Interior of Axle Contemporary Art Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Reviews: Rule Gallery, Axle Contemporary, & 222 Shelby Street Gallery

Rule Gallery on Denvers lower Broadway is a long narrow room that, when I entered on a recent hot Saturday, offered up a space-expanding installation by Yoshitomo Saito, All Gods Children Got Rhythm – a late-in-the-day, light-changing phenomenology of how something seems, against how it is or may be.

Artist Yoshitomo Saito has observed that if most bronze sculpture is “animal,” his is botanical. And indeed the this-ness of the room, the likeness of the sculpted plant forms to the things they describe — “Colorado loop” a bronze circlet of woven willow trap that a heavy rain might have carried downstream, other serial specimens constructed to hang together or stand apart (pause a tiny bit on Annette Messager)  – give the space sonorous mystery. Dont expect “natural” shed or fray, theres absolutely no cartoonish pathos of needles on the floor. This is styled-cast.

Yoshitomo Saitos "Colorado loop" at the Rule Gallery in Denver

Yoshitomo Saito's "Colorado loop" at the Rule Gallery in Denver

Meanwhile the names cue associations. Autumn Nest,  could you say he was looking at Eva Hesse for this one? Cottonwood Samba, in the bloom an extroversion of a wrist, female fingers poised architecturally on her dance partners shoulder.

Yoshitomo Saitos "Cottonwood Samba"

Yoshitomo Saito's "Cottonwood Samba"

The artist who got his MFA from California College of Arts and Crafts in the late 80s has a few cues on his website to his encounters with western bronze Art History including the Ghiberti doors at the Florence baptistery, dubbed by Michelangelo “the gates of paradise.” Such encounters led Saito, reading heavily through standing pictures,  to cultural association with Japanese history. The temple bell is as embedded and sonorous a bronze for Buddhist society as vignettes of inferno and paradiso voiced in Florences portals.

What ensued for the artist: “hybrids of the familiar and unfamiliar.” “Purposefully ambiguous” forms such as slumped bells sitting crooked atop piles of sheets of something very thin — bronzed appearances of cardboard? —  paper maker engaging a welder in an analysis of the weight of wing.

This “All Gods Children” show comes later than that. It recalled  a long time ago, at Laura Carpenter Gallery, arte povera artist Jannis Kounelliss gesture of having pinned a delicate scarab to a massive volume of welded steel. One thing against the next oxygenated both. Tension between the light-shot nature of ephemera, a climate unstinting with light, essential shadow where you are moving quarry.  And: you cant describe anything head on, only sideways, which is how this installation works so well with the  space to wheel and circle around your body as you tour the aisles, in effect, of a wrought glade.

When I went back outside a couple of homeless men across the street offered me the Voice newspaper and I bought one for $2 and got in the car, which felt super-charged, hotter and more dusty.

The Axle Contemporary van

The Axle Contemporary van

Axle Art rolled out on Friday night in Santa Fe as the inaugural mobile art gallery in a step-van, a Matthew Chase-Daniel and Jerry Wellman joint. (Chase-Daniel, old old friend, had told me about this on Memorial Day weekend, and then kindly sent me an Airstream listing on Craiglist. Im still jealous – but you give me aluminum, Ill trade ink.)

The step-van with a big Axle Contemporary sign on its side is a very real idea incarnated. The quotation: “the agile mind is pleased to find what it was not looking for” comes from Lewis Hyde: Trickster Makes the World, a mobile motto with a punchline, like attracts like, is that you, Julie?.

So, dont look but dont miss the reflective outside and that high clerestory Matthew installed over the last couple months. Northern depends on which way youre parked. Pray for not so much snow this winter. “Transmissions,” (pa-pa-Pah-pa-pa-PUN), is a show of black-and-white drawings on paper by four artists: Paula Castillo and Eliza Naranjo Morse, in addition to Matthew Chase-Daniel and Jerry Wellman. Jerry apparently is riffing on shipping the van to Brazil on the train, but hey, slow down, stay a while.  Hours and locations are posted on the website at axleart dot com. Or visit them and us on Facebook where Im still having trouble linking.

Fact-Simile Apothecary Series

"Apothecary" was the name of one of Fact-Simile's editions with poets with work outside prescribed on the label. This one, Laudanum, sold out

Meanwhile, down at 222 Shelby Street Gallery, a new gallery home to a past Kinkos, a poetry reading of modernist poets and evident BFFs Elizabeth Robinson and Susanne Dyckman, was going down, influenced by the vision of Tom Tavelli for the space to become a fledgling art salon (the Gees Bend quilts look great in there), and of Fact-Simile Press, based in Santa Fe, which since 2006 has published fine modernist poetry with innovative-sustainable uses of paper. Really love what theyve done with the chapbook series, calendar, mimeograph books, trading card and other wise-use-of-small-edition-paper projects. And, in the reading, Susanne read first. They had driven down from Boulder. She seemed a bit edgy but was intensely composed in the reading. She numbered her poems after Lewis Hine photographs and used so many one syllable words she kept snapping you back. A staccato interleave with hair-down verb. It kept the verse motile and tensile, click, beat, click, appropriate for interpreting photography.

The elegant verse-angler Elizabeth Robinson followed, opening with a poem in the style of Frank OHara envisioning a confusion of Carringtons; Dora, and Leonora. The work ended as the true lives did with Doras suicide. True stories, atilt angles of words, imaginings based on a re-cast historicity all made Robinsons voice droll and deep.  The two I gather are both mentor modernist poets to younger generations, though theyre by no means old girls yet themselves. Or is it that verse just conveys how so much imagination is experience. Id like to guess somebody studied at Naropa. Never been there but (true story) I used to regularly see Allen Ginsberg (in supp hose) entering the 5th Street Sloans. Nope. Not there anymore either.

(Top image: Interior of Axle Contemporarys van, the art gallery on wheels in Santa Fe.)

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