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What: The Not So Art Show

Where: The New French Bar

When: Tuesday, March 2

Between drinks, Thomas Browne informs me that this whole thing started because he’s a bad artist.

Really bad.

To hear Browne tell it, his works are somewhere beyond the mere aesthetically horrible, nudging into the realm of the visually abysmal.

As a truly bad artist, you have a hard time finding a place to display your work, Browne reveals; no local gallery wants to book your shows (which, he adds, takes a lot of the fun out of being an artist, bad or otherwise).

With this in mind, Browne and his friends — whom he insists are substantially less-bad artists than himself — got together to promote their work themselves.

At first it was nothing much, he elaborates, just a few shows for kicks. Browne and his buddies made giant works out of discarded plywood boards and globs of kitchen waste (from their day jobs as cooks and dishwashers), wrapping the behemoth conglomerations in plastic to keep them from stinking up the makeshift galleries where they were being displayed.

Through little more than word-of-mouth, people came to see these art openings, and the artists themselves usually had a good time.

And then, as more of these “bad art” events took place, a couple of strange things began to occur. For one, people started buying some of the art. For another, more artists — this time ones that weren’t bad at all — began to want to show their work at these functions.

Thus began the concept of the Not So Art Show.

Wandering around the latest one (staged Tuesday, March 2), I find it hard not to be impressed by what Browne’s bad-art hobby has become. With more than a dozen artists showing their work on the walls of The New French Bar — where plenty of patrons wander about to the live soundtrack of DJ Sterling Norins — this is by far one of the most entertaining art openings I’ve been to.

On display is an eclectic collection ranging from the wonderfully bold shapes of Sean Quigley‘s richly layered collage and print pieces to the ghostly, subtle, digital-graphics-on-canvas prints of Aaron Vidaurri. The urban stencils of local graffiti tagger Ishmael rest near painted luggage, tortured plastic dolls and graphite portraits.

In one corner, bathed in the light of an overhead projector casting images of clip-art airplanes and buses, another sheet of plywood becomes a work of collective art.

Browne’s been hosting the No So shows every two weeks, and each one, he says, brings in more artists and patrons.

At the last one, Browne reveals, one of the artists sold an $800 piece on the spot.

The only drawback, he admits, is that ever since these “real” artists have starting showing up, he’s been even more reluctant to display his own self-professedly “awful” works.

In truth, though, he doesn’t mind all that much.

Like a lot of the artists and patrons here, Browne wants to exhibit the sort of work most of the downtown galleries wouldn’t touch. And if he has to give up promoting his “bad” pieces so others can show their own, better art, then so be it.

What: True to Music Foundation Fund-Raiser Showcase

Where: Shotzy’s

When: Friday, March 5

With seven local bands on board, there was just too much going on for me to be able to give fair treatment to everyone who played. Still, I’d like to single out two highlights.

During one particularly surreal passage, local jazz-rockers Reductio Ad Absurdum saw their music inspire one of the evening’s best mosh pits. Kids began slamming into each other to sax- and Theremin-powered songs like “Limo Ride to McDonald’s” and “Botas Negras” — it was an awesome sight.

And, though Off Centre‘s set started off a little slow, their last few songs were absolutely brilliant. “Misplaced Streets” and “One Day Forever” actually found the crowd singing the lyrics back. At one point, co-vocalist Joey Wilton’s mic died, but the overwhelming power of the audience’s impromptu sing-along turned what could have been an unfortunate technical failure into an unforgettable musical moment.

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