Filler Land Of the Lost

The Lost Apparatus Celebrates Its First Anniversary In The Lost Barrio.
By Mari Wadsworth

THERE'S AN EXTENSION of the Downtown Arts District that's slipped through the cracks: the Lost Barrio Warehouse District on South Park Avenue and Broadway. Zoned for commercial, residential and industrial use, it's an odd grouping of buildings and purposes arguably providing one of the finest examples of urban living in the Old Pueblo. As yet it remains a quiet street, marked by brightly painted storefronts, metal roofs, hand-crafted signs, unlikely blooms of potted plants, and the raw materials of commercial works-in-progress.

A variety of retail shops specializing in furniture and home furnishings, each as individual as its neighborhood context, have filled in the west side of the street; and the near-complete Project M.O.R.E. High School, already an award-winning architectural feather in our civic cap, is a promise of more good things to come. Also, South Park is the focus of a UA School of Architecture design studio project, which, hopefully, will address the woeful lack of parking in the area.

But the real gem remains the 1,200-square-foot space local artist Sharon Holnback has converted into the Apparatus Gallery. Holnback, whose background is photography, rented the space at 299 S. Park Avenue four years ago as her working studio. Three years later, she looked around at what she sheepishly describes as a disorganized mess of materials and projects in various stages of completion and determined it was time to move into a new era.

"I was interested in creating an area of display for my own work," she says. "My background is in photography, but I enjoy working with a variety of materials," a fact evidenced by her numerous collaborations with other locals. She's currently working with sculptor Dante Fraboni (who shares the studio space in the rear of the gallery for his sandblasted flagstone creations) on a series of "yardworks" fabricated from cut steel and colored glass. "(The gallery) was a natural evolution," Holnback says. "There were so many local artists doing interesting work, I decided to incorporate that talent."

Image The gallery is set back a few paces from the street as part of the Elan Building, which the gallery shares with a real estate office and Tooley's Café. Holnback has taken advantage of the north-facing sidewalk space to create a garden to showcase some of her recent innovations with patina-finished steel. She also redesigned the warehouse's interior space. Just like the artists she showcases, Holnback has invoked a stunning use of humble materials to give the space a character that is at once homey and artistic while maintaining its industrial edge. The warehouse shell has been carved up by eight-foot interior walls, but the trusses of its high ceilings remain exposed. Woven mats (for sale) soften its concrete floors. "This was just a concrete pad," she says, gesturing to what is now a sort of shrine to functional art that draws you in immediately from the warehouse's yellow wooden stable doors.

The floor consists of 2-by-2-foot plates of steel, distressed to a deep, rusty brown and varnished, fastened to the ground with screws. The brick walls have been textured and faux painted in thick, swirling coats of yellow and peach. The ceiling is painted aluminum (foil, that is). Rice paper screens out the security bars on factory windows, while still letting in an abundance of natural light. A low-voltage halogen track lighting system, with fixtures by Scott Madden, consists of copper tubes and funnel shapes dangling like mobile pieces from a pair of cables running the length of the ceiling. The space itself is a work of art, and a perfect setting for an array of found-object furniture (Cornelius and Donovan), metal sculpture (Ned Egan), forged-steel mosaic tables (Rocky Dobosz), ceramic wall hangings (David Aguirre) and various vases, vessels and glassware (Andy Iventosh, Daniels' Anvil and It's A Blast).

IN ADDITION TO this regular assortment of fine and functional art by more than 30 local artists, covering the spectrum from cards and jewelry to furniture and garden elements, the gallery also features a space for curated shows. The current exhibit of photography, entitled Reciprocal Impacts: Contemporary Landscape Photography, shares the gallery's (and Holnback's) affinity for extracting the extraordinary from the ordinary. Described as "the physical impact of humans upon the landscape (and) the spiritual impact of the landscape on humans," the show consists of 25 pieces by seven local artists, covering a broad range of technique and perspective. The show was the brainchild of current Group for Photographic Intentions president Barry Baldridge, and five of the seven participating artists are group members.

Image Although the works stand up well on their individual merits, the real success of the show is in the curation: from the stark realism of Larry Wilson's Infrastructure series, black-and-white toned silver prints of Pusch Ridge and East Broadway in the early stages of development, to Thomas Grubba's hand-applied, hand-colored creations more reminiscent of watercolors than photographs, framed in weathered, found wood pieces. Taken as a whole, the carefully chosen body of works captures the modern and the timeless, contrasting the beauty--and degradation--that emerges from the collision between the man-made and natural worlds.

Take "Navajo," one of J. Keith Schreiber's labor-intensive palladium contact prints, in which distant smoke stacks rise up to meet endless powerlines on a vast desert plain. Right next to them, Sean Justice's Cibachrome color prints juxtapose cut negatives of mountains into kaleidoscopic photo collages against a regal blue background. Although the images are taken from the natural world, to my eye they look like still lifes of man-made objects: the mirrored reflection of Tucson mountains in "Meditation No. 14" looks like a photograph of a museum piece (a jeweled crown? a sculpture?), while "Meditation No. 7," from a distance, might be an ornate architectural detail. On the adjacent wall, Amey Broeker and Greg Huston's contact prints on gold-toned paper are warm, coppery reflections on decaying architectural elements imposed on the landscape.

Nearby, David M. Elliot's silver prints of urban hardscapes offer a surrealist view in which the landscape is treated as an object, from the shopping mall viewpoint in "Las Vegas" to the looming, panoramic perspective of "Power Object."

It's a thought-provoking assemblage of works, with as many possible interpretations as there are variations in the landscape. In an interesting departure, for example, Thomas Grubba's mixed-media "A Moment Before Twilight" takes an unspoiled landscape and distorts it. Gloopy, yellowish epoxy drips and cracks and distorts a chemically manipulated gelatin silver print of a dark, shadowy forest of saguaro and cholla. It's an eerie and somewhat foreboding image, and an ominous conclusion to the contemplative reflections on the fabric of our existence.

Reciprocal Impacts: Contemporary Landscape Photography, works by Amey Broeker, Greg Huston, David Elliot, Thomas Grubba, Sean Justice, Larry Wilson and J. Keith Schreiber, continues through April 27 at Apparatus Gallery, 299 S. Park Ave. Regular gallery hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 791-3505 for information. TW

Image Map - Alternate Text is at bottom of Page

Tucson Weekly's Review Forum
The Best of Tucson 1995
Arizona Links

Page BackPage Forward

Home | Currents | City Week | Music | Review | Cinema | Back Page | Forums | Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-97 Tucson Weekly . Info Booth