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Tampa takes art public

When busy people can't make it to a gallery, why not take shows to places of business?

By BRANDY STARK
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 28, 2002


photo
Apparition, John K. Langley, steel, at AIA.
TAMPA -- Hidden within downtown's skyscrapers are spots of color and patches of canvas, signs of a partnership between the business community and the art community.

Whether these oases of art serve as a temporary escape from the pressures of the office or a refreshing lunchtime stop, they have people talking.

"Tampa is following traditions found in Chicago and New York, where art is easily accessible to everyone," explains Linnae Carlson, co-owner of TheSPACEat220. "I feel like we are art pioneers."

Inside the 5,000-square-foot, second-floor exhibition space hangs its first show, "Straight Through the Heart," featuring large-scale works from national and international artists.

Crash Test, by Antonio Caparello, stretches 15 feet across three canvases, the two end pieces holding demolished cars, the central canvas a myriad of scrap metal formed into a visual puzzle. Despite the destructive energies of the automobiles, the work is set against a soothing pastel background. Typical of Caparello's style, the images are sharp and crisp.

Lance Rodgers appears with Marry, a subtle commentary on married life. A merry-go-round horse, symbolic of a nag, sheds purple tears. In the background a man tenaciously strides atop burning stilts. Despite the melancholy of the painting, it holds the viewer's fascination as layers of symbols, bright colors and minute details reveal themselves.

John Gurbacs combines natural objects with the artificial in many of his works. Intersection features layers of palm fronds, interrupted by a glimpse of crossed metal beams and suspension wires from the imposed image of a bridge.

Inside the Tampa City Center is the Synthesis show. Curated by Dragoslav Milic of St. Petersburg, it exhibits the works of nearly a dozen artists. The second floor holds Don Rojas' large limited-edition digital prints. Each is framed in unstained wood, a primitive contrast to the complexity of the images.

The cyclopean work Behold shows a woman's large green eye. In the distance it appears to be a photograph, but upon closer inspection small, tight-fitting waves actually create the piece. Below it hangs Desire, a pair of blood-red lips, slightly parted in a mysterious smile.

On the first floor, Milic's own Lincoln depicts the nation's 16th president in black and white; nearby, Marino shows the former Dolphins quarterback in action. Beginnings II, by Susanna Nielson, peeks out from behind the lobby escalators, a four-foot torso of a pregnant woman, covered in abalone shells.

"The idea of Synthesis is to allow the public to see fine arts outside a museum or gallery. Here, I estimate 5,000 to 7,000 people are able to see what artists have to offer," Milic says. On the corner of Tampa Street are the offices of the American Institute of Architects, which created a gallery to show the art of Tampa Bay area architects. One of the pioneer exhibitors, John K. Langley, often uses architectural software to create models which he then tests with cardboard cutouts. If he likes the result, steel counterparts are cut, assembled and welded to complete the piece.

Spinobofita and Spino, made of fabricated mild steel, takes the spiraled shape of exaggerated vertebrae, created from the scraps of other pieces. Tango, an earlier work, is made from spikes and metal bits found along the railroad. Despite its startling lime green paint, its parts interlock into a well ordered, yet whimsical, sculpture.

Also on display are the charcoal drawings of David Bailey. His Immobilized Isolation series holds the startling image of an aged man whose torso is fused with a steel ring. He has no legs, but is supported by a long, thin pole. The face is blank, his arms hang limply by his side.

His reason for drawing the image: 'It's probably therapy. And it's fun to draw."

* * *

PREVIEW: Straight Through the Heart, through April 8, at TheSPACEat220, 220 E Madison St., Suite 220, Tampa. Free. Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by appointment. Call (813) 849-8000. Synthesis, through April 6, Tampa City Center, first and second floors, 201 N Franklin St., Tampa. Free. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; on weekends, accessible through Hyatt Hotel entrance or Fort Brooke Parking Garage. For information, call curator Dragoslav Milic at (727) 343-5923.

Art by Architects, through April 17, AIA Tampa Bay headquarters, 200 N Tampa St., Suite 100, Tampa. Free. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. (813) 229-3411.

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