Exhibit preview: “Tacocat Re-Exposed” showcases a year of cooperative growth

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From the August 14, 2014 edition

A lot can change in a year, but for the artists at Grandview’s Tacocat Cooperative, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this Friday, much of the last year has been characterized by stability. It didn’t start out that way though.

The closing of the long-running Junctionview Studios in 2013 meant uncertain futures for the dozen artists (currently eleven as Emily Herbeck moved to Philadelphia last Friday) who occupied studios at Tacocat during the last year. All but one had called Junctionview home, so the search for a new space to call home was dire.

Junctionview manager Adam Brouillette quickly heeded the call to action, and joined with the other artists now residing at Tacocat to form a smaller, more focused venture.

“We don’t want to be another Junctionview. We wanted to grow up a little bit, and have our space be more refined,” said sculptor Catherine Bell Smith, a current Tacocat and former Junctionview resident. “We also wanted to be open to the public. We’ve got the open studios … and this wonderful gallery space. And it was done with intention, which I think is important; it’s like doing a drawing for a sculpture [where the concept becomes reality].”

Post-Junctionview, the group almost immediately began construction on the building at 937 Burrell Ave., handling the majority of renovations themselves. By August 2013, Tacocat held its opening show “Tacocat Exposed,” and introduced the arts community to the new space.

This Friday will mark another milestone for the collective, as “Tacocat Re-Exposed” showcases the best work the group has produced in the last year. Some pieces were specifically created for this show, while others were culled from the past year.

“Re-Exposed” features work from the 12 artists who have operated out of Tacocat the last year for a total of 22 pieces. Many are two-dimensional, hanging on the walls of the 1,400-square-feet gallery, with a few sculptures and installations. All the artists worked together to produce a “best of” exhibit.

“Our shows are almost always group-curated. Anytime we’re putting on a show [that’s all Tacocat artists], it’s a group of us working together. We all have learned to work as a team,” Brouillette said.

There was a palpable sense of connection and comfort bubbling up from the handful of artists setting up the initial stages of “Re-Exposed” last Friday evening. As artists climbed ladders, sipped beers and chuckled about slanted paintings, the discussions were more jovial and friendly than business-like.

“We’re such a tight-knit group that everyone really has your best interests in mind. So when you ask someone a question, it’s always positive feedback,” Tacocat resident Larry Doyle said. “Sometimes I come here and I don’t even paint. I just hang out.”

Doyle will have three pieces on display at “Re-Exposed.” His diptych (companion two-piece) work “Me & You (Yin & Yang)” is a personal display of an exciting (and, perhaps, uncertain) time.

“When I made this, I had just started a new relationship. So this is The You and The Me [separate but connected] kind of thing,” Doyle said. “I had a show in July and the whole concept was the excitement of a new relationship and finding the balance in that.”

Another artist who developed a concept — well, technically, two that have merged together — for a series is mixed media artists Lisa McLymont. She separately conceived two series, “The Odes” and “Universe Tribe,” and then found they work in conjunction because each features portraiture with a similar aesthetic.

“All the portraiture is blending into this ‘we’re all one’ feel,” said McLymont, the newest resident, who moved from 400 West Rich to Tacocat in November. “It started out with a desire to do portraits separate from what type (race, religion, sexuality, etc.) of person they are … to show how we’re all connected.”

It’s interesting McLymont has come to this “we’re all connected” perspective. When she had a studio at Junctionview — her first in a collective — she rarely created art there, opting for the quiet confines of home. After Junctionview’s closing, McLymont moved in to 400 West Rich, and became more accustomed to the collective atmosphere. But it wasn’t until joining Tacocat that everything clicked.

“The biggest thing is I’ve always been a creative nomad. I move around and do a lot of different stuff with a lot of different people. I still do, but since I have a headquarters, I have everything anchored here. It’s the first time I have this community feel,” she said.

Claire Smith, daughter of Bell Smith and the youngest artist at Tacocat, will show three works; one was borne out of “the learning process” of working so closely with others. Smith painted a bathroom yellow earlier in the year, to which her studio mates balked. She was somewhat disappointed, as she was only trying to brighten things up. Therefore Smith will add sunniness to “Re-Exposed” with “Weight and Consequence,” an installation of 25 yellow, bean bag-like blocks that she “likes to play with” due to their versatility.

“It’s been a good experience,” Smith said. “I’ve grown up a lot since, [because] I’ve been trying to function around working artists. Everyone is pretty good about hearing everyone’s opinions and compromise.”

It’s been a whirlwind — and productive — year for the members of Tacocat, but none are ready to rest on their laurels. The collective is pleased with its efforts in the past year and eager to showcase them. However, the real excitement lies in Tacocat’s future, as a group.

“It’s taken on an energy of its own. The things we want for the future are starting to come around too. We have [exposed the space] to a lot more people, opening it up to other groups to show … and it’s becoming a gathering spot,” Bell Smith said, referring to future projects with outside artists, groups and organizations. “It’s because it feels natural, it feels like home. And that normally doesn’t happen in a year’s time, not with 12 people.”

Photos by Meghan Ralston