“Communion of Saints” at David Shelton

Ann-Michele Morales' "Life's Pimples" (Courtesy David Shelton)

“A Communion of Saints” brings together 12 artists from cities that share a Spanish colonial heritage, six from Santa Barbara and six from San Antonio, to see if perhaps there are any similarities. But in a fragmented art world fractured along conceptual lines, it’s hard to see much of a sense of place.

Rather than dealing with local issues, they look inward, exploring personal concerns with universal implications. Curator Miki Garcia, executive director of the Santa Barbara Contemporary Art Forum, has assembled a lively show brimming with wit and cleverness, revealing that what is most common to this group of artists is a quirky sense of humor.

Ann-Michelle Morales uses a rubbery frog/man/guinea pig figure that recalls simple but politically-charged Eastern European animation. The figure serves as a sad sack everyman in these dueling diptychs, though his troubles tend toward the romantic. In “Pomoandro,” he stands forlornly before Miss Perfect SA, an ad for a topless joint, and makes a target out of a background consisting of the phrase “HeShe” repeated endlessly in tiny handwritten letters. “Frustrated Chinaman” features a man staring through a keyhole at the confusion of China, with a background that reads “You Will Like It Here.” In “Abstract War,” he tries to fend off a swarm of bright splashes of color.

Cruz Ortiz responds with his own lovelorn figure in small watercolors such as Por Que – You Always Gottah Lie. Saul Gray-Hildenbrand drew a herd of baby politicians. Diana Kersey decorates her earthenware with stylized, exaggerated faces tinted with bright colors and an alkaline glaze that almost sparkles. Neil Kennedy’s Dancing Bottles maybe can’t do the two-step, but they do seem to enjoy doing the twist. In his oil paintings, Servando Garcia tries to whitewash suburbia.

Using old wallpaper, Joey Fauereso collages lush landscapes alive with swooping birds added with watercolors. Judith Cottrell composes serene tone poems, minimalistic meditations on light using ink and latex on wood panel.

Wayne McCall's "Irrational Embrace of Myth" (Courtesy David Shelton)

But perhaps the most eye-popping are Wayne McCall’s photographs of mounds of trash, paper or cluttered flower pots, which almost seem three-dimensional in his large ultra chrome prints. His titles, such as The Irrational Embrace of Myth, add metaphorical weight.

Michele Monseau premiered her latest split-screen video work, Up Close and Personal (Dinner Party), featuring the chandelier in a downtown hotel swinging and swaying in mirror images. This is the second in a series that started with the video swingsong (purplerain) recently on view at the McNay Art Museum.

Now three of the city’s best contemporary art galleries are located north of Loop 410 – Gallery Nord in Castle Hills, Bismarck Studios near the U.S. 281/Loop 1604 intersection and David Shelton in Stone Oak.

A Communion of Saints: Santa Barbara and San Antonio Artists runs through Oct. 24 at the David Shelton Gallery, 20626 Stone Oak Parkway, Suite 202, (210) 481-5200.

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