‘Skyway 20/21’ exhibit spans four Tampa Bay museums

·5 min read

Explore the diversity of local talent by taking a tour of four area museums currently displaying “Skyway 20/21: A Contemporary Collaboration.”

Curators from the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, the Tampa Museum of Art, the Ringling Museum and University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum worked together to showcase local artists across the venues. The exhibition is the second iteration of 2017′s inaugural show.

Sarah Howard (USF CAM), Christopher Jones (the Ringling), Katherine Pill (MFA), Joanna Robotham (TMA) and Ola Wlusek (the Ringling) chose artists working in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. Guest juror Claire Tancons, an independent curator of emerging and international biennials, assisted with the process.

Every museum’s presentation is as varied as the works, and each stands on its own. But it’s important to visit all of them to appreciate the breadth of local talent, framed in the context of major institutions.

Here are highlights from all four museums.

Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg

On view through Aug. 22. 255 Beach Drive NE. 727-896-2667. mfastpete.org.

At the Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibition has an undercurrent theme of the natural environment. For Tarpon Springs-based artist Gabriel Ramos, this presents in Mi Isla, an intricate wall sculpture made of shiny red plastic resembling gelatin, based on the landscape of his native Puerto Rico. It deals with themes of identity and displacement.

Tampa-based Robert Aiosa’s polychrome wood installation, Allotment, contrasts carved grids with foliage and bones, part of his investigation of what’s revealed when artifacts emerge from toiled ground.

Dakota Gearhart, who splits her time between Safety Harbor and New York City, created a video installation, Life Touching Life, hosted by a half-woman, half algae-bloom character (voiced by Gearhart) who interviews an exterminator, a praying mantis breeder and an urban biologist. Take the time to watch the whole thing (it runs 10 minutes and 45 seconds), as it’s quite fascinating.

Tampa-based Matthew Wicks’ Stretcher series is a play on familiar mid-century webbed patio furniture. But since the pieces aren’t really functional, they become sculptures steeped in nostalgia.

Tampa Museum of Art

On view through Oct. 10. 120 W Gasparilla Plaza. 813-274-8130. tampamuseum.org.

Featuring the largest number of artists, this presentation includes an interesting mix of works. Sarasota artist John Sims’ searing installation, Restorative Resurrection, prompts ideas about race and inequality and includes a Confederate flag hung from a noose, an urn holding the remains of a burned Confederate flag, and a reconstructed Confederate flag recolored in the colors of the Pan African flag.

With Seven Sisters in No Particular Order, Tampa-based Wendy Babcox constructed snare drums and created cyanotypes of the snare in the Lunar Studies series; the installation serves as symbols of empowerment.

In Passing Through, Sarasota-based Jill Taffet’s hand-drawn biomorphic shapes spring to life with augmented reality using a smart device. It’s very entertaining to marvel at.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

On view through Sept. 26. 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. 941-359-5700. ringling.org.

The Ringling’s presentation takes you all over the museum, with the lion’s share in one wing, Kalup Linzy’s soap opera-based performance art videos in another and Carrie Boucher’s NOMAD Art Bus parked outside on the grounds, providing art-making activities.

In the main exhibition space, Ya La’ford’s site-specific installation American Roots combines her signature geometric style in murals and illuminated metal wall sculptures to represent the cross section of a tree. Her concept is to create a space where people would feel rooted, which is effective with black walls that envelop you. This installation will remain on view after “Skyway” has closed, through April 3, 2022.

Coincidentally, two artists and an artist team riff on surveillance by using photographic footage from the public domain. In the most literal take on the exhibition’s title, St. Petersburg and Tampa-based team OK! Transmit (James Curran, Olivia Mansion, Mikhail Mansion and Gregg Perkins) use real-time footage of traffic flow over the Sunshine Skyway bridge, translated by computer software into Overflow, a kinetic, stringed sound sculpture that remarkably looks like the bridge.

Tampa artist Noelle Mason works from X-ray, thermal and infrared footage obtained from the U.S. border, depicting people stowed away in vehicles, which she produces in haunting cyanotypes. Also a textile artist, she translated a Google Earth image on the border of Brownville, Texas, and Matamoros in Mexico into a stunning hand-woven wool tapestry titled Ground Control.

Eric Ondina, based in Tampa, makes paintings based on photographs and video stills taken from social media content. His style blurs the lines of figurative and abstraction. With Keep the Change, he creates a tense energy with a scene of masked people plucked right from the pandemic.

University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum

On view through Sept. 1. 3821 USF Holly Drive, Tampa. 813-974-2849. cam.usf.edu.

CAM’s practice of showcasing works by conceptual contemporary artists continues with “Skyway.” St. Petersburg-based Danny Dobrow humorously imagines a working pottery studio with untraditional materials and invents an artist named Martin Martin, for whom he created an exhibition catalog.

St. Petersburg artist Casey McDonough’s installation, The Vastness of this Cosmological Collider, is a marvelous exploration of space, with ceramic pieces dangling from an intricate web of strings, dripping onto the ground to a luminous pool of gold, pink and purple.

Tampa/Miami-based artist Rosemarie Chiarlone explores the human connection through text, incorporating obscured words into handmade books, perforated paper and an installation of silk organza and chiffon kerchiefs.

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