June 3 – 25, 2017
Freeform Art Space, Santa Fe
Freeform Art Space is what you’d call “off the beaten path.” Way off the beaten path. Not only is it off of Cerrillos Road past Siler, but the only individuals likely to stumble into the gallery are perhaps those who’ve gotten lost trying to find the Goodwill. Mark my words, though: this is a gallery worth knowing about. It’s small but packs a good, hard wallop.
I stopped by and visited with co-owner and artist Rita Bard, who has work in their most recent exhibition, Multiple Universes (June 3-25, 2017), which was curated by her husband and gallery partner, Walter Thommes. Comprised of pieces by five New Mexico artists, Universes was surprisingly good looking. I say surprising because I went there on one of the first over-80-degree days of June and discovered the one drawback to the former industrial space: no cooling system. Being hot and sweaty always makes me cranky and unwilling to give anyone a break. However, a quick look around told me to dial back my discomfort and take the time to really see the art in its environment. Freeform is not overly spacious, with two small- to mid-sized galleries and a third tiny one—just enough room for an attractive and compelling five-person show.
Two of the artists, Lea Anderson and Jody Sunshine, were familiar to Thommes from the gallery off Lena Street he and his wife also called Freeform until last year, when they took over the Cielo Court location. They spent eight months cleaning and remodeling the gallery, and their work has paid off. The lines and lighting of the space shine, without the preciosity and gleamingly aggressive modernity of too many a white cube.
When it came time to hang their latest exhibition, Thommes stepped in and demonstrated that his is a fine eye. Besides Anderson, Bard, and Sunshine, he invited Crockett Bodelson and Shirley Klinghoffer to show their stuff. The result is smart, slightly odd, and light-footed. Klinghoffer’s Nurture One, which consists of a sizable tumbleweed tucked inside a knitted, baby-pink cozy, stuck up in a corner a la Russian Constructivism, together with Crockett’s seventy Sharpie drawings on plain white paper, greet the viewer upon first entrance. In a homey touch, the whole of Crockett’s work in Universes is filed in an old-fashioned card catalogue. In case the price of his Xeroxed drawings is too much for you—$20 each—he’s executed his collection in the form of tiny spiral-bound notebooks, each titled My One Trick Pony Never Became Famous. Crockett and Klinghoffer’s works are striking enough that it takes a bit to notice, for example, Bard’s Discussing Miracles, a quietly satisfying rendering of what might be a magician and his rabbit, or perhaps Joseph Beuys explaining pictures to a dead hare. The potential creepiness of the content is nicely counterbalanced by Bard’s washes of pinks and gray blues.
In another corner of the room hangs Anderson’s delightful Empurling, a series of intricate drawings, all in blues and purplish hues. Its colors reminded me of a pinafore my mother made for me in early grade school. The suggested sweetness of a childhood dress is belied by the surrealist effect of organic seed shapes crawling upward on the panel, as if they are attempting to escape a hideous end or, conversely, sagging right off the picture ground into oblivion. Its weight is tangible. And speaking of things that are headed right toward oblivion, Sunshine’s work is so full of cynicism (yet barely venomous), that laughter is the best response. But her work can’t be dismissed as pure joke. Like most of the work in the show, it starts with a solid foundation in draftsmanship; Bard’s work is even more simply and satisfyingly based in drawing. Of course, Anderson and Crockett share a love for pen and pencil. I was searching for the common thread in Klinghoffer’s work when I realized it was, literally, the stitchery of it. All of the works are so matter-of-factly handmade that they hang together as one, each a star among a heaven of stars.