Art & Culture, Community

The Art Show of the Summer

Okay, let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go: It’s me dubbing “Don’t Call it a Comeback,” UGLY Gallery at Groundwork!, the Art Show of the Summer.

Certainly not curator Jeremiah Hernandez, who is too modest by far to blow his own horn. (More on that later.)

And certainly not because I’m dissing any of the other great art shows happening in the city this season. They all boast impressive talent – such as the one I’m curating myself, Maps & Legends Two: If by sea… at Haskell Public Gardens (opening Fri. July 14); The S & G Project Gallery’s exhibition of Kimberly Gatesman’s work (also opening Fri. July 14); the annual Judith Klein Art Gallery’s ongoing summer exhibition; and anything at Colo Colo Gallery, for example.

But, as a writer and chronicler of all things New Bedford, I call ‘em like I see ‘em – and I see “Don’t Call it a Comeback,” which opens Thursday, July 13 at 6:00pm at Groundwork!, as THE Art Show of the Summer in these parts. 

And yes, it has a lot to do with the self-effacing Mr. Hernandez, pictured above on the streets of New Bedford during this year’s Cape Verdean Recognition Parade, as well as the amazing talent he’s assembled for this show.

“Don’t Call it a Comeback”

UGLY Gallery at Groundwork!, “Don’t Call it a Comeback,” will feature the work of D. Lupe, Rene Gagnon, Boston Maki, Tom Bob, Tom Deninger, Alexander Jardin, Rep1, Percy Fortini Wright, MCA and Monty, Indy 184, plus surprise guests during the show’s run.

Simply put, this is one stunning line-up of kinetic talent. As such, “Don’t Call it a Comeback” is less a traditional gallery show then an era-defining manifestation of the creative impulse that’s been fermenting throughout New Bedford and our region. It’s our version of Miami’s Art Basel and New York’s Whitney Biennial rolled into one.

Many but not all readers may know that, before joining E for All Southcoast, operating from right here out of Groundwork!, Jeremiah was the co-founder and co-owner of the progressive UGLY art gallery on Union Street for years.

In that role, Hernandez brought his keen critical eye to the space and its selection of artists. He also brought the sense that art is an adventure into the space  and accordingly, UGLY openings were energetic affairs. You could feel the electricity in the air on AHA! New Bedford nights, when UGLY typically debuted a show. Though he would probably dislike the idea, they came closer than any other gallery to establishing a ‘scene’ downtown for artists and eclectic arts patrons.

Jeremiah eschews any such talk of nonsense like that and resists all labels. But that only reinforces my point and my conviction about the show he’s about to unleash on New Bedford.

He – and it – are the real deal. “Don’t Call it a Comeback” is the sort of art show that defines a city’s aesthetic – for the future. That aesthetic is all New Bedford even though all the artists may not live within city limits. However, they are all alumni of past UGLY gallery shows and have been brought together for this explosion of art. Over 60 pieces will adorn the Groundwork! walls and fill it’s common areas by show’s end.

(And here, I need to give a shout-out to the fabulous Dena Haden – Groundwork! co-founder and creator of the Groundwork! gallery. Her vision for art at the co-working facility has been unwavering and resolute since the gallery launched in Jan. 2016 – and that’s brought distinction to the space and the City of New Bedford.)

New Bedford Days, Miami Nights, Brooklyn Jaunts

Jeremiah loves art and artists and the act of creation. And, he’s damn amazing at curating it. In addition to lots of practice at UGLY, he’s the type of connoisseur who will jump on a plane to Miami to attend Art Basel during his vacations from E for All. Or, jump in a car and head to Brooklyn for a weekend when an artist catches his well-known eye.  

The art that Jeremiah loves is alive and breathing. It’s of the here and now and tomorrow, too. It’s full of passion and talent and mad, innovative skill. Some call it urban art. Some call it street art. It’s all powerful art and resists easy labeling. It’s art created by people who live like Jeremiah Hernandez. But it’s for everybody.

Like myself and many others, Jeremiah knows that New Bedford possesses a wealth of artistic talent that rivals any city’s – big or small. In conversation with him, he rattles off the incidents of art espionage that have been perpetrated on practitioners in and from our city.

This well-known national artist began doing this – after artist X from New Bedford made it a hallmark first. Another ‘borrowed’ that – after artist Z shared the idea.

If you do know it as street art then you also probably know that it’s more often up for grabs than up for sale. Jeremiah understood this before most people. He saw that the age of the art gallery was passing and the more free-wheeling art fairs were taking their place.

So, he made the painful decision to close UGLY gallery a few years back – leaving a huge void in New Bedford. Yet, this show at Groundwork! truly isn’t a comeback, as the name commands.

It’s an evolution within a revolution. And Jeremiah Hernandez is its guerrilla commander-in-chief.

Come take back the streets on Thursday, July 13 at Groundwork! “Don’t Call it a Comeback” opening party runs from 6:00 – 9:00pm – but never really ends. Two art movie nights have been programmed at Groundwork! as part of the proceedings. Monday  July 17- Don’t Call it a Comeback Movie Series #1 Collect; and Monday, July 31 Series #2 Destroy. (Follow the event page on Facebook for details as they are posted.)

Steven Froias

Steven Froias

Mad Man at Groundwork!
Steven Froias is Groundwork!'s resident blogger. He sleeps in the boiler room at 1213 Purchase Street.
Steven Froias