FlourishCraig ‘Skibs’ Barker, Driving By The Moon, 2017, Oil and mixed media on canvas with custom lightbox assemblage, 20 x 32 inches. (2)
Flourish is one of the current exhibitions that recently opened at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. It was curated by Los Angeles gallery Thinkspace and serves to shine a spotlight on the New Contemporary Art movement. This movement doesn’t involve a group of artists working in one particular style, but quite the opposite. Associated artists are working in styles like muralism, pop surrealism, installation and street art, graffiti, illustration, hyperrealism and portraiture. What ties them together is a dynamic community that’s been building and growing over the last couple of decades. The artists are bound by collective social sensibilities, rather than a dominant style or conceptual umbrella.

Thinkspace is owned and operated by Andrew and Shawn Hosner. The couple opened the venue in 2005 and have been in the Culver City area since 2009. The gallery has been instrumental in helping grown the New Contemporary movement, creating a destination for art collectors who want intriguing, cutting-edge work that isn’t concerned with easily fitting into a mold.

Prior to the gallery’s opening, their co-owner and head preparator L. Croskey was part of the team behind Cannibal Flower, a moveable art event that started in 2000. Cannibal Flower shows happened around Los Angeles, in non-traditional venues. The shows incorporated music and were a consistently hot destination to see great art while having fun.

Utilizing three of MCA’s galleries, Flourish is a great opportunity to see a grand amount of work from this movement, and its inherent diversity forces you to suspend that anticipatory sense of visual cohesion that most galleries and exhibitions strive to present.

One of the galleries has work by more than 50 artists. There is also a wall of sixty 12” x 12” paintings by different artists. These both really drive home the diversity in styles and subject matter, with sharp skills threading throughout.

“Arboreal Shadow,” an oil painting by Rodrigo Luff, adds some laminated areas with neon touches to make a painting of a lovely woman with a reflective expression even more haunting.

Another highlight is Craig “Skibs” Barker’s painting and light box combo piece “Driving by the Moon.” It takes one of his signature, colorful paintings that features the vertically-oriented tattooed legs of a woman and positions it above a black-and-white horizontal image of a woman, shown shoulders down.

Stephanie Buer’s realistic oil paintings of urban landscapes are outstanding. They are beautifully non-invasive looks at urban settings, capturing the soul and depth of each area, which becomes even more poignant in places that have clearly seen better days. They’re done so thoughtfully, and with respect. Her piece “Sleeping Giants” is an excellent addition here.

See one of Sergio Garcia’s innovative, pot-themed mixed media sculptures, “Ashtray (Mesa Red),” that have gotten him a hearty chunk of attention. The mixed-media work of Michael Reeder is also worth checking out.
FlourishMary Iverson, View from Esalen, 2017, Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches.
Another noteworthy artist is Cinta Vidal. Her acrylic painting titled “Old Neighborhood” offers her unique take on architecture. The structures and buildings in her paintings aren’t settled upon a physical foundation. They appear as if they are floating through the air, as if they’ve lifted off from their base to do some space traveling. Plants bloom among the fine lines that define the structure, giving it a sense of warmth and stability.

Icy and Sot’s “Trapped” uses hand-drilling on a MacBook to show a shadowy human figure caught inside the laptop, for a funny and even more creepy look at our relationship with technology.

Some of the other Flourish artists are Liz Brizzi, Amy Sol, Drew Leshko, EINE, Ian Francis, Mary Iverson, Meggs, Benjamin Garcia, Sarah Joncas, Telmo Miel, Tran Nguyen, Kevin Peterson, Kelly Vivanco and Wiley Wallace.
Flourish Tran Nguyen, CIOI, 2016, Acrylic and color pencil on paper, 11 x 14.5 inches.
This is not the first time the Mesa Contemporary Museum has exhibited artists associated with this movement. Beyond the Cel—curated by Mike Goodwin of the now-closed Pravus Gallery—included artists like Ron English, Gary Basemen, and Andrew Brandou. Artillery, a show on weaponry in our culture by Los Angeles curator Annie Adjchavanich happened in 2015 and featured Shepard Fairey of Obey fame, and Brian Viveros who’s included in Flourish, demonstrating the interconnectedness of this scene. Arizona native and the MCA’s preparator Frank Gonzales is also in the exhibition with one of his stunning paintings that pays tribute to the desert landscape.

Flourish features murals by Esao Andrews and Nosego, as well as an installation in the project room by Felipe Pantone. For those unfamiliar with this New Contemporary Art movement and its artists, this is an excellent foray into a scene that has been expanding in interesting ways for several years now. Galleries like Thinkspace, who are devoted to giving talented, cutting-edge artists a home, have also helped inspire some of the other like-minded venues that have opened around the world since their incarnation.
FlourishMolly Gruninger, The Confines of Camoflauge, 2016, Oil on canvas, 36 x 39 inches.
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum
Through August 6

-Kevin Peterson “Sentry” 2017, Oil on wood panel, 20 x 36 inches
-Craig ‘Skibs’ Barker “Driving By The Moon” 2017, Oil and mixed media on canvas with custom lightbox assemblage, 20 x 32 inches
-Mary Iverson “View from Esalen” 2017, Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches
-Tran Nguyen “CIOI” 2016, Acrylic and color pencil on paper, 11 x 14.5 inches
-Molly Gruninger “The Confines of Camouflage” 2016, Oil on canvas, 36 x 39 inches