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The Golden Age of Russian Impressionism


Boomtown: Redefining the Southwest
by Rebecca Rabb

 

Untitled, by Alex Clauss
Photo by Rebecca Rabb

 

Alex Clauss, a student at Arizona State University, is a mere twenty-one years old and has already curated  his very own gallery show. “Boomtown: Redefining the Southwest” had its opening reception last Tuesday and considering its small stature, the show had a great turn-out.


When I first found out Alex’s age I immediately flashed back to my years in college and remembered being out-of-my-mind busy. My first thought was ~ How has he managed to fit this in? He is either crazy, or inspired.  Ladies and gentlemen, not only is he inspired, but also driven and extremely dedicated to his art. Lately he finds himself exploring the clichés that seem to define the Southwest. It is his goal to defy those clichés and he hopes that, “the diversity of media, techniques, and viewpoints presented [in the show] may help viewers to reconsider what the southwest is to them, and how our region is interpreted by outsiders.” While this may sound like a lofty goal, I believe that his show does just that.


I was fortunate to have a question and answer session with Alex - hoping to dig into his brain a little more. Here is what I discovered:


AF:  What inspired you to put together this show?


Photo by Rebecca Rabb


Alex: "In my own work, I've explored notions of the contemporary southwest and material culture.  When I looked at the art of many of my peers, I realized they were (sometimes unknowingly) exploring the very same ideas.  Though very contrary to "traditional" southwestern artwork, these works all still had a distinct feel of the region.  I thought bringing these works together to share my idea of redefining the southwest would be a worthwhile thing to do."

 

AF: Have you ever done this before?
Alex: "This was my first time curating an art exhibition.  I took a course called Gallery Exhibitions that introduced me to basic curatorial practices and gallery installation, which really sparked my interest in curating my own show."

 

AF: Did you enjoy the experience?
Alex:" Let me start by saying it was very difficult.  As a visitor in a gallery space, it's easy to overlook the curatorial aspect of an art exhibition because the works of art themselves are the real focus.  Curating a show was a very behind-the-scenes type of job.  That being said, I enjoyed it a great deal.  It's given me a new appreciation for the gallery/museum world, and caused me to look at my own work in a new light".


 
AF: Would this be an appealing or ideal career choice for you in the future?
Alex: "Until the past year I hadn't even considered entering the curatorial field.  After taking the gallery course, and curating my own show, I'd say it's definitely a possible career choice.  It has been a great way to combine my love for making art, and my love for sharing the art of others".

 

AF: About how many submissions did you get to the show?
Alex: "I got between 75 and 100 submissions; the turn-out really surpassed my expectations."

 

AF: Did you have a favorite piece?
Alex: "I really enjoy all of the work in the show.  Because I had a great deal of submissions, I was able to whittle them down to only my absolute favorites.  I didn't feel like I had to make any compromises just to fill the gallery space.  It also offered me the opportunity to view all the best pieces and think about how they would interact with one another".

 

AF: What has been the over-all response?
Alex: "I've gotten a great response so far.  People have told me that they feel this body of work epitomizes the southwest they know and live in - which was my goal!"

 


Conversing with Coyotes by Shawn Skabelund
Photo by  Rebecca Rabb

Now that we know Alex Clauss better, let us step into the gallery. When you walk in the main doors, you are immediately greeted with feces leading up to a coyote from Shawn Skabelund’s piece Conversing with Coyotes. A sure attention getter, the viewer either is repulsed or starts to smile- maybe even chuckle a bit- and then begins to investigate. I recommend the later. Upon further investigation, you realize that Skabelund is wisely commenting on our ecosystems and the effects that we have on them. A lot can be derived from studying this work and coming to your own conclusions- definitely a good find from Clauss.


Left: Sky Study 1, Sky Study 2, Sky Study 3 by Jeff Davis. Right: When They've Taken Your Land and Water and You Have Nothing Left to Sell but Yourself- Run Like Hell by Brittany Dion
Photo by Rebecca Rabb


After the initial shock wears off, your eyes are now free to explore the gallery. The show boasts paintings, photographs, video art, and more. Being drawn to color  (and after looking at my own piece in the show- unsubtle plug!) my eyes were pulled over to Jeff Davis’ Sky Study. Arizona’s sky is represented in a grid format in three very colorful, vertically hanging pieces. Davis says this about the prints, “In all of my work, the grid has provided a primary framework for making compositional decisions. It is a container for simplifying imagery and a workspace for developing abstract arrangements. The grid has always served as a unifying element in my art ... In the end my work is about simplification, logic, and order.”


Moving further through the gallery, you are presented with photographs and videos.   The next piece that stood out to me was a painting- which initially I thought was a photograph. When I got closer to the piece, I understood it for what it truly was- a painting, but in incredible detail. Colton Brock had this to say about his piece, “Shown [in the painting] is a view of downtown Phoenix as the observer passes due south over Sunny Slope Mountain, an area where the forces of tradition and 'progress' are in constant motion.” Again, another great find by Clauss!


I look forward to following and keeping up with all of these artists as their careers progress. Truly, the show was mesmerizing.  “Boomtown” will remain open until Friday, February 12th. If you get a chance, I recommend swinging by and giving it a look. The show is located at Arizona State University’s Gallery 100.















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