By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – December 11, 2017) — A city is only as good as the art and artists it supports; where art or artists are lacking, so, too, the imagination and innovation of the city. An artless city is an uninspired city .
If this is the case — a city is only as good as its art, Albuquerque is a good place to live. And the Andy Warhol Foundation and 516 Arts seem to agree. Working in conjunction, the Warhol Foundation and 516 Arts have created the Fulcrum Fund, a grant program that supports local artists. Both institutions see a city as an ecosystem, a living community that “provides a sense of artistic and intellectual freedom which reinforces and validates how artists can and do shape our community,” as the newly released Fulcrum catalog states. Albuquerque is such an ecosystem. To date, the Fund has gifted $110,000, supporting 24 artist-driven projects.
And though my headliner — that Andy Warhol supports art in Albuquerque — may be an overstatement (he died in 1987, over thirty years ago), he, in a way, would be a fan of what the foundation — named in his honor — is accomplishing: making a connection between a community and its citizens, an “interactivity” of “negotiation” between the two. As the Fulcrum catalog quotes Warhol, “Human being are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains…of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms…And in a way, every social action is a negotiation…”
I’d agree with Warhol: art is a negotiation. And the negotiation seems to be working in Albuquerque, cultivating a healthy dialogue, and reaching beneficial outcomes — more great art.
I wonder if Warhol — when he stopped in Albuquerque during his trip across the United States to show his Campbell Soup Cans at Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles  — saw the arts potential of the city. Staying at the Hilton Hotel (now Hotel Andaluz) and talking the only photograph of his trip in a photo booth on Central Avenue, Albuquerque was only a stopover between Texas and California for Warhol, albeit a culturally engaging stopover. But things have changed since Warhol’s 1963 trip. Albuquerque is continually growing, expanding its artistic vision, and attracting artists from the region—as the exhibit at 516 Arts demonstrates, carving a different niche from our famous Northern neighbor, Santa Fe .
Part of the expansive attitude towards art in Albuquerque has been through 516 Arts. Established by Suzanne Sbarge in 2006, 516 Arts has been a catalyst for contemporary art in Albuquerque. And though there was a budding arts community prior to 516 Arts (read David Leigh’s great article in the Fulcrum Catalog), it’s 516 Arts that has been a channel between artists and the broader city, bringing awareness and continual arts-based activity.
The recent Fulcrum exhibit at 516 arts is case in point. Exhibiting the work of the artists benefited by the Warhol Foundation grant, the space—located at 516 Central Avenue—was recently a-buzz with creativity.
I showed up a tad before the opening to get a sense of the activity.
In the window was a swirling — almost Dada-like — sculpture created by Karl Hofmann. Named In the Balance, the sculpture accompanied various watercolor, ink, and gouache paintings Hofmann created based upon the symmetry and swirl of the sculpture. It’s a marvelous piece.
And as I walked into the gallery, I was greeting by Russell Bauer’s The Edible Carnival: a “kinetic sculpture” that explores “how old and new technologies can spur conversation.” The Edible Carnival is a bike-like sculpture with a fire grill in the middle of it.
And this is just the beginning of the art. With over 24 artists represented, there’s so much eye candy that my curiosity was filled to the brim with intellectual wonder. From Ginger Dunnill and Canupa Luger’s indigenous inspired art, to Kemely Gomez and Daisy Quezada’s look at immigration and borderland culture, to Aryon Hopkin’s DRY MTN collaborative publications, all the work was broad in topic and well executed. I was particularly interested in Billy Joe Miller and Allie Hankins performance video piece Lo Lo. In this video — featuring a woman’s choir, dancers with rope, and music provided by Indie group A Hawk and A Hacksaw members Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, it was a fascinating homage to the 1896 film Danse Serpentine. I watched and listened in engrossed absorption.
With all the great work, one needed to see it to experience it and not just read about it. Yet here is where the bummer arises: the event was one night only. So don’t bother to go looking for it, its not there (you can, however, see Karl Hofmann’s exhibit). But you can experience the Fulcrum event via the catalog and website, learning about the Fulcrum Fund and the artists represented .
Yet if there’s one thing that we can — and should — learn about organizations like the Fulcrum Fund, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and 516 Arts is that art makes or breaks a city—culturally speaking, initiating a creative conversation between a city and its citizens, helping cultivate, challenge, and create an engaging and vital place to live.
1) The same could be said of a city’s churches.
2) See The Trip: Andy Warhol’s Plastic-Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure by Deborah Davis.
3) For the history of art in Albuquerque, I recommend Jospeh Traugott’s book, Visualizing Albuquerque: Art of Central New Mexico. Albuquerque Museum Press.
Photo captions: 1) 516 Arts. 2) Andy in Albuquerque (top right). 3) Fulcrum Fund Catalog. 4) Karl Hoffman sculpture. 5) The Edible Carnival, Russell Bauer. 6) Brian Nixon.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon
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