What’s in store for the first Friday?

Of the 23 galleries, studios and two museums that are part of the Asheville Downtown Gallery Association, a few are off to a sleepy start for this year’s first Art Walk. But for a handful of downtown gallery owners, the first Art Walk of the year will be an all-out celebration.

Asheville’s Art Walk is an every-other-month affair, from April to December. The plethora of downtown galleries plays host to an equally large variety of work. Fine jewelry, ceramics and paintings, among many other media, fill hip gallery-boutiques, craft workshops, booths, stalls and a few commercial entities. They stretch from the Grove Arcade, fanning across Haywood and Lexington, through College and Walnut and down the Broadway-Biltmore way.

Even though the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center is gearing up for the third annual Happening, it will be open to welcome visitors. The Asheville Art Museum, reveling in its new digs with the launch of its interim expansion called PRIMED, has also extended Friday hours. If you haven’t seen the new space, it’s a PRIMED time to check it out.

Ariel Gallery is celebrating 10 years downtown The artist-owned cooperative started out as an informal group that circulated meetings at each other’s homes. In April 2002, Ariel set up shop on Haywood Street before making the move to Biltmore Avenue (its current location) in 2008. The Ariel collective, self-described as “fine craft,” showcases ceramic, jewelry, fiber, wood, glass and mixed-media works by 12 artists.

Castell Photography, a somewhat hidden gem, is hosting its official re-opening in Wilson Alley (just off Eagle Street).  Photographer and gallery owner Brie Castell closed the space earlier this winter for general maintenance, but also to work on a project space. Castell briefed Xpress on the construction in a small room that formerly doubled as storage and her personal darkroom. “We have totally remodeled it to house our permanent collection and inventory we represent.” Having a permanent collection on display allows her, and any gallery owner for that matter, to help narrow the sights for collectors.

She also used this winter break to solidify the 2012 exhibition schedule. New York photographers Roger Ricco and Justine Reyes start the year off with Spring Salon, which opens Friday night. Ricco, an artist and co-owner of the Ricco-Maresco Gallery in Chelsea, captures landscapes and light boxes as transient glimpses — there, not there. Soft lighting with slight blurring make photographs of water and branches seem temporary.

Reyes’ photographs draw on Vanitas paintings from 16th and 17th-century northern Europe. They are staged, dramatically lit and highly symbolic, often showing bones and snuffed candles. But Reyes throws in modern anchors such as cellophane, sugar packets and paper dishware.

Lexington Avenue’s Atelier Gallery opened in February 2009. The booth and stall-style gallery opened a new front on King Street in the middle of downtown Charleston, S.C., last fall. Then, in early March, the corner of Lexington and College had paper in the windows — on March 16, the former jewelry boutique opened as an Atelier extension. The space will feature Atelier artists and possibly some smaller special exhibition in the future. Bracken Sansbury, the gallery’s manager, said the “goal is to pull people down Lexington.” It’s apparently working, as their foot-traffic has had a noticeable increase.

Izzy’s is by no means a “proper” gallery. There’s no track lighting and walls have the tack and nail holes from the shows of no less than 50 artists. But all of this makes for a strangely desirable spot to hang work. This Lexington staple hosts arguably the strangest artwork viewable downtown. (March’s exhibition featured the works of Morgan Kerr and Tim Jeffery, combining bones, teeth, feathers and even a bobcat skin in a mesh of steam-punk-meets-Road Warrior-meets-religiously-iconographic wall pieces.

This month is slightly more traditional. Works by Leif Johansen open Friday night with a live music backdrop. Johansen’s works draw heavily on Picasso-style abstraction. seemingly socially awkward characters are painted in combination with vibrantly colored backgrounds collaged from drawings, writings and newsprint clips. Johansen, an Asheville resident via Vail, Colo., told Xpress that this exhibition will feature new works including what he calls his “Magnum Opus.”

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About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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