Exhibition Reviews | Visual Arts

Back to the Beginning: Artists of Utah’s 35 x 352 at Finch Lane Gallery

“The exhibition began with an empty space — one of the best in Salt Lake City. Artspace Forum Gallery offered Artists of Utah the opportunity to create a unique exhibition featuring Utah artists 35 or under … Despite the fact that the exhibition took place during the busy holiday season, a record number of visitors came to the gallery, oftentimes waiting at the door first thing in the morning.

So read an article written in February of 2003, at a time when Artists of Utah was in its own infancy and took the groundbreaking move to give exposure to artists who were also just starting out. Six years later the organization may have grown into maturity but it is still looking to foster Utah’s young generation of artists.

Like the original 35 x 35 show, 35 x 352 is a juried exhibition open to all Utah artists under thirty-five. “In juried shows around the state there are frequently hundreds of entries, many from well-established, professional artists,” explains Artists of Utah board member Stefanie Dykes. “Numerically, it makes it harder for younger artists to get noticed. Limiting the show to artists under thirty-five solves that. Plus it gives us a unique opportunity to take a look at what is coming out of the most recently established studios.” What’s magic about the number thirty-five? “Well, you have to have some sort of cutoff point,” explains 15 Bytes editor Shawn Rossiter, who helped plan the first exhibit. “And at thirty-five you can run for president, so by then you’d be considered mature, right?”

A number of the artists in the initial 35 x 35 show are now mainstays in Utah’s art world: Anthony Siciliano, Nathan Florence, Kim Riley, Holly Pendergast, Brandon Cook. Cook, now a board member of Artists of Utah remembers the first exhibit fondly and petitioned to have the age limit raised so he could participate again.

Not all of the artists who participated in the first show have matured beyond entry, though. “In the first exhibit Jen Suflita was, I think, a first-year student at USU, doing these large format close-up paintings of friends,” says Dykes. “At the time, the show helped her get into gallery representation at Horne Fine Art. Now she’s back. I like the idea that even through all her schooling her interests are the same. She’s now doing etchings, but they’ve still got that same crowded, intimate feel of her paintings.”

Linnie Brown, of Lehi, is another returning artist and her interest in collage has continued. “I remember at that first show certain themes, certain similarities between the artists arose,” says Rossiter. “Collage, like in Linnie’s work, was one of them.” Different trends have appeared in this second installation of the concept, says Rossiter, who did not participate in the jurying process but is helping to curate the show. “There’s a strong narrative trend in a lot of these artists work,” he says, “and not just because they’re coming from the same place. Matt Glass, up in Ogden, is doing these large, staged photographs that have a very baroque quality to them. Chad Tolley’s work has a fairy tale narrative aspect about them; and Chad Crane is dealing with myths of the west. All very different narratives but that storytelling aspect is central.”

Rossiter also notes the amount of work that deals with photography. In addition to Glass’s work, there’s also Cris Baczek, who Rossiter says “continues to experiment with what exactly constitutes a landscape and what exactly is a photograph.”|5| Van Chu will have a large multi-piece abstract work inspired by Chinese landscape painting that employs digital photography, and Mallory Qualls uses photography to create abstract works.

You may recognize many of the artists in 35 x 35 from coverage in 15 Bytes — Chad Tolley, Zane Lancaster, Chad Crane, Joey Behrens, Cris Baczek, Blue Critchfield, Justin Wheatley and Hadley Rampton have all appeared in the magazine’s pages. But there are plenty of new names as well. “I think the exhibit is great for the public, a way for them to get to know some of the artists of the upcoming generation,” Dykes says. And Rossiter says the exhibit helps 15 Bytes. “It saves 15 Bytes a lot of time going out looking for new talent. Here we have a bunch of new names we didn’t know about before. And now they’re in our radar and our writers can keep track of them and see what’s going on.”

35 x 352 opens at Finch Lane Gallery on September 18 as part of Gallery Stroll. Gallery director Kim Duffin says that this is the first time in 20 years the whole space has been given over to one artist or organization. Works will fill the two upstairs galleries, the Park Gallery below, and may even spill onto the balcony. The curators realize they will have a difficult task ahead of them, fitting over sixty works by thirty-five artists into the space. But that hasn’t made them timid. They will be showing a number of large works, some of them seven feet or more. Michael Handley will have videos of his performances at the gallery, but he has also been invited to create a performance for the opening night; and Travis Nikolai will create a site-specific installation.

The show, however, is not only for people looking for works in a contemporary or experimental vein. Landscape works by Hadley Rampton, Aaron Bushnell and Woody Shepherd show a variety of approaches to Utah’s favorite genre. “We’re not trying to push an agenda of where art should be going,” Rossiter says. “We want to say, here’s what’s going on. We try to reflect that in the pages of our magazine as well.”

A second reception for the exhibit will occur on October 16, at which time three juror awards, a Board of Directors award and a People’s Choice award will be presented.

35 x 352 is at Finch Lane Gallery September 18 — November 6. Reception September 18, 6 — 9 p.m. and October 16, 6 — 9 p.m.


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