“(Sawed-off)” Shotgun Review:
by Ann Elliott Sherman
Some Parts of a Whole by Jim Tantum @ Space 47




Judging from the outside, newly-arrived SoFA gallery Space 47 (on William Street near S. Second) looks like a win in a slightly dicey game. Wedged between the corner Laundromat and a seedy storefront where tattered miniblinds do little to hide haphazard stacks of soda and other junk inside, Space 47’s coolly glazed white façade gives nothing away about what awaits the viewer.

And awaits. And awaits yet again. Although I rolled up to the gallery three times during its posted business hours (Wednesday through Saturday, noon–4:00 p.m.), each time I crapped out: the door was locked and no one answered a knock.

The inaugural show, Jim Tantum’s large-scale exhibition Some Parts of a Whole, is said to describe and celebrate the quotidian aspects of his life. Witnessing the mundane urban mini-dramas of a cavalry cop writing up some trespassers at the boarded-up apartment building across the way and a Border Collie sleeping with one eye warily open to guard the unmarked auto body shop blasting ’70s soul two doors down will have to suffice.

Finding dependable gallery-sitters is hard for any start-up arts shop. Maybe Space 47 owners Bihn Dahn and Anjelica Muro might consider posting a phone number, so would-be supporters can check to see if anyone’s there before heading downtown.

Editor’s note: By Saturday the 29th, three weeks into the exhibition, I found a note on the door of Space 47, referring visitors to Works Gallery on South First Street, for admittance.

By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero

I have lived in San Jose since 1962. Our visual arts scene has never been a thriving commercial enterprise. Centered around the nonprofit, we have not been able to stimulate much more art collecting than the fundraising art auctions can generate. It is questionable how much these auctions benefit the artist or the art market, though they help keep the exhibition spaces alive. Quite a few commercial galleries have failed.

Our non-profits began with the Art League – a somewhat provincial club of watercolorists that showed their own works annually in a less than professional situation. For many years, our art museum, too, was a sad anachronism, showing mediocre traveling shows. When Wordworks and Works Gallery first appeared in the late seventies, they set the bar higher in terms of programming. Yet to this day, our non-profit galleries have to start on a shoestring, walk the tightrope between solvency and bankruptcy, and wonder if there will ever be significant patronage for the visual arts in our Wild West. This is a fragile, anxious situation.

We see the discouraging manifestations of poverty and inexperience that particularly plague new galleries: gallery sitters who don’t show up, inadequate lighting, mailers that don‚Äôt get out in time, shows that are hung too high on the walls, shows whose premise really doesn’t work, artwork that is not quite ready for prime time, and cash flow! Will our growing pains never cease? Last year, when I retired from San Jose State University with a jaded eye and critical nature, I seriously considered moving away from San Jose, to follow so many other artists that have sought a more supportive and robust art environment.

In 2007, curiously, I have never been more optimistic about the future of the visual arts in San Jose. I look at the confluence of events such as a maturing public art program, a new team in City Hall, Zero One – our first biennal, 1st Act, the excellent art graduate students at SJSU, and a general maturation of the art community and I have hope! As rocky as it may be for the beginnings of any new space – Space 47, an others to come – this is an exciting time to get on board and be part of what promises to be a very challenging, changing forefront of art.

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