Gallery Spotlight: Salt Lake
Salt Lake's Newest Contemporary
Nox Contemporary opens this month in Salt Lake by Shawn Rossiter
This Friday, December 3rd, Utah's newest space for contemporary art in Salt Lake opens with a group show entitled Prime: The First Exhibit. Works by John Sproul and his wife Emily Plewe, the forces behind Nox Contemporary, will be joined by Shawn Porter, Jen Harmon Allen, Tom Aaron and Tyler Spurgeon to inaugurate the 1,800 square-foot space.
“The goal of the space is to expose challenging contemporary art to the Salt Lake City market," Plewe says about the gallery. "There are some really exciting things happening here right now. Nox Contemporary will build on that momentum.”
Sproul and Plewe are both well-known artists in Salt Lake's art scene. The couple relocated to Salt Lake from Los Angeles seven years ago, and have continued to pursue their artistic careers while raising a family. For most days Plewe watches the children while Sproul operates a wholesale retail business. They save a couple days a week, as well as late nights and early mornings, to pursue their creative impulses in the studio space they share at the back of their property in Salt Lake. Somehow they also manage to find time to take an active part in the local art community. They hold a monthly art salon that attracts twenty-plus artists, professionals and collectors every month. And last year Sproul founded the Utah Foster Art Program, which connects more than 100 community members and businesses throughout the state with the work of local contemporary artists, and continues to serve as its director. “Through the Foster Art Program, I found a lot of quality artists that either were not being shown or were being shown very little that needed to be," Sproul says. "Similarly, I discovered a lot of people who, once introduced to contemporary art, developed an interest in it. Nox Contemporary is one more means of bridging that gap.”
For a venture like Nox to survive Sproul and Plewe will also have to find a way to bridge the gap between their busy schedules and the demands of a gallery. Sproul's decision to house his day job and the gallery venture in the same building may be key to their success. He recently relocated his warehouse space to a non-descript brick office complex a half block west of Pioneer Park. He'll be able to operate his business out of the back while the majority of the property is given over to 1,800 square feet of gallery space in two rooms. The largest of the rooms has very tall ceilings that will allow the sort of installations and performances few venues in town can offer. Shawn Porter (see page 1) has been taking advantage of the space to install a new iteration of his entropic "stick and balls" works for the upcoming show.
In the accompanying video (above), Sproul shares his views about Salt Lake's contemporary art scene and discusses the artists involved in this first show and his vision for the gallery.
Prime: The First Exhibit, featuring the work of Tom Aaron, Jennifer Harmon Allen, Emily Plewe, Shawn Porter, John Sproul and Tyler Spurgeon, opens with an Artists Reception on Friday, December 3 from 6 to 9 pm, and continues through February 4. Nox Contemporary is located at 440 S 400 W Suite H in Salt Lake. For more information visit noxcontemporary.com
For arguably the biggest name in the show, Andy Warhol’s works in Faces are not what the general public will expect to see. Warhol’s bombastic screen prints are a fixture of the collective consciousness, and visions of soup cans spring to mind at the mere mention of his name. Lesser known are his Polaroid portraits that served as both source material and works of art in their own right. Twenty of these Polaroid photos are on display, in five groups of four divided by the following criteria: two sets of women, two sets of men, and one set of people holding something – a baby, a dog, a lover. The groupings are probably for logistical reasons, but they intentionally or otherwise present each photo as part of a larger collection. While the groupings provide an interesting visual, they almost downplay the value of each Polaroid as an individual work – as if one photo on its own isn’t enough. They end up relying on each other for presence and validity. Like a collection of trading cards, you end up with your favorites, but the collection is worth more than any single card.
Robert Arneson’s work lends a sense of brevity to the show that is otherwise lacking. While his piece “Head Bath” mirrors the cropped foreheads of the Katz pieces, it takes it a step further, actually severing the top of the head above the eyebrows. While most viewers will not be familiar with Arneson, the piece is worth a closer look as a fairly representative example of his print career.
Larry Rivers has, if not the most interesting, the most complicated work of art in the exhibit. His screen print “Living at the Movies” features several people sitting in a movie theater. It is the only piece of work in the show that goes beyond the portrait aspect of a single subject. The print flips the vantage point of a theater, and instead turns the lens on the audience. In this representation, the audience is a manifestation of intimacy – perhaps more. Couples lovingly lean on each other and hold hands, as is common in a darkened theater. One close up of a woman holding a bucket of popcorn between her legs, shows her hand entering the bucket – a suggestive metaphor for other activities carried out in darkened theaters. The title implies that these activities are really what “living” at the movies is all about.
The Chris Johanson sculpture “This is You” is the only piece that feels out of place. Made in 2002, it post-dates the other works in the show by a decade or more. While everything else in Faces is carefully framed, or protected behind glass, Johansen’s found-object-constructed sculpture feels common and cheap in comparison. What’s more, the face of the tiny man atop the piece’s curved arch is barely decipherable. Given the title, the piece is likely intended to be more of a commentary on the viewer and less a portrait of the man in the precarious position.