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New space gives respect to creations long shunned by the arts community

Vanessa Michel’s “Walk Like Thoreau,” a 58” x 99” hand-stitched quilt, will be included in the opening exhibition at form & concept, which is taking over the old Zane Bennett Gallery space.

Vanessa Michel’s “Walk Like Thoreau,” a 58” x 99” hand-stitched quilt, will be included in the opening exhibition at form & concept, which is taking over the old Zane Bennett Gallery space.

A new, nonprofit exhibition space intended to explore and blur the lines separating craft, art and design will open this spring in the former Zane Bennett Gallery, which closed last summer.

Called form & concept, the space will host exhibitions that will contribute to the contemporary art scene in the Railyard District, according to director Frank Rose.

“We want to present exhibitions based on the merit of the work itself, rather than on how well it will sell,” he said in explaining the choice to go nonprofit in the 10,000-square-foot space at 435 S. Guadalupe St.

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He also said the organization being developed with Sandy Zane intends to present workshops and lectures for the public, and to develop artist-in-residency programs.

“In order to do that, we need to meet the funding gaps with grants, memberships and donations,” he said.

“Andrea” is a brooch made from poplar shavings, rubber and steel by Brian Fleetwood that will be included in “Made in the Desert,” the first exhibition at form & concept.

“Andrea” is a brooch made from poplar shavings, rubber and steel by Brian Fleetwood that will be included in “Made in the Desert,” the first exhibition at form & concept.

There is nothing quite like it in New Mexico that encompasses craft, art and design, he said of form & concept. The Museum of Arts & Design in New York has been eyed as a model for some of the programming, Rose said, but even that organization leaves out the word “craft.”

Many in the art world have regarded that almost as a dirty word, seeing “art” as something of a finer sensibility, existing only for its own sake, superior to a “craft” with its workmanlike production and functionality. They view art as “removed from the everyday and the human,” Rose said. “To me, art is just as human and a part of our lives as a well-made teakettle.”

Exhibitions at form & concept are intended to plumb the depths of how and why objects are categorized. “We don’t want what we do to be pigeonholed,” he said. “We want to dissolve the barriers” and explore the wide differences in how people define what is art, design or craft.

“We’re committed to quality work and the kinds of issues the work addresses,” he added.

You can look to the first planned exhibitions for a feel of what to expect.

“Made in the Desert,” featuring artists from Arizona and New Mexico (and maybe the Texas border), will include contemporary crafts featuring the use of alternative materials in jewelry, weaving, ceramics and neon, he said. Opening May 27 and running through Aug. 22, it will include artists such as Janet Abrams, Melissa Cody, Jaque Fragua, Courtney Leonard and many others.

“Unintended Consequences,” a clay construction by Susan Beiner, will be in the first exhibition at form & concept. courtesy of form & concept

“Unintended Consequences,” a clay construction by Susan Beiner, will be in the first exhibition at form & concept.
courtesy of form & concept

“You’ll see works that use both old and new techniques, but all of the artists on display are working within a contemporary milieu,” Rose said in a news release prepared for that show.

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From June 10 to Aug. 11, opening in conjunction with the Currents New Media Festival, 3-D printed works will be on display in “Virtual Object.” These are things made or influenced by the new processes of 3-D printing.

“Handmade and computer-made processes need not be at odds with each other,” Rose said in a news release for that show. “As technology increasingly expands into our lives, I think it is important to use these tools consciously and investigate what kinds of artistic communication may be possible.”

Frank Ragano and Mariannah Amster, who founded and run Currents, are curating that show along with Rose, who said he helped produce that festival last year after leaving almost eight years at Manitou Galleries in search of a more contemporary sphere.

Before moving to Santa Fe in 2008, he said, he earned a degree in photography and digital media at the University of Houston, and worked with a gallery and an arts magazine in that city.

Rose said connected with Sandy Zane when she hired him as a consultant to help in the sale of 250 pieces of art in stock when Zane Bennet Gallery closed last year.

“Sandy was considering just walking away or doing something new,” he said. “We found a really nice rapport and shared things we were interested in.” From that, form & concept took shape.

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