The New York Times reported earlier this year that an average of one gallery closes in New York City every week. In the same article the Times profiled out-of-gallery artists who are hanging their work in clothing boutiques and (gasp) cafes—as if this is some kind of new phenomenon due to the recession. In Asheville (and in NYC for that matter) this has always been happening, and in fact some of the more interesting art is to be seen on the walls of noncommercial gallery spaces.
For an example of this, check out the frenetic prints and drawings of Jonas Fricke currently on display at Izzy’s Coffee Den (Lexington Ave. location). On a sign that announces the show’s title, You are More, Fricke has written a manifesto to the importance of offering sliding scale rates to interested buyers. “We all deserve artwork. No guilt. Creativity can save your life.” Fricke’s artwork covers every empty space in the café, and given the visual noise it is easy to overlook the details of each piece. Mostly executed on paper, they hang modestly by clips and pins. The prints and drawings reference a punk aesthetic—think zines and comic books—and mischievously convey an inspired critique of the dominant world paradigm. “Awesomology” is scrawled out more than once, and another piece declares, “If you believe in magic, it believes in you.”
Comprised primarily of paint pens, colored pencils, ballpoint pens, Sharpies, spray paint and crayons, the work is fresh and sophisticated in a Jean-Michel Basquiat sort of way. In “Home as Living Entity” a house extends its many arms and reaches into its cozy homey innards. “We Are Both of Them” shows two stylized human forms in an embrace, arms reaching into ribcages, faces turned away, but still intimate. It’s as if the artist didn’t have time to make sketches or figure out the best use of color, so the splendor lies in the immediacy of each piece.
For another example of novel art in a nongallery venue, visit Rags Reborn on Walnut Street for the work of fiber artist Jen Swearington. Her wall hangings incorporate her original drawings with quilting techniques and evoke a sense of nostalgic storybook fantasy. A fox leaps over a spinning Ferris wheel in “Rock-A-Bye.” Grain silos appear to commune with each other in “Indiana,” and a masked woman sits alone with her trick-or-treat pumpkin basket in “Wallflower.” The subtle narratives and capricious imagery of Swearington’s fiber work compliment the little clothing boutique nicely.
Be sure to peak into the windows of Krug Creative (next to BookWorks) the next time you are walking down Haywood Road in West Asheville, to catch a glimpse of Nava Lubelski’s stained and stitched mixed media “paintings.” Don’t be shy; if the business is open, go inside and study the works at close range. Based on themes of spoilage and repair, from a distance Lubelski’s pieces are often mistaken for abstract paintings. Up close, the thousands of stitches that comprise each piece become apparent. What took only moments to “destroy” with stains and holes has taken hours of careful stitching to repair, and each vital stitch contributes to the overall greatness of the work.
Lubelski frequently exhibits outside of Asheville—in January her solo show at LMAK Projects in NYC received a write-up in the Times, and more recently she has hung work in Sweden and Berlin. Hopefully Asheville will get to see more from this invaluable artist.