The artwork in the inaugural show at Luis de Jesus Seminal Projects isn't the type of stuff that ties together sofas and rugs. The paintings, sculptures and installations filling the new, modest gallery space in Little Italy are far from simple, decorative art--the pieces are smarter than that.
"That's what I like about this group of artists," says Luis de Jesus, the proud owner of the new gallery, as he surveys the collection covering his freshly painted white walls. "There is kind of a sly humor that goes on in this show."
Graham Caldwell's installation, for example--a spidery mass of rounded surveillance mirrors reaching out from the southern wall of the main gallery--makes being watched by unknown entities a vivid and taunting reality. Looking at Caldwell's piece not only makes you look at yourself--literally--it prompts you to look at the broader issue of privacy.
But the show, My Country, doesn't force you to get political if you don't want to. The messages behind the media are somewhat quieted by the aesthetics of the works--de Jesus, himself a perfectly put together, handsome man, demands that everything shown at Seminal Projects be easy on the eye.
"It has to be beautiful," he says. "It can have a strong message, but the work itself, it has to be beautiful so people can appreciate it on that level as well."
De Jesus is 47 but he looks much younger. If you dig into his background, though, his depth of experience becomes more telling than his wrinkle-free face. Born in Puerto Rico, de Jesus grew up in the Washington, D.C., area but took off to New York City immediately after graduating high school. Once there, the 1980s East Village art-scene seduced him. He worked part-time in galleries while finishing school at Julliard, then Parsons The New School for Design. After receiving his undergrad degree, he won a prestigious fellowship to study at Yale and then jumped into the art business full-time, working at various New York galleries and even serving a short stint at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.
When de Jesus came to San Diego three years ago, he walked into a job as manager at Susan Street Fine Art Gallery in Solana Beach. It gave him the chance to familiarize himself with the local art scene--to figure out "what's what and who's what" while mentally mapping out plans for his own gallery.
In June, de Jesus made that vision a reality. He took over the storefront that used to house Boomerang Furniture on India Street and turned what once seemed to be a dark, slightly cramped showroom into a spacious, three-part gallery, where he plans to feature the best emerging international artists.
On Oct. 27, de Jesus will follow My Country with a show of vintage collage pieces by local artist Jason Sherry in Gallery One, line drawings by UCSD master of fine arts candidate Scott Horsley in Gallery Two and a to-be-announced show in the "Project Gallery," which de Jesus describes as a flexible, open space. On Nov. 30, the gallery will be transformed into a performance space for Joe Dark Puppet Theater: Contemporary Puppet Videos.
If current and upcoming shows are any indication, artists and art-lovers wanting to show or see more compelling, intelligent art have a new set of walls to play on and between.
Luis de Jesus Seminal Projects is located at 2040 India St. in Little Italy. www.seminalprojects.com or 619-696-9699.
But wait, there's more
Painting is silent poetry
Soundbytes on Soundwaves: At 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, the Museum of Contemporary Art opens its new exhibition that cleverly marries art and sound by hosting a fast-paced tour led by many of the featured artists followed by live artist performances. If you miss it, don't fret. At 6 p.m. on Oct. 18 and Nov. 15, art talks with featured artists Julio Cesar Morales and Dario Robleto, respectively, will sound once again. Oh, and the TNT event on Oct. 4, "Select Mode: Music and Technology Fashion Show," is rumored to be one of the most ingenious TNTs yet.
STOP. YIELD. MERGE.: The San Diego Art Prize opens its second year with a show by conceptual-art purveyors Marcos Ramirez "ERRE" and Allison Wiese. The text-driven work of both artists won't let you leave without thinking about a few of those pesky social and political issues hanging over our collective head. Opening from 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 29 at L Street Fine Art, 628 L St., Downtown. Free. 619-645-6593 or www.lstreetfineart.com.
Animated Paintings: From the tradition of hand-drawn animation to the newer method of live-action animation, the San Diego Museum of Art presents works by 14 international, contemporary animation artists. Don't miss Animation: From the Avant-Garde to Popular Culture, a four-part symposium discussing and exploring the exhibition at the University of San Diego, UCSD and the Museum of Photographic Arts Nov. 1 through 3. Opening Oct. 13 at the San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park. www.sdmart.org or 619-232-7931.
All Hallows' Eve: Sanctuary 143, North County's new, hip arts collective and gallery, has been kickin' artsy ass with its past few shows. Next up are an "Evil Box" installation by Aki Kaneko and Tony Greene and a large-scale, pen-and-ink piece by Hogie McMurtrie, who will also DJ a set of obscure, vintage Halloween tunes. Opening 7 to 11 p.m. Oct. 18 at Sanctuary 143, 143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach. Free. www.sanctu ary143.com.Gallery talk with Wendy Richmond: People-watching is addictive. Coyly observing others doing mundane things like talking to a friend or sitting on a subway train is inexplicably fascinating and even more so in Public Privacy, an exhibition, currently on display, of secretly shot cell-phone videos by artist Wendy Richmond. 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Museum of Photographic Art, Balboa Park. Free with gallery admission. www.mopa.org or 619-238-8777.