Ellen Greene, Free Fall. acrylic on vintage gloves 2011.

Reilly Hoffman, Alms Matara, installation view Todd Weiner Gallery, February 2012.

Art Thoughts on Reclaiming a Piece of Exhibition Geography

Reilly Hoffman, Alms Matara, installation detail, Todd Weiner Gallery, February 2012.

Reilly Hoffman, Alms Matara, installation detail, Todd Weiner Gallery, February 2012.

Ellen Greene, Hold Tight, 2010, acrylic on vintage gloves.

 

Todd Weiner Gallery
115 West 18th Street
816-984-8538
Reilly Hoffman
Alms Matara

February 3-March 31, 2012

Birdie’s
116 West 18th Street
816-842-2473
Ellen Greene
Ballard of the Tattooed Lady

On display indefinitely

Spray Booth Gallery
130 West 18th Street
(inside Volker Bicycles)
Various Artists
Art Thoughts of a Salon Show

February 3-March 17, 2012

By BLAIR SCHULMAN

Three February 3 openings reminded me that West 18th Street in the Crossroads Arts District remains the epicenter of Kansas City’s creative hub.

After some hand-wringing and worry about the future of the beautiful and historic Bauer Building, new owners and a refreshed game plan seems to have this important artist space back on track. New tenant, Todd Weiner Gallery opened with Alms Matara, a one-man show by metal sculptor Reilly Hoffman. Each piece titled PAla (meaning bowl) is a circle of pun and torch carved steel, primarily inspired by Buddhist alms bowls and Mandala paintings. The word "matara" is a variation on the Sanskrit word for mother — making reference to the breast, the first bowl most of us drink from.

Each piece, in varying sizes (PAla minu, PAla medius, PAla magni) bears patterning not unlike leaves long immersed in thick mud. The circular movements of these patterns imply speed, and to look at them over and over, the stronger impression is that of large-winged birds in flight. In totality, the movement and texture of these bowls is so rich as to support the weight of the metals used by Hoffman.

Displayed directly on the walls and one wooden table, its simplicity is kinetically effective.

Birdie’s, the “intimate apparel apothecary” run by artist Peregrine Honig and Danielle Meister, has on display Ballad of the Tattooed Lady, featuring 10 hand-painted framed pieces and 15 silkscreened wearable vintage gloves by artist Ellen Greene. Vintage gloves are thrifted and hunted by Greene. To Greene, the gloves are a window into a feminine existence. However, the overlay of tattooed imagery on the gloves presents a paradox; good girls can look like girls who might be bad because bad girls always seem to look great. Greene’s work shows us how the two meet and get along beautifully.

The traditional American tattoo was a symbol of masculinity, adventure and rebellion. Once only for sailors, bikers and criminals, they are now as inevitable as facial hair on a Brooklyn hipster. Gloves were a staple of women the world over, for both style and hygiene (calfskin and silk is a lovely alternative to a life before hand sanitizer). Greene re-imagines the pinup iconography and puts it right in the hands of the wearer, whose choice is to wear it on her sleeve, literally, or hang it on the wall. Whether it’s to go pick up milk from the store or admire it as a delicate assemblage, Greene captures an idea that is both clever and beautiful.

“This is an opportunity to collaborate with Ellen and show art,” said Honig, “that is wearable and walka the line between fashion and fine art.” Both are possible with the framed pieces. Displayed in simple and uncovered wooden boxes, the gloves are gently magnetized to remain within the frame, but always at the ready should the mood turn to take them out for a spin.

Birdie’s has the air of a throwback to an early 20th century Paris. The space, while offering intimate goodies for girls and their admirers, is louche and feels like it ought to be smoke-filled and frayed at the edges, but is definitely not. One imagines Honig and Meister in silk tunics lounging on fainting couches, sipping absinthe. To see Greene’s work in here is quite right.

Spray Booth Gallery (SBG) has just heaped a whole lot of attention on what seems to be every single living artist in the Kansas City area. XOXO Art Thoughts of a Salon Show is comprised of 118 works. They run to mostly painting, but with quite a few photos, ceramics and one small, ephemeral piece by Cory Imig (2012, Unreliable System, tape on balloon), that is dying and reincarnating itself as you read this.

Owner Andrew Lyles blurs the distinction between installation and environment. The work is free from any overly-academic curatorial practice that might otherwise regard the work as pretentious. They are things on a wall, look at them. There is no doubt this work is a survey of what Kansas City artists are seeing and feeling, and they are feeling good. Color, shape and movement are the fixed ideas here.

The idea for the exhibition came about as Lyles had never seen a salon show on this scale, excluding the H&R Block Artspace Flatfile exhibition. He began an email chain with his fellow alum at the Kansas City Art Institute. The Charlotte Street Foundation helped bump up that email list and between that, posting relentlessly on Facebook, soon word of mouth took over. The first call went out around Christmas-time and all work had to be in the gallery by January 21. For the most part, everyone delivered on time, a logistical feat in and of itself.

His goal was to get one hundred artists; he succeeded and then some. Lyles encouraged artists to show work from all points of their career, which eventually became a real ladder of some older work (Kelly Clark, Untitled, drawing on inkjet, 2008) to brand new pieces (Neil Todd & Todd Christiansen, A.D. 2000 Year of the Bug, digital video, 2012).

The curating began with everything laid out on the floor as intended to be hung, almost puzzle-like, and accordingly the main wall began to take a shape.

Asked whether a pattern emerged from the work, Lyles said he remained conscious of a color palette that enabled viewers to wander back and forth, going back to sections of the space repeatedly. This hodgepodge of styles and ideas allowed an individual to leave with their own takeaway of the show as a whole. Some standouts include Kahlil Irving, (New York Overload, paper, ink, colored pencil, 2011), Matt Jacobs (Spectrum, sponges, tic-tacs, resin, 2011) and Gabriela Castanedo (Jake, mixed media, year unknown).

They are some of the 118 reasons to visit this show again and again.

Installation view of XOXO Art Thoughts of a Salon Show, Spray Booth Gallery, February, 2012.

Reilly Hoffman, Alms Matara, installation view Todd Weiner Gallery, February 2012.