Decade of art: 516 exhibition features key artists from gallery’s first 10 years

516 ARTS is the knife-edge center for Albuquerque art on the fringes.

Its space lures futuristic installations, produces murals splashed across Downtown buildings and spectrum-shattering exhibits producing what author Sharyn Udall termed a “portal to the extraordinary.” Launched on a $100,000 McCune Foundation grant 10 years ago, it has hosted exhibitions on topics including climate change, technology, gender and race.

This year, 516 will recycle the artists deemed most critical to both its success and impact in the group exhibition “Decade.” Accompanying events will hopscotch across town from the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge to the Tamarind Institute, the Tony Hillerman Library, Farm & Table Restaurant and the new Silver Street Market. Art lovers can choose from installations, murals, visuals and dance.

Seven miles south of Albuquerque, 516 ARTS founder/executive director Suzanne Sbarage asked photographic muralist Chip Thomas to create “Golden Migration” with dancer/choreographer Lisa Nevada in the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Its long grasses and irrigation ditches draw ground-nesting birds, geese, cranes and wading birds to the east bank of the Rio Grande.

Thomas, who works as a family doctor at Inscription House Health Center on the Navajo Nation, first conceptualized the piece after seeing a documentary about artists who paint birds called “Million Dollar Duck.”

“It was about a competition for a wildlife painting,” he said in a telephone interview. “It gives the history of the wetlands to raise money to protect migration routes.”

Thomas is creating black-and-white images of dancers interacting with birds on an old concrete dairy barn still standing at the refuge. He’ll repeat a smaller version of the imagery on the outside of the building at 516.

Nevada created a dance at the refuge to reflect the wildlife.

“It all starts out in the barn,” she said. “All the dancing is informed by the surroundings.”

The 13 dancers will adopt graceful bird-like movements mixed with more angular stances to represent cottonwood branches. A bus helmed by park rangers will transport visitors from the barn through the bosque to the river.

Back at 516, Tom Joyce’s fire-molded charred drawing will span the gallery’s 18- by 16-foot wall.

Joyce creates sculptures and drawings with materials used by multinational corporations, governmental agencies and military forces around the world. The artist works from studios in both Santa Fe and Brussels, Belgium.

Joyce imprinted the charred drawing onto recycled wood fiber panels using the round gear blanks of hydraulic dams manufactured in a Chicago factory.

“It’s a seared impression,” he said in a telephone interview from his Santa Fe studio. “I think a lot of people don’t realize how dependent they are on the work industrial blacksmiths do.”

Originally trained as a blacksmith, Joyce was awarded a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2003.

The space will showcase two of his cast-iron sculptures. Designed as positive and negative cubes, each began as steel fragments from his previous pieces. Steel is an alloy of iron.

The first organisms fed on the carbon dioxide and iron in the sea to produce oxygen, he said.

“It allows me to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between the first life forms and the particles in the sea suspended in the water,” he said. “The fact that we are able to breathe oxygen we owe to this cyanobacteria.”

In 2014, Joyce received a public commission for the Sept. 11 Memorial Museum in the form of a 100-foot-long quote from Virgil’s “The Aeneid.” Forged from recovered World Trade Center Steel, it reads “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

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