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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Collaborative Confrontation

    Downtown Tucson comes alive at night. The Rialto Theatre boasts some big-name concerts on the black-and-white marquee, and Hotel Congress routinely fires up the town with events ranging from VIP club nights to eco-friendly music festivals. Most evenings, those downtown would not have an art gallery on their list of must-attend Saturday night activities. But if they happened to weave their way through the teetering trains of belly dancers on stilts, and avoid tripping over the hats of the street performers outside, they’d find themselves at the Central Arts Gallery. Once a month this cooperative artists’ gallery space, which is currently comprised of 35 artists, holds a reception for a new exhibition. “”Acts of Self-Confrontation”” opened Saturday, Aug. 23, and the show is a worthwhile stop amid the congregated chaos.

    The aesthetic of the Central Arts Gallery speaks to the collaborative nature of the co-op itself. The windows along the sidewalk open the inner sanctum of the artists, allowing passersby a glimpse of the goings-on inside. Canvases stand out against stark white walls, while the mixed array of glass works, jewelry and mixed media are right at home around the perimeter. In honor of the new show’s opening, a table bearing a purple lamé tablecloth holds wine and a variety of other refreshments. For the first hour of the exhibit’s opening on Aug. 23, Tucson’s bluesman, Tom Walbank, provided the accompaniment to patrons’ perusal. If there is one genre of music known for provoking self-confrontation, it is the blues. In keeping with this idea, each of the pieces shares that common thread in one way or another. The artists are encouraged to interpret “”Acts of Self Confrontation”” as literally or loosely as they like. Although the artists were not required to create a new piece tailored to the selected theme, some chose to do so. The final pieces come together much like the eclectic group that Congress Street tends to collect.

    That said, the nature of a group gallery lends itself to incongruity. Each work is valuable in its own right-but without multiple works from one artist, the overall impression can be a bit overwhelming. It becomes difficult to focus on a single painting or photograph without considerable concentration. Several of the included works, however, command this concentration quite effectively.

    Judy Wurtz’s “”Wounded: a Self Portrait”” is one such painting. The subject of the large canvas is a woman settled into an upholstered wooden chair. Upon first glance, the woman of “”Wounded”” appears to pose for a standard portrait. If given a longer look, a story unfolds. Shadows in blues and greens fall across her, deftly dividing her in two. Her mouth, on the right, curves into a complacent surface smile. On the left, a down-turned grimace, with smile lines giving way to the signs of age, of worry, of pain. The shadows tumble down her body to the floor, slicing away the smile to create a division between smile and solemnity, between warmth and weariness. A vase of flowers stands just out of reach on a side table; such accoutrements do not accompany her darker self, as she sits, arms folded, no longer reaching for the light.

    The commonalities connecting one work to another in “”Acts of Self Confrontation”” are uncanny to behold. Images of women grace several canvases throughout the gallery. Though they were each created by a different artist, the women of these works are portrayed in postures that seem to mirror one another. Michael Hyatt’s photograph of punk-scene-queen Tequila Mockingbird from 1981, entitled “”Poet – Tequila Mockingbird – Los Angeles,”” was captured under very different circumstances than any of the other included works; however, it coincides with the theme as well as if it had been taken two days prior, with the strictest intention of inclusion in this show. She sits against a backdrop of graffiti on the ground behind the renowned Whiskey A-Go-Go club in Los Angeles. In an attempt at anonymity, she shields her face from view with her dog-eared paperback copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “”I Am A Barbarian.”” She confronts the photographer as much with the aggressive title of her book as with her unashamed gaze into the lens. Only the glass of white wine held primly in her other hand belies anything other than a supremely confident attitude. Perhaps she is similarly acknowledging the irony of the multiple facets of her life?

    As a whole, “”Acts of Self Confrontation”” certainly confronts visitors with plenty to consider.

    With a wide range of works from so many artists, it is possibleto suspect that the exhibition’s impact might be diminished.Yet, the Central Arts Gallery has captured self-confrontation to the fullest extent with this show. The diverseinterpretations make a highly personal idea much more relevant to their audience.

    “”Acts of Self Confrontation”” is on display at Central Arts Gallery, 274 E. Congress St., through Friday, Sep. 26. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday trough Friday and Sunday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

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