Sofie Ramos: 'Life Raft'
Bread & Salt
Artist Sofie Ramos encloses everyday objects — laundry, recycling, shoes, furniture — with brightly colored latex paint into assemblages.
Ramos, who is based in Los Angeles, will bring a new installation to Bread and Salt's main gallery this month. The installation is designed to make its audience feel immersed in a futuristic climate-impacted world.
"It's supposed to be like a giant trash island. Everything's hung at six or seven feet in the air, and the idea is that people can walk under it," Ramos said. "The whole world is flooded and then we moved up on top of the old world and now we live on this life raft above the flood."
It's an expansion of work Ramos installed at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, but with larger, more cumbersome pieces comprising the found objects of the life raft. The raft's mattresses, furniture and countless smaller objects are all coated with saturated, high-contrast rainbow hues. In "Life Raft," there's a particular emphasis on blue, for the water.
Ramos' work is visually joyful, simultaneously at odds with and an extension of the curiosities and discarded items she uses.
"It's about overabundance and oversaturation, and maybe 'tipping point' is kind of a buzz word, but it's about what happens when you oversaturate things, and at what point does it tip and turn into a disaster," Ramos said. Piles of discarded stuff are prevalent in her work, but there's something slightly hopeful about building on top of the old to start anew, despite the dystopian backdrop.
Sofie Ramos: 'Life Raft': Feb. 11 through Apr. 22, 2023. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Bread & Salt, 1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights. Free.
"There's a lot of bad things in the world, but I'm trying to make a little bit of an alternative universe where maybe we can work with what we have and make something that can at least distract us and be fun for a moment," Ramos said. "Also, maybe all of our objects will save our lives, or maybe we will go down with them. It's unclear."
Ramos hopes people will wear blue to match the underwater world at the opening reception on Feb. 11 from 5-8 p.m.
Tom Driscoll: 'Cornered'
SIP Art Space
In his description, curator Hugh M. Davies said that this exhibition of recent works by longtime San Diego artist Tom Driscoll subverts the gallery space — but also depends on and plays with it. The title derives from Driscoll's use of SIP Art Studio's literal corners: the joints between the walls and the floor, ceiling and other walls. Many of the works installed are cast concrete, smoothed and rounded — some perfectly spherical and some more blob-like.
My introduction to the work of Driscoll was the sculptural, screw-like protrusions installed in ICE Gallery during the pandemic, as well as the works in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego's permanent collection, on view now in the La Jolla space.
Tom Driscoll: 'Cornered':
Gallery hours are 2-5 p.m. Through March 4, 2023. Tuesday through Friday, though appointments are encouraged. SIP Art Studio, 215 S. Pacific St. #104, San Marcos. Free.
At SIP, Driscoll has installed not just a series of corner sculptures, but also other things that work with the space's ceilings and angles. Multiple concrete pendulums are suspended against the wall, with the concrete etching a gray arc on the blank wall as it sways back and forth. Also on view are colorful, twisted sculptures, prancing and looping from the wall out towards the space. A series of sketches rounds out the exhibition (no pun intended).
'Africa in Context'
San Diego Mesa College Art Gallery through Feb. 23, 2023
Curator Dr. Denise Rogers worked with the Mesa College Art Gallery and the Mesa College Museum Studies program to design and build environments and installations around works of African art. "Africa in Context" is a rare presentation of African art displayed as the pieces were historically used — moving beyond seeing the pieces as "artifacts."
The works are from the San Diego Mesa College World Art Collection. Founded in the 1970s, the collection holds more than 1,300 works. Rogers, who is also a professor of art history, has managed the collection since 2010. She often incorporates pieces into her coursework, but felt like she could never fully capture each art work's meaning.
"I always found myself in class explaining to students or showing videos, demonstrating how the pieces were supposed to be seen, the cultural context — the masquerades, the drumming, the storytelling, or the altars, the diviners," Rogers said. In having to explain, she felt that the students weren't able to fully appreciate the work's significance and relevance in a community.
In 2019, she began working with Alessandra Moctezuma, who runs the Mesa College Art Gallery and the Museum Studies program. They started developing ways to show the works with that significance, but were sidelined a few years by COVID-19. Since then, more works were added to the collection and Rogers used the time to craft scenes — dwellings, shrines, environments and garments to be worn with masks and more.
There are several shrines constructed in the gallery, many of which honor a "great mother," or the power or spirit of women, Rogers said. "There's this belief amongst many groups that you have to nurture that female energy, the energy coming from that female ancestor in order for the world to function," she said
'Africa in Context': Opening reception is 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, with free parking in Lot 1. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with pay station parking in Lot 1 for $1 per hour. A lecture with Dr. Denise Rogers will be held 11:15 a.m. on Feb. 14. Mesa College Art Gallery, FA 103, 7250 Mesa College Dr., Linda Vista. Free.
Additional pieces include controversial objects that are generally considered stolen, like vigango (or singular kigango) from Kenya. These, Rogers explained, are included to bring awareness to her complex and ongoing quest to return these items — a process that Rogers said has been stuck. "So we just have to wait until doors open that allow us to have them returned safely," she said.
A video plays alongside the vigango pieces explaining their importance and the issues relating to their protection and return. "That's the first thing you see when you walk in the gallery," she adds.
Armando de la Torre: 'On the Blue Line'
Athenaeum Art Center Feb. 11 through May 5, 2023
For "On the Blue Line" at the Athenaeum Art Center, longtime San Diego artist Armando de la Torre is building a massive cardboard rendering of the Blue Line Trolley, set against a mountainous backdrop east of Chula Vista and also an osprey catching fish — representations of the landscape. De la Torre thinks of human storytelling and the natural landscape as intertwined.
"I started realizing that a lot of my work is about listening to the environment. That kind of set me on thinking about what does the earth want us to do? What are the stories embedded?" de la Torre said. "Soil and soil narratives are both scientifically and objectively a way to understand the environment. As a storyteller, literally the earth records everything. The earth is a recording device."
Within his trolley sculpture, the people passing through represent the human stories and ancestry of the area, rendered as silhouettes or cutouts.
De la Torre uses cardboard in his work as a way of reducing costs and waste — and it presents something of a design and concept challenge he then needs to solve. "There's not a lot of money in making art, so I try to make things out of cheap materials, and I try to get as much out of the materials," de la Torre said.
Armando de la Torre. Opens with a reception from 5-8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, plus 5-8 p.m. every second Saturday for Barrio Art Crawl. Athenaeum Art Center, 1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights. Free.
"The trolley could be a metaphor for many things, for people moving, people leaving, arriving. It lends itself to poetic interpretations. I'm not trying to control the meaning of anything. I'm just using these structural concepts for storytelling," he said.
Perry Vásquez: 'Some Palms'
Quint Gallery through Feb. 18, 2023
In the 2021 San Diego Art Prize exhibition, the breadth of artist Perry Vásquez's practice was on display: large paintings, intricate drawings packed with characters and myth and thoughtful poems set on canvases — to name a few. He's also increasingly known for painting palm trees.
Vásquez began working on his palm tree series in 2017 in an attempt to understand the trees and their California myths, and he continues to this day. In "Some Palms" at Quint Gallery, some of the works are as recent as 2023.
I love what's gained when an artist dwells in a particular format, subject or style through the use of repetition or series works.
I spoke to Vásquez about the palm trees, and the repetition in 2021, and he said he was inspired both by the 16th century Italian painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo, who famously painted portraits made of fruits and vegetables, and German artist Peter Dreher.
"Every day [Dreher] would paint a glass of water," Vásquez said. "So it becomes like a practice. He's not doing this every day to be a painter. There's something spiritual going on with it."
Before his palm trees, Vásquez hadn't really worked in repetition before, but saw it as both a strategy and something he just enjoys doing.
Perry Vásquez: 'Some Palms'. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Quint Gallery, 7655 Girard Ave., La Jolla. Free.
"If I were ever to get bored, I guess I would stop and move on. But every time I start a new one, I'm completely pulled into it," Vásquez said. "I just really fell in love with them, and I just keep doing it, I guess. Paint until you die."
His palm tree portraits also draw attention to the history of the tree, as well as their problematic existence providing little shade.