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Courtesy of Margaret Noble
Detail of Margaret Noble's chalk spray paint designs for her Park Social public art installation, shown in an undated photo. The art spans the entire perimeter of Point Loma's Plumosa Park and includes a sound element.

5 works of art to see in San Diego this summer

This summer, check out five notable works of art on view in the region: Margaret Noble at Plumosa Park; Phillip K. Smith III at OMA; Natalia Ventura at The Front; Chris Burden and Bryon Kim at MCASD downtown; and Alika Cooper at Oolong Gallery. Here is a handy map showing the locations of the pieces:


'Locked Groove' by Margaret Noble

Park Social / Plumosa Park

For her Park Social project, interdisciplinary artist Margaret Noble was inspired by the locked-groove feature on some vinyl records — infinitely repeating a sound or element of the song. Noble's first creative endeavor was as a DJ, so records hold special significance to her.

"I'm really interested in kinetic art, dance art, response to sound," Noble said. "Coming to this park and trying to think about how to integrate sound with a park, right? An idea. I just felt like I was looking at almost like a turntable, and people are kind of walking around the park, and there's a lot of rhythmic energy."

Julia Dixon Evans
Margaret Noble's Park Social installation, "Locked Groove" is shown in-process on July 6, 2022. The interactive sound art will be on view at Plumosa Park in Point Loma, San Diego, Calif. until Nov. 20, 2022.

For the visual element, she's installing designs around the perimeter of the small, grassy Plumosa Park in Point Loma. On a cloudy morning, Noble and two assistants worked with a series of stencils and chalk-based spray paint, adorning the curb with a series of colorful designs, each influenced by the sounds in a mixer.

Noble created four sound loops. Using a mixer on a website, visitors can control each track with a slider from their smartphones, accessed through a QR code at the park.

The designs and sound tracks each represent four types of rhythms and ritual sounds encountered in our everyday lives: domestic, as in noises from inside the home; natural, like birds chirping or insects; industrial or technological; and social rhythms, like traffic coming to a park, or a protest, or chatter.

The designs and the sound mixer work together, but it's up to the visitor to find the right mix and to decide which patterns work with each sound or combination of sounds.

The chalk paint used in "Locked Groove" is the kind typically used for roadwork markings on asphalt. It's not permanent, but it is durable, and can be removed by power washing.

Julia Dixon Evans
Artist Margaret Noble is shown on July 6, 2022 at the site of her Park Social installation, Plumosa Park in Point Loma.

For Noble, participating in Park Social and creating public art — even fleeting, washable art like chalk designs — is a role she takes incredibly seriously.

"I've been doing lots of ephemeral public art and each time it's been really different because: What's the community about? Does it serve the community? Does it bring people from elsewhere to that community? Does it support the ideas and the life around that community or does it conflict?" Noble said.

Julia Dixon Evans
On public art: "Does it support the ideas and the life around that community or does it conflict?" mused artist Margaret Noble. One neighborhood cat will never tell. Noble's Park Social project, "Locked Groove" is shown at Plumosa Park on July 6, 2022.

Exhibition information. On view 24/7, approximately July 16 through Nov. 20, 2022. Plumosa Park, 3600 Plumosa Dr., Point Loma. Free.

Phillip K. Smith, III: 'Lozenge-Variant 1'

Oceanside Museum of Art

It's probably no surprise that I drag my teenagers to see what they consider an unfair amount of art. But the (slight) working-parent guilt melts away whenever there's a "hit" — like this glowing, color-transforming, 3-dimensional lozenge by Phillip K. Smith. Bored teenager approved.

Julia Dixon Evans
Phillip K. Smith III's "Lozenge-Variant 1" is shown on July 1, 2022 at the Oceanside Museum of Art.

Made of LED lighting and acrylic sculpture, "Lozenge-Variant 1" takes several minutes to gradually cycle through the colors and patterns, each change so subtle it felt just on the verge of startling, almost maddening.

Julia Dixon Evans
Detail of Phillip K. Smith III's "Lozenge-Variant 1," shown on July 1, 2022 at Oceanside Museum of Art.

The tiny, upstairs gallery nook at Oceanside Museum of Art is a perfect spot for the piece; the light and color fills and transforms the entire almost-private space.

Born in 1972 in the Coachella Valley, Phillip K. Smith III is well regarded for his works that echo the California Light and Space movement from the 1960s.

The protruding lozenge shape features intricate, smooth beveling around the surface of the lozenge, almost like stretched-out race track lanes, and two or three variants of color in each phase. But what's truly hypnotic about this piece is the change.

Exhibition information: Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Open until 8 p.m. on Friday. On view through Sept. 18, 2022. Oceanside Museum of Art, 704 Pier View Way, Oceanside. $0-$10.

'Arropada' by Natalia Ventura

The Front Arte & Cultura

Currently on view at The Front is a group exhibition of works by emerging artists. The program is "New Native Narratives," which involved 18 San Diego or Tijuana artists who spent four months in an intensive arts apprenticeship program — mentored by Sara Solaimani, Andrea Chung, Mely Barragan and Francisco Eme. The final exhibition showcases part of the culmination of their work, and each work is fascinating, wildly different and thoughtful.

Julia Dixon Evans
Artist Natalia Ventura's "Arropada" sculpture, shown in a July 2, 2022 photo, is part of the Front Gallery's "New Native Narratives" exhibition.

One of my favorite pieces is Natalia Ventura's large-scale hanging sculpture, fashioned from chicken wire, cream-colored tulle and hair. "Arropada" translates to "clothed," and it strikes me as an opened, abandoned cocoon. In Ventura's artist statement, she describes the work as representing her own "stage in metamorphosis," returning after college to her home at the border.

"The complex and challenging transition has pushed me to confront anxieties, piece together a silenced generational history and attempt to teach my family the language of mental health," Ventura wrote.

Visitors can stand within the bell-shaped, membrane-like sculpture and imagine their own transformations and liberations.

Exhibition information. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, through Aug. 27, 2022. The Front, 147 W. San Ysidro Blvd., San Ysidro. Free.

Julia Dixon Evans
Natalia Ventura's "Arropada" is shown in a July 2, 2022 photo at The Front gallery in San Ysidro. The intricate patterns are woven from human hair.

'The Reason for the Neutron Bomb' by Chris Burden, and 'Pond Lily Over Mushroom Cloud' by Byron Kim

Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego: Downtown (MCASD)

In a special installation, MCASD has thoughtfully paired the late artist Chris Burden's 1979 large-scale piece, "The Reason for the Neutron Bomb," with three paintings by La Jolla-born artist Byron Kim. What I loved about this installation was where it took me, and how each element loops together — a sort of somber magic.

Julia Dixon Evans
Chris Burden's 1979 work, "The Reason for the Neutron Bomb" is shown at MCASD downtown in a July 1, 2022 photo.
Julia Dixon Evans
Detail of Chris Burden's 1979 installation, "The Reason for the Neutron Bomb," shown at MCASD downtown in a July 1, 2022 photo.

Burden's Cold War-era piece is made up of 50,000 nickels, uniformly arranged across the floor. Attached to the top of each nickel is a piece of matchstick. The little sculptures represent the sheer volume of Soviet tanks, and how they outnumbered the tanks of the countries in the Western Bloc — which partly justified the development of nuclear weaponry in the United States.

Along the back wall, above the arrangement of nickels, all-caps lettering reads the words "The reason for the neutron bomb," set askew.

Directly across from that wall, the only other artworks in the room are the three unassuming 2015 Byron Kim paintings. Each canvas is painted entirely black, but patterns catch the light in different ways, forming unique shapes and meaning for each piece. Kim uses glue, shellac, wax and varnish to add direction, shading, striping and texture to the works, inspired by the 1915 Panama California Exposition in San Diego. At the fair, San Ildefonso Pueblo potter Maria Martinez exhibited her all-black pottery, some resembling a mushroom cloud. The installation description points out that Martinez lived just miles from where the atomic bomb would ultimately be developed at Los Alamos.

Julia Dixon Evans
Byron Kim's 2015 series, "Pond Lily Over Mushroom Cloud," is shown at MCASD downtown in a July 1, 2022 photo.

Exhibition information. On view 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, through Oct. 23, 2022. MCASD, 1100 Kettner Blvd., downtown. $0-$10

'Wet Suit series' by Alika Cooper

Oolong Gallery

The brand-new Solana Beach art space Oolong Gallery is having its inaugural exhibition, "Global Entry," featuring the work of 13 artists. One artist that caught my eye is Alika Cooper, who grew up in Poway.

Courtesy of Oolong Gallery
Two works by Akila Cooper, part of her "Wet Suit" series, are shown in an undated photo at Oolong Gallery.

For her series of bronze-cast sculptures, Cooper coated swimsuits in wax and dramatically dropped them to the ground. After it hardened, she cast the piece in bronze, then melted the wax away.

Courtesy of Oolong Gallery
Detail of Alika Cooper's "Wet Suit" sculpture, shown in an undated photo in San Diego, Calif.

What remains is a crumpled, twisted rendering of a lost or disrobed swimsuit, and a suggestion of a story. The works are solid, static metal but evoke a temporary, fleeting moment — an interruption or the echo of movement.

Cooper also has two paintings in the exhibition.

Also of note at Oolong Gallery, don't miss "Seaweed" and "Sunrise," two striking aluminum sculptures by Fay Ray, and Griselda Rosas' large-scale work of embroidery on ostrich skin, "Colonialism."

Exhibition information. On view 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through July 23 (pending extension through mid-August). Oolong Gallery, 349 N. Hwy 101, Solana Beach. 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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