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Sea Change

Galleries come and go, but the 'Summer Arts Cruise' abides

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In the few short weeks since the Central Tucson Galleries Association announced this Saturday, June 7, extravaganza of art openings, one member gallery has pulled up its gangplank, and three new ones have rolled out theirs.

"Griffonage (Studios) is out, closed," declares Mike Dominguez, the unofficial captain of the galleries association, and co-owner of Davis Dominguez Gallery. "In its place is Rocket Gallery. Central Arts is open, a few steps away."

And Contreras Gallery has opened right next door to Davis Dominguez.

"All three are contemporary galleries, and all are in the CTGA," he says.

The eponymous Contreras, at 101 E. Sixth St., is run by silversmith Michael Contreras.

"It's contemporary art, mostly paintings," Dominguez says. "I've seen some magical realism."

A few blocks away, downtown, Griffonage had sublet the narrow storefront at 270 E. Congress St. from Dinnerware last winter.

"They e-mailed me (to say) they were leaving," Dinnerware director David Aguirre says, "and they left the next day." (Griffonage will re-open elsewhere in the fall, according to its Web site.)

Rocket, Griffonage's downtown replacement, will be the latest, and perhaps the most surprising, incarnation of the old Tucson Arts District Partnership. Back in the 1980s and '90s, the partnership was a fully staffed organization that received city funding to promote the arts downtown. (Its most beloved creation was Downtown Saturday Night.) The group eventually devolved into just a small board and an Arts District Gallery, now closed.

"We're resurrecting that," says Aguirre, who joins Sally Krommes and Dwight Metzger to constitute a new, three-member board. For now, Rocket--for artists taking off--will operate under the auspices of Dinnerware. The place debuts Saturday night with mixed-media colored drawings by invited artist Laurel Hansen.

Ever since Aguirre moved Dinnerware back to its old haunts on Congress Street last summer, he's been a one-man tidal wave, flooding multiple downtown nooks and crannies with art. He opened the youth-oriented Arts Incubator Gallery at 108 E. Congress St., next to Grill; artists rent the space and put on their own shows. More recently, besides launching Rocket Gallery, he's revived the old Central Arts gallery and taken over exhibitions at the Hotel Congress.

"We're trying different paradigms for each exhibition space," Aguirre says.

He was inspired to resurrect Central Arts, a longtime artists' co-op, when still another storefront became available near Rocket. After a call to artists, he rounded up 47 initial members.

The group is nonjuried, and member dues--a $40 initiation fee, and $25 a month thereafter--will be enough to pay for the space, he says, and put on regular shows of members' work. The inaugural show, Splash, introduces the co-op artists.

"We're having a really good time," he says. "I'm the guardian angel, or Dinnerware is."

For Summer Pleasures at Hotel Congress, he gleaned work from the 175 entries submitted for Dinnerware's summer SMALL FRAMES show.

Several art spaces that are not in the gallery association--Hotel Congress and Arts Incubator Downtown, and Santa Theresa Tile Works, dada and Gary Bjorklund at Sixth and Sixth--typically open anyway for the Art Cruise to reel in the art-lubbers who are out and about.

The openings are this Saturday night, June 7, with receptions from 6 to 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Here's a rundown of the ports of call:

GALLERIES NEAR

SIXTH AND SIXTH

· Contreras Gallery, 110 E. Sixth St. Reception 7 to 10 p.m. This brand-new gallery, operated by Neda and E. Michael Contreras, deals in contemporary art and custom-made jewelry. The grand opening, keyed into the Art Cruise, offers up Adelante, a show of paintings by Trish Wann and Jeff Litvak.

· Davis Dominguez Gallery, 154 E. Sixth St., 629-9759. Reception 6 to 8 p.m. For the annual summer Small Works, 68 artists compressed their visions into a 12-by-12 inch format. For a full review, see the accompanying article on Page 30.

· The Gallery at 6th and 6th, 439 N. Sixth Ave., 903-0650. Ulfert Wilke: Works on Paper offers up intricate calligraphies by the late midcentury artist, whose large paintings were exhibited in the gallery last year. One riveting entry in his "Peasant Numbers" series incorporates old-time hobo signals, the crisscrossing lines that indicated whether a particular house might offer a traveler a hot meal. Local sculptor Curt Brill, who will exhibit monumental works through the gallery in the fall, offers up a preview in miniature. His tactile metallic women are small enough to sit on a pedestal.

· Platform Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., Suite 189, 882-3886. Review is a "salon-style show with a few pieces from each artist we showed over the entire year," says gallery manager Monique Morales. More than 15 artists display paintings, sculpture, photography and jewelry. Gallery favorite Jesse Wood, a Sante Fe, N.M., painter who goes in for simplified geometries, displays "Birds," a typical work of color fields divided by strong black lines. Tucsonan Howard Salmon shows loose watercolor sketches, including "Muse Gallery," a sorry commentary on the demolition of the old Y-turned-studios, now a gaping hole on Sixth Street. Platform also introduces Kristy Goggio, a Milwaukee painter whose somber oils depict "made-up birds."

· dada contemporary art, 439 N. Sixth Ave., in a back hallway, 275-9952. The Mission Creeps play acoustic music during the reception, 6 to 9 p.m. The exhibition is In Minimis: Photography by Charles Hedgcock.

· Bjorklund Art Studio and Gallery, 439 N. Sixth Ave., 400-8757. Works by proprietor Gary Bjorklund and gallery artists.

· Santa Theresa Tile Works, 440 N. Sixth Ave., 623-1856. Whimsical colored tiles by renowned public artist Susan Gamble are the main attraction, but the shop also showcases other artists, including Morad Jasim, an Iraqi refugee who paints traditional Turkish tiles in his new hometown of Tucson.

· Raices Taller, 222 E. Sixth St., 881-5335. Reception 7 to 10 p.m. Mujeres, Mujeres, Mujeres rule the waves this summer at this lively Latino arts co-op. For this all-women show, more than 40 artists, both local and international, produced mixed-media works, paintings, photographs and sculptures, veering from traditional to cutting-edge.

FOURTH AVENUE

· Conrad Wilde Gallery, 210 N. Fourth Ave., 622-8997. Open all day from 1 to 9 p.m. Encore: Season Highlights is a "salon of the past year," associate director Ryan Wilde says, reprising such artists as Jessica Drenk and Emilia Arana. "Plus, we'll show a couple of new artists": encaustic painter Mauricio Toussaint and Carrie Seid, who makes magical works of copper and stretched silk.

DOWNTOWN

· Dinnerware Artspace, 264 E. Congress St., 792-4503. The gallery edited 175 entries down for big ideas SMALL FRAMES, a group show of Arizona artists who limited their works to 14 by 16 inches or smaller. Director Aguirre says his pal Mike Dominguez doesn't mind that the Dinnerware show mimics Davis Dominguez's Small Works. "It's typical for galleries to do small works in the summer," Aguirre says.

· Drawing Studio Gallery, 33 S. Sixth Ave., 620-0947. Artists who teach at the gallery school take a turn in the spotlight with Hot Teaching, a summertime show of their own art.

· Philabaum Glass Studio and Gallery, 711 S. Sixth Ave., 884-7404. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; no evening reception. Cruisers who embark late in the afternoon can stop in to see the fantasy glass teapots of Paul Counts.

· Rocket Gallery, 270 E. Congress St., 792-4503. Laurel Hansen ignites Rocket with her exotic colored drawings, stylized compositions writhing with camels, desert-dwellers and flowers.

· Central Arts, 274 E. Congress St., 576-8745. Reception 6 to 10 p.m. Co-op members in this new gallery make Splash their inaugural show. Artists include photographer Michael Hyatt and ceramicist Ilona Halderman.

· Arts Incubator, 108 E. Congress St. Reception 7 to 11 p.m. Adan Bañuelos, a student out of the ArtWorks Academy, the Tucson Unified School District's alternative arts school, puts on a one-man show. Dreams of the Ego features simple images--of a gun, a wad of dollars, a pink popsicle--in crayon-bright colors.

· Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., 622-8848. Open 24 hours. Summer Pleasures exhibits work by a flotilla of artists, including Cristina Cardenas, Catherine Eyde, Mary Ann Johns and Janet K. Miller. The youngest, high school student Angelo Tirambolo, is exhibiting a noirish photographic triptych.

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