Commodores in Newport: Getting back to their roots
The new location for Newport Beach’s community college and art gallery is breathtaking. A massive new structure on the bluff overlooking the ocean made of steel, cement and glass is sure to be reason enough for anybody to go back to school. The art gallery at Coastline Community College is equally as impressive, and their new show, Commodores–the brainchild of Director and Curator, David Michael Lee–is a show not to be missed. Ships in bottles, classic harbor seascape paintings, contemporary nautical works, and historical documentary photographs of Newport’s Captains and Commodores invite the viewer to not only participate in the visual history of Newport’s harbor, but also helps viewers to gain insight into life in a seaside town throughout history.
Artwork by David Dexter, Jeffrey Frisch, Pamela Grau, Roland Haas, Louise LeBourgeois, Laura Parker, Carol Saindon and Wayne White, with additional items on loan from ExplorOcean and The Bowers Museum help to give a well-rounded and memory-evoking experience in and with Newport Beach, historically placing Coastline Community College in Newport’s rich and vastly colorful context.
David Michael Lee has been working with Coastline Community College Art Gallery for over a year now, and has produced notably interesting exhibitions and continue to respectively mix contemporary art and historical works together in a balanced way. Orange County doesn’t have a lot of noteworthy venues continuously putting out high caliber contemporary art exhibitions or supporting local artists in a provocative way. Lee is able to juggle multiple themes, exhibition styles, and now–locations in his work with Coastline Community College Gallery.
Floating and strange upcycled materials create “Lee Bontecou-esque” mobiles suspended in the gallery space, as if flying off the meet Peter Pan or the ghostly memories of past and deceased Newport Commodores. Juxtaposed and fitting, Wayne White’s paintings sit nearby, recalling Newport’s crashing coastlines and beautifully rendered phrases and words hovering center. The balance within the exhibition design is surprising and perfect for the work, as the movable walls give the visitor a sense of direction as they navigate their way through this nautical-themed exhibition. I have a strong affinity for all things nautical and sea-related, and as I had the joy of previewing this exhibit I walked around with a grin on my face, ear to ear. Sensitive, whole-hearted, balanced, and involving historical and contemporary works all themed around their local beach city and lifestyle, the exhibition made me feel nostalgic and jealous. Nostalgic of a time gone by, where seamen and sea-life still held a romantic notion in all of our hearts, yearning for adventure and battling the ocean with joy and respect, like two old friends who had been reunited… Jealous of the community that was built around sea-life, with a purpose and a love–the Ocean. A great show for Lee and Coastline.