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What is a Bo Bo?

Robert Gardner's Harness

Robert Gardner’s Harness

It could be the name of a ’60s TV clown, the dog you had when you were 12, or some exotic furry animal from Australia.

Brad Reichardt had an Argentine friend who said that a Bo Bo was an anomaly, something you couldn’t explain. So when Reichardt opened a gallery around the corner from the bar he owned in San Francisco, he called it Bo Bo.

Now the anomaly is ours.

Bo Bo in Asheville, Reichardt says, “will be an alternative space, not like the other galleries in town. We want to demystify the art, to make it accessible. We want to celebrate the art. We had the reputation in San Francisco of throwing the best openings in town. We want to do that here.”

Asheville artist Robert Gardner met Reichardt when they were both students at the San Francisco Art Institute. Bo Bo’s inaugural exhibit includes Gardner’s work and that of three of the young artists who work out of The Wedge Studios down on the river.

Minimalism is the unannounced theme of the untitled show. Gardner’s contributions are elegant and mysterious: “Harness” is a round, semi-circular cage of welded steel rods enclosing semi-opaque glass balls streaked with cobalt blue. The cage is attached to the wall with a metal rod anchored to an eyed bracket, and the brackets are repeated in his “Bottle Construction.” Here, three blown-glass bottles, again streaked with color, stand upside-down, necks stuck through the eyes of the brackets. Directly beneath each bottle, a porcelain ball perches precariously upon the eye of a second row of brackets. The balls are lightly splattered with paint corresponding in color to that in the bottle. Gardner sets up an ironic perception about these vessels: What did they hold? Why was the content spilled? What will the consequences be?

And thus Gardner positions himself not as a glass artist, but as an artist whose medium happens to be glass.

Ryan Ford, better known for his figurative paintings dealing with contemporary social and political issues, shows two works — both titled “Nipple.” These pieces, like Gardner’s, edge deceptively toward function: A square, flesh-colored painting features a broad, nipple-colored handle in the center. In Ford’s second piece, a flesh-colored circle sports another, nipple-colored interior circle from which sprouts a gracefully designed soap dish. But the artist literally turns the issue of usefulness on its head: The soap dish is attached upside-down.

The ceramic works by Jason Weatherspoon are again a departure form his normal oeuvre. We see no baby George Bushes or stylized figures with bombs sprouting from their helmeted heads. These pit-fired works are extraordinarily organic. They refer to the natural world, to seeds and growth. The shapes look alive — ready to burst with new life. However, the large forms are tenuously balanced — referring to today’s ecological problems? Maybe Weatherspoon can’t make “art for art’s sake” after all.

And paring ideas down to the bare bones may be what this exhibit is really about, anyway. The works invite thought about the practice of the artists, the materials they use — and the things they wish to communicate.

Lauren Gibbes, the only woman in the exhibit, uses the concept behind her figurative works to create vivid color-field paintings — Gibbes has simply eliminated the TV celebrities that populated her previous body of work, dealing instead with the technical, vision-related physicality of the TV screen. Her four exhibited paintings are titled “Transfer” I, II, III and IV. The pieces are about the color and the light flickering across the screen — but, more importantly, they’re about the transfer of energy from inane programming to the viewer.

[Connie Bostic is an Asheville-based artist and writer.]

The group show at Bo Bo Gallery (22 Lexington Ave.) will run through mid-March. Winter hours are 3-10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. 254-3426.

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