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An overload of superb creation

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The teeming throng at the reception of the “New Mexico Showcase” juried exhibition at 516 Arts reminded me why I don’t attend many openings these days. While ferreting through the crowd – a testimonial to Albuquerque’s contemporary art scene – I experienced déjà vu taking me back to New York City during the early 1970s.

I was struck by the irony of the New York born and Los Angeles-based art critic Peter Frank coming all the way to Duke City to unearth most of the 1970s New York-inspired art currently being made in New Mexico.

My second visit – sans crowd, déjà vu and personal bias against large group shows of any ilk – revealed the high quality and logical rationale of a credible slice of contemporary art, so much for first impressions. I also noticed the bias toward female artists. The show features 52 female and 28 male artists.

If you go
WHAT: “New Mexico Showcase,” juried by Peter Frank with works by 80 artists
WHEN: Noon-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through April 28
WHERE: 516 ARTS, 516 W. Central

In his catalog commentary, Frank acknowledges his feminist view of New Mexico’s art community, citing pioneers from Mabel Dodge Luhan and Georgia O’Keeffe to Agnes Martin, Florence Pierce, Beatrice Mandelman and others. Among living artists cited are May Stevens, Judy Chicago, Lily Fenichel, Harmony Hammond, Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith, Susan Rothenberg and others.

Frank sees the New Mexico art scene as being shaped by women artists and patrons more than any other place in the nation. I would add Linda Durham, the late Arlene LewAllen, Charlotte Jackson, Riva Yares, Kathy Wright, Marjorie Devon, Holly Roberts, Suzanne Sbarge, Tonya Turner and many others to Frank’s list.

While viewing for the second time around, I was asked what my favorite piece was and I didn’t have an answer. With 80 artists, drawings, videos, paintings, sculpture and crafts, there are just too many excellent choices, so a few random highlights are in order.

Sally Condon, a hobby gardener from Maine and a Rhode Island School of Design graduate (MFA), has always done lovely paintings of internalized gardens in small villages that exist in her imagination.

In “Jangles,” Condon fractures her spatially peaceful garden painting with inter-dimensional square and rectangular forms that both contain and release multilayered realities. The aftermath of a metaphorical sunflower supernova leaves fragments of plant forms floating in free space.

Though she has not abandoned her beautiful pastel palette and impeccable sense of design, Condon is definitely treading in heavier psychological and aesthetic realms.

Condon remains unafraid of critic Dave Hickey’s Hidden Dragon of Beauty, and though powerful enough has no intention of slaying that dragon.

Regina Araujo Corritore, a New York ex-patriot, has written a love letter to her adopted land of enchantment with her “Sueños de BJ (Bird Jaguar)” video. As a nonfan of the medium I have to offer high props to Corritore for an excellent story and animation. The piece is a fraction of a larger work and speaks well for her successful future in the arts.

Luanne Redeye of western New York state is a skillful portrait artist who executed an excellent realistic oil painting titled “Ageswe’gayo.’ ” Her rendering of a tattooed nude would stand out in any traditional museum exhibition.

California transplant Esteban Bojorquez is an installation artist now residing in Santa Fe who offers “A Trip to Davy Jones’ Locker,” a multimedia relief sculpture of a sinking ship. His piece includes a video that both informs and amuses as well as tiny portholes containing mysteries.

The whole thing is positively reminiscent of the huge intergalactic space/ocean-going ship installation by the Santa Fe based Meow Wolf artist group at the Center for Contemporary Art last summer.

This is a jam-packed show well worth a long afternoon or two that truly showcases New Mexico’s resident talent. This show, however, of mostly transplant artists from everywhere leads one to contemplate the possibility of a native-born New Mexicans only exhibition. Just saying.

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