these businesses can stay afloat. Or what communities would be displaced due to cost of services. It’s either one or the other. Or maybe even both," Nguyen wrote in the caption.

Details: On view from the sidewalk near 4465 University Ave. in City Heights. Copies on view at Ghidorah Lives at Good Faith Gallery in Sherman Heights, by appointment through June 19.

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Julia Dixon Evans
Arts Calendar Editor and Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in getting San Diegans engaged with the diversity of art and culture made by the creative people who live here.

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