San Diego Weekend Arts Events: SDMA Reopens, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Bach's Birthday, And Chantal Peñalosa
This weekend in the arts: Cauleen Smith, outdoor jazz at Queen Bee's, a year of virtual civic organ concerts, Best Practice and an AjA Project panel.
My picks for the arts this weekend include Cauleen Smith's immersive take on Juan Sánchez Cotán — now that we can finally go back inside the San Diego Museum of Art — plus an outdoor performance of Afro-Cuban jazz, virtual Bach organ music, Chantal Peñalosa's multidisciplinary solo show at Best Practice and delve into "participatory media" with local artists, visionaries and curators.
'Mystical Time And Deceptive Light': Cauleen Smith At SDMA
San Diego county has returned to the red tier. And while many parts of the arts sector remain nowhere near business as usual, we're starting to see museums reopening at reduced capacity. San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park reopens to members on Friday and to the general public on Saturday.
Contemporary artist Cauleen Smith's immersive installation and video work was installed at the San Diego Museum of Art on March 14, 2020. Remember that date? If you weren't able to visit during SDMA's brief reopening this fall, now is your chance.
It's always exciting to get contemporary art within the walls of these larger, older institutions, and Smith actually took as her inspiration an influential 1602 work by Juan Sánchez Cotán, "Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber." Cotán's painting is also installed in the room alongside Smith's work. She was inspired by the impossibilities of the painting, and how in fact, the shadows and voids evoke movement.
"You can't see very much. You can't see where the string is hanging. You can't see what the light source is. The shadows don't make sense," Smith told KPBS last summer. "The shelf you see in the painting couldn't exist in real life; it's too slanted. If you were ever to try to set up the painting in real life, it would be impossible."
She constructed — to the best of her ability — the shelf Cotán painted for the video. She was also inspired by Cotán's highly detailed studio inventory he left after he joined a monastery. It made her want to create a work that documented her own studio in some way, recording the day-to-day sounds and shadows.
Smith designed the room to envelope the viewer, immersing them in the sounds and lights of her video work in the otherwise near-darkness. So if you've been missing in-person art, this one is worth your time.
You can read my feature and interview with Cauleen Smith from July 2020 here.
Details: SDMA opens Friday for members and Saturday for nonmembers, and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days, noon to 5 p.m. Sundays and is closed Wednesdays. Cauleen Smith's installation will be on view through Sept. 6, 2021. 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park. $0-15
Charlie Arbelaez Presents Afro-Cuban Jazz
Queen Bee's Art and Cultural Center in North Park is hosting an outdoor concert featuring the Queen Bee's music director, saxophonist Charlie Arbelaez and friends. They'll perform works by (and in the style of) Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo, Mongo Santa Maria, Paquito D'Rivera and more.
They're taking over the adjacent parking lot for this outdoor show, but you can also buy a ticket to livestream the event from home. Arbelaez, who hosts their regular Jazz Botanika Jam every Tuesday night, will perform with trombonist Matt Hall, keyboardist Irving Flores, bassist Will Lyle, drummer Johnny Steele and percussionist Charlie Chavez.
For inspiration, here's "Manteca," with Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet and Chano Pozo on conga percussion:
Details: Friday at 7 p.m. 3925 Ohio St, North Park or online. $30.
Bach's Birthday Celebration Concert
The Spreckels Organ Society and civic organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez will mark a full year of virtual performances, recorded at Balboa Park under a shroud of secrecy (to avoid encouraging crowds to gather in the public space), then made available Sunday afternoons. I know we're all starved for excitement during the pandemic, but undercover civic organist shenanigans strike me as the kind of thing that would feel at least a tiny bit mysterious and intriguing in the normal times. Regardless, a year of these weekly shows has been such a gift to San Diego audiences.
In addition to a year of this mystery, Johann Sebastian Bach is also another year older. To celebrate Bach's 336th, Ramírez will perform several of Bach's beloved works, including the iconic "Toccata and Fugue in D minor," the aria from "Orchestral Suite in D" and more.
The virtual program will also include a bilingual live chat with the dynamic Ramírez.
Details: Sunday at 2 p.m. Online. Free.
'There's Something About The Weather In This Place': Chantal Peñalosa
Tecate-based interdisciplinary artist Chantal Peñalosa recently opened a solo show at Best Practice, a small gallery in Barrio Logan. The exhibition, "There's Something About the Weather of This Place," is focused on perspectives and angles of the US-Mexico border, and uses photography, painting and video works. Peñalosa's pieces include canvases coated with fresh white paint and set outside to collect falling ash from wildfires, photography diptychs that follow the changes in cloud formations in the duration of a border crossing, even a scent diffused in the gallery to evoke the border.
Plus, a looped video performance work, "Sobre la Avenida México," where Peñalosa sits in a chair on a rooftop right at the edge of the border in Tecate, eye-level with a border patrol truck. She narrates the experience, which includes several perspectives. This work was featured in our "5 Works Of Art To See In San Diego In March" roundup.
Details: On view through April 17. Best Practice is open Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for visits with COVID precautions, or by appointment.
More visual art: The AjA Project's Courageous Visions presentation combines three of what the nonprofit calls "participatory media projects": Shooting Cameras for Peace, the AjA Project, and Little Saigon Stories. Artists, educators and curators from each of these programs will come together to discuss a new book about Shooting Cameras for Peace, as well as AjA's 20th birthday. There'll be a virtual exhibition, presentations from Beto Soto, Rasha Asfour, Alex Fattal, Rizzhel Javier and Karen Strassler, author of "Demanding Images." Free, and online (Zoom registration is required) Friday at 5 p.m.
Film: And of course, the San Diego Latino Film Festival wraps up this weekend. You can find plenty of online options or Saturday's drive-in double feature in the Mission Valley mall parking lot — check out Beth Accomando's updated feature on the festival here.
For more, check out the KPBS/Arts calendar, or subscribe to the weekly KPBS/Arts newsletter.