ArtSpace Enlivens Artists, and Their Art Remains (for Two More Days)

Arts and CultureArtArtistsArtspaceCommonWalter Benjamin

Artspace is winding down three separate exhibits this Thursday. It’s worth heading over during the final hours that the works are on display. The main one was devised in the space, all three are community-minded, and a collaborative glow simply emanates from the joint.

The pieces in the gallery’s largest display area all grew out of lively “Saturday Happenings” this month, where artists gathered to spontaneously create. Colleen Coleman danced up a gigantic mural, titled “Ode to Walter Benjamin,” by swirling circles on a wall with a large piece of graphite for two hours; a video playing near the work now documents its creation. The Illuminated Universe Artist Workshop brought forth several assemblages with electric light bulbs at their cores; the sculptures were then used to light up a May 19 “Night Picnic” inside Artspace and a music concert. There’s as an undeniable “you had to be there” quality to these works, but they’ve also earned a place as stand-alone art. They still positively glow with collaborative energy.

There’s an even sharper organic spirit to AgitCrop, a neat exhibit of seed packets from the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a two-acre farm in New York which invites artists to contribute art to decorate seed packets. The seeds are actually for sale, at $3.75 a packet. A carrot-seed packet bears the art of Artspace staffer Martha Lewis. The AgitCrop exhibit is supplemented by a student project in which Common Ground High Schoolers developed T-shirts with mottos such as “I’m Okra, Have We Met?” and “I Got the Beet.”

Other soon-to-end exhibits feature the sculptural musings of Scott Penkava, under the self-effacing collective title “I Make Art and I’m Not Smarter Than You.” Souvenir buttons with that phrase on them can be had for free. The works are blend childlike innocence with the heft of adult reality. One piece attaches pipes to bowling balls to demonstrate the chemical composition of psilocybin, and is billed as “a tribute to The Big Lebowski; it comes off as a heavy, menacing tinker toy project.

The small self-contained side room at Artspace has been given over to recent works young artists who served the institution as interns over the past few years. It’s a wide variety of work, distinguished more by zeal and confidence than stronger artistic attributes, yet like the illuminated pieces in the main room and the Common Ground T-shirts it brings a live energy to the room. You imagine these artists communing in the space, an image that’s more compelling than any single work on the wall.

Again, all these shows end Thrusday. They represent what Artspace means to the local arts scene—a place to spontaneously share, trade ideas, establish oneself to an appreciative, like-minded group. Their energy may be elsewhere—in the planting of seeds, in the wearing of shirts, in the glory of the dance—but the resulting artworks don’t dissipate.

Artspace has three new exhibits opening in June:

• Flossing the Lot, an installation by Leeza Meksin in the vacant lot space at the corner of Chapel and Orange Streets, involving spandex banners which “alludes to the fabric and sensibility of the neighborhood.”

• Insite/Out, “neighborhood research projects and exchanges by artists living in Ninth Square,” and the related

and a window display on Crown Street by Caroline Mak entitled Circulation.

Artspace’s main digs are at 50 Orange Street (corner of Crown). Visiting hours are Wednesday and Thursday  from noon to 6 p.m. http://artspacenh.org/

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