Saturday, August 30, 2008

Still life with my oldest acquaintance

Jaime Gartelos occupies an odd space in my life: he is perhaps my oldest acquaintance.

I have known him a really long time, and we keep resurfacing in each other's lives in pretty interesting capacities, yet we never really have become friends.

We certainly never became enemies, and I think we've always liked one other well enough, but I guess we never needed a new friend at the same time.

And look at the opportunities we have had!

My first ever rock gig, I am pretty sure, was his first ever rock gig. I was in Big Toe and he was in Acrylic Orgy, the old Bernard's Pub was still extant and still hosting rock shows (mostly, punk shows), and we ended up on a bill together there in 1989.

Then my college band, Enormous Richard, did like a year of gigs at The Red Sea before it became a reggae venue or had a basement space. There was no house sound, so we needed a sound system and a sound man - and Jaime, for some reason, was almost always that guy.

The band hit the road for years, then I moved to New York for years, and then I moved back back. (Notice that I can't follow Jaime's movements over the years - we weren't friends. Just acquaintances.) When I got back home, I formed an arts organization and wanted to do a show based on our poetry score to Leo Connellan's Crossing America. My new board member recruits were all art scenesters. They got us into Mad Art Galley. The staff guy there to hang our show was none other than Jaime Gartelos.

The next year Poetry Scores did another event at Mad Art, this time an art invitational. You know who hung our show again. This time, Jaime let it slip that he was himself a painter now. He showed me his work. I really liked it! So the next year we did an invitational (last year, at Hoffman LaChance), we invited Jaime to show, and he made an abstract oil painting in response to the poem Blind Cat Black (that sold to a certain nameless, controversial communications operative).

You following me through all these changes? First band guys on a bill, then bandleader and sound guy, then curator and art hanger, then curator and artist. (Somewhere along the way, I also became an avid fan of his music, but since I'm not finding it anywhere on the internet for you to hear, I'll pass that over in silence, for now. It's inventive, soulful, surprising rock music, full of disguises and swagger.)

Now, we can add yet another dimension to this old acquaintance: blogger and artist, since I went into all of this as an excuse to talk up Jaime's upcoming art show. He has since moved to Chicago (not being friends, only acquaintances, I was the last to know), but surely he is coming home for the opening reception next Friday, September 5 at Mad Art Gallery, 2727 So. 12th St. in Soulard, from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.

I have a 5-year-old child, as opposed to a social life, so I won't be there, but I enjoyed looking at his art work to prepare for this little squib. He has both a website and a Flickr photostream, and both are worth your time.

I am seeing still lifes, oil on canvas. His artist statement - admirable in its brevity - is "When the medium is the subject, the method is Abstraction," but this stuff looks largely representational to me, with departures into fancy and abstraction. Kandinsky comes to mind. Jaime is a particularly bright and expressive colorist. He can make blue sing!

Also showing with him is Ellie Balk, whose paintings (admittedly, at a glance) seem to have some wonderful Paul Klee things going on.

Mad Art tells us, "Balk and Gartelos collaborated on two paintings for this exhibition. The viewer is invited to see their two bodies of work separately, as the result of two minds coming together in one space, on one plane. This collaboration is an experiment of the two artists' passion for painting and the explosion of synergy."

Again, the opening is Friday, Sept. 5 and the show continues through Sept. 29. Mad Art openings are a blast, and it's much less fun to visit there at other times (by appointment, as I recall, or involving the ringing of a buzzer and waiting and wondering ...). So, go to the opening. Tell Jaime his oldest acquaintance says hi.

The image here is Jaime's painting "Crazy Pitcher," 2007, oil on canvas, 30"x40".

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