All of the artists included in Gallery 446’s show 25 Below: Artists Awakening the World are younger than the age of 25. Yes, they are all millennials. However, there is great diversity in how they express their takes on the world—both as it is, and how it was.
Curated by Skyler Gray and Eddie Donaldson, the show features eight artists, seven of whom are from different parts of the U.S. The eighth is from London. The paintings and drawings in the show are all representational, and portraiture reigns. Unlike most shows, where painting predominates, about one-third of the works here are drawings. While each artist has a unique artistic voice, they all express a palpable anxiety with the present, along with a clear disconnect with past generations.
Drawings by Isaac Pelayo, Chantele Kennedy and Cameron Derby are far superior to the most of the paintings in this show. Each of these three young artists demonstrates tremendous technical expertise and a clear respect for their chosen medium.
Derby’s drawings, given their small size (roughly 8 1/2 by 11 inches, the smallest in the show) and location in the gallery, could be easily overlooked. Both of her full-faced portraits capture the models’ personality and mood. These culturally aware drawings demonstrate her roots in photography. Without being heavy-handed, the artist wields her pen on paper skillfully. Each drawing also contains a section that is colored with a single contrasting yet muted hue. By using color, Derby prevents her drawings from becoming boring or monotonous. Her use of color also creates a sense of dimensionality. In “Rayma” (above), a young African-American child stands with the help of a largely unseen adult. The artist uses a muddied purple to color the flowers on her dress and the barrettes in her hair.
Chantele Kennedy is the lone non-American in the show; she’s a Londoner. Her models are her generation’s cartoon characters: Scooby-Doo and his owner Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, as well as Tommy and Chuckie from Rugrats. These drawings may prompt a chuckle. Using spray paint, a potentially unwieldy medium, Kennedy skillfully outlines each of her subjects, and then adds highly detailed, finely drawn tattoos to each character in ink and marker. This transforms the drawings from illustration to art.
In “Scooby Doo” (above right), she “tattoos” the dog’s neck with highly detailed images of “attractive” female dogs (including Lady of Lady and the Tramp), a large diamond and abstract figures. By outlining one of the dog’s teeth with a “gold” marker, she adds to the levity of the otherwise black-and-white piece.
In strong contrast to Kennedy’s visible humor, Isaac Pelayo’s drawings are pensive, intense and brooding. Born in 1996, this Southern California native has won awards at the Annual Western Art Show in Riverside and the Hemet Valley Art Association competition.
Pelayo is not only most introspective artist in the show; he is also the most technically proficient. He forces the viewer to look at an entire drawing, making each piece all the more powerful. In “The Unknown” (below), he draws a thick-browed young adult wearing a black leather jacket over a hoodie. A particle mask covers the subject’s face; all that is visible is his dark eyes. What makes this drawing the most intense in the show: The subject’s arm and hand are outstretched, with the fingers pointed to look like a gun.
Each of local artist Joe Collings’ three eye-catching canvases projects a distinct mood, even if he could refine his technical skills and clarify his message(s).
“Space Kitty Piece” is humorous. A cat, sporting a tuxedo, peers out from a space helmet over his head. The cat projects a look of disbelief, amazement and awe. In his painting “Aristotle,” the timeless philosopher, partially hidden behind two pillars, becomes a furtive voyeur. Collings’ third piece, “USA Residence,” is the only nonportrait I saw in show. Against a gray-white background, Collings paints a security-alarm panel, the kind found in many businesses and homes. The panel looks like it was made from an overly thick, rectangular piece of foam. However, at a second glance, what at first to be appears be to an innocuous painting in the pop-art style quickly becomes a harsh analysis of today’s polarized and angry society: The keypad and message display become the handgrip and barrel of a gun. In strong contrast to the light-spirited “Space Kitty Piece,” “USA Residence” is chilling.
Other artists included in the show are Skyler Grey, Cali Killa, Monel Aliote and Mac Stewart.
25 Below is on display at Gallery 446, 446 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, through Sunday, Oct. 5. Proceeds from the sales will support the nonprofit Boo2Bullying. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., or by appointment. For more information, call 760-459-3142, or visit www.gallery446.com.