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Panel Discussion: West of Center, Contemporary Art in Utah

July 17, 2011 @ 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm

17 July 2011, 4 – 6 pm
Beyond Romney and the missionaries, there’s art

LACE welcomes artist and curator Micol Hebron in a discussion with 8 artists from Utah on the contemporary art scene. The panel occurs in conjunction with WEST OF CENTER at Jancar Gallery in China Town, and will feature Jared Latimer, Morganne Wakefield, Jorge Rojas, Jan Andrews, Tessa Lindsey, Jason Metcalf, Joseph Christensen, and others to discuss their practice and lifestyles as contemporary artists in Utah. Contrary to stereotypes full of landscape painting, cowboys and polygamists, Utah has a diverse and thriving contemporary art scene. From Google-street stalking, to barn hex paintings, live action pussy grottos to DIY sheep castration (with her teeth!), corn mandalas and tortilla oracles, to experimental film, beautiful graphics and collage, skillful abstractions, and humorous celebutant commentary, the works by these artists are thought-provoking and brilliant.

Curated by Micol Hebron, and featuring 26 artists, WEST OF CENTER is a selection of contemporary art from Utah. Artists are: Adam Bateman, Alison Buck, Amy Jorgensen, Aniko Safran, Cara Despain, Claire Taylor, Daniel Everett, Davey Hawkins, David Ruhlman, Jan Andrews, Jared Latimer, Jason Metcalf, Jorge Rojas, Joseph Christensen, Josh Winegar, Kenny Riches, Laura Decker, Laurel Hunter, Lenka Konopasek, Mary Toscano, Michael Ryan Handley, Morganne Wakefield, Myranda Bair, Robert Mellor, Stephanie Leitch, and Tessa Lindsey.

The artists will be doing a lecture/walk through during the opening on July 16th from 6-9pm at Jancar Gallery in China Town. www.jancargallery.com

Featuring 26 contemporary artists from Utah, West of Center has over 50 works in all media. This is a selection of both emerging and mid-career artists, intended to introduce Los Angeles to the vital and flourishing art scene in Utah. This is not the scene you might imagine, however – there are no plein-air landscapes or traditional quilts, no saccharine nature photographs or hokey, pseudo-indigenous crafts, but an array of contemporary subjects presented with vision, talent, wit, and innovation. You WILL see animals, landscapes, and even Joseph Smith-but in ways you likely didn’t expect.

The landscape in Utah is indeed stunning, and it’s hard to avoid – whether you’re an artist or not, it just seeps into your consciousness, aesthetic, and activities. Several of the artists in West of Center address landscape: Adam Bateman’s altered photographs explore the confluence of modernism and rural landscape, water usage, and our contemporary relationship with the land; Jared Latimer redefines plein air painting with observational paintings of the landscapes that he sees while touring his hometown and nearby areas via google street view; Davey Hawkins and Jan Andrews present uncanny and philosophical musings on land, body, and the personal relationship to landscape with stunning film and video sequences that recall sci-fi movies and structuralist films; Josh Winegar takes up classic notions of westward expansion, monumentality, and nostalgia in landscape photography with his stunning large format, manipulated photographs. Myranda Bair tackles the landscape through the aesthetics and language of rock climbing, merging the practicality and sublime of the outdoors with the artifice and economy of the gallery space.

We’ve got animals too! Claire Taylor makes impeccably illustrated drawings of animals and the magical universe over which they reign; Cara Despainexercises her admirable cat whispering talents to lure live kittens to her modernist Pussy Grotto sculpture; Morganne Wakefield experiences and tracks cycles of life, commerce, and consumption in her videos and performances about work on a sheep farm with kick ass feminism that will make you jealous, and actions you could never imagine doing yourself. Mary Toscano’s elegant and poetic drawings capture rural regionalism in a postmodern world.

Several of the West of Center artists engage in seductive gestures of abstraction. Robert Mellor creates meticulous and multilayered paintings that are dynamic explosions of texture and space; Jason Metcalf stitches the unlikely histories of modernist abstraction and barn paintings to illuminate the role of superstition and religious lore; Laurel Hunter’s drawings reduce golf courses and lawn sports to beautiful abstract compositions of line, circles, and color. Michael Ryan Handley’s sculptures explore material, texture and structure to form social and psychological metaphors. Tessa Lindsey works in paint, ink, and collage to create imagery that is simultaneously narrative and abstract with Rorschachian subjectivity. Kenny Riches also fuses figuration and abstraction in his house-lath-cum-geometric abstractions and figurative portraits of his father’s nostalgic past. Lenka Konopasek’s paintings of disasters present a world that is aesthetically beautiful and physically traumatized. Daniel Everett’s sleek photographs question the role of technology in the everyday. David Ruhlman’s mystical paintings appear as alchemical rubric’s to a secret world of human and animal codes.

Stephanie Leitch’s installation mines visceral, political, and social constructs of the body. Several other artists in the show present work about the body.Laura Decker’s illustrations humorously venerate celebrity and bemoan social constructs of femininity. Alison Buck’s performative videos are a tour de force of feminine strength and resolve and Amy Jorgensen’s body is her subject in the documentation of a 48 hour performance. Joseph Christensen’s biomorphic sculpture recalls a geode, but has uncanny allusions to the body as well. Aniko Safran’s photographic self-portraits reperform the identities of historic male performance artists, and Jorge Rojas will be performing for the duration of the opening as insight to his interlocutor’s psyches are revealed via tortillas.

For more information on West of Center, visit jancargallery.com