Welcome to Gallery Hop weekend. Since 1984, the galleries of the Short North have participated in this joint effort to bring people to the neighborhood for new art and, more recently, high-end shopping and plenty of choices for food and drink.
Yeah, it's called Gallery Hop for a reason, but the cool thing about the Short North as an arts district is that there is art to be found in spaces that aren't, by definition, galleries. As you Hop this Saturday, make sure to include a church and a tattoo shop in your itinerary, where you'll find engrossing work by two mature-yet-emerging artists.
Marcus P. Blackwell, “A Sequential Abstract Experiment: Three is the Magic Number”
Stone Village Art Gallery
Reception 5-7 p.m. Saturday, May 6
139 E. Second Ave., Short North
Marcus P. Blackwell's self-described “gateway to art” was comics, in particular the three-panel strips he read as a kid. That's the kind of thing that got him started in drawing, but it's also the physically confined and sequential nature of the form that informs his recent abstract painting and collage work.
“I had a lot of these smaller pieces, and I realized that a lot of them were in groups of three,” Blackwell said in an interview at a Clintonville watering hole. Blackwell said he sought to wed the notion of a three-panel story to his abstract work, “to give people a different way of looking at abstract art. By putting abstract art in sequence … people tend to try to make sense of sequences. I guess this is my attempt to engage that” among viewers.
After spending much of his adult life making art only intermittently, he was encouraged to reconnect to this expression by family and friends, who showered him with art supplies on a benchmark birthday. It worked, and he was drawn to the undefinable nature of abstract art, a form reliant on line, shape, color and texture to express emotions and/or ideas.
“What stories there are are completely open to interpretation,” Blackwell said. “I'm not saying I don't have a story, but how many times have I made a piece of abstract art and people think it tells something different than I intended? So who am I to say? That's what you brought to it.”
Which, Blackwell is learning, is not the same as not having something important to say.
“The older I've gotten, in particular in this political climate, I really feel I need to be making more than just a pretty picture,” he said. “Visual art is all about drawing the eye, but I think it's important to make, maybe not a grandiose political statement, but to introduce an idea. Abstract art is going to challenge the way you think, and if you challenge the way you think maybe you'll reevaluate the things you think about, and if you reevaluate the things you think about, maybe you'll open yourself up to some new idea you never thought about before.
“If you dare.”
Davey Highben, “Hive Mind/Holy Shroud”
Short North Tattoo
Reception, 8-10:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6
1042 N. High St., Short North
Photography, wood, image transfer, markers. Davey Highben isn't afraid to employ all of these tools of the mixed-media artist. Nor is he averse to using tattoo stencils, sunflower petals, wet paper and folded, mirror-image duplicates of his work…
“People will ask, ‘What [materials] are you using?' I can't even answer the question. Everything but the kitchen sink,” Highben said in an interview at a Clintonville pub.
It's an approach undertaken during a period of extreme productivity, a response to a lengthy period of the opposite of extreme productivity, from an art-making standpoint, anyway.
“I told myself I'd spent 43 years preparing to be an artist, but I didn't have anything to show for it and I'd been working on the same four [to] six paintings for too long,” Highben said. Some years ago, rather than enter CCAD on a scholarship, Highben opted to head west, hoping to land a gig in the skateboard industry. He hopped from city to city and job to job, eventually landing in Columbus, where for a few years his artistic expression came via music, as a member of noise-rock outfit Altered States of United Snakes, which he called “more of a vanity project.”
Recently, he undertook a tattooing apprenticeship, but with his mentor in Cleveland, the process was moving slowly. So he spent the downtime immersing himself in his art. His colorful, symmetrical images are the result of a process that includes painting, photography, image transfer, blending markers and painting again. A recurring character, a sort of balloon with eyes, serves as a unifying force.
Highben's art will fill a 40-foot wall at Short North Tattoo, but a host of other work — cards, wood tiles, books, T-shirts — feeds the pulpy, uber-prole feel of the show.
“It'll be a huge installation, and people can come and, if they want, take a piece of it home with them,” Highben said.