A tour of local underground art


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Sean Alexander does not work under the duress of a urbanized, technological society. Rather, the artist prefers his barn studio in Long Branch, Wash.

His work will be premièred for the Iowa City community in Public Space One, 129 E. Washington St., on Friday as a part of the Iowa City Underground basement art-gallery tour. The tour will begin at Arts Iowa City, 102 E. College St., at 6 p.m. before moving to Public Space One and Benton Street Gallery, 220 W. Benton St.

“My work is off of the map, and so is Iowa City,” Alexander said.

Rather than distinct, staccato pieces, he blends a little watercolor, personality, and comic-strip-esque captions to create his drawings. He develops his pieces slightly based on a narrative with a character that shifts throughout his work. This character has adopted different personas throughout Alexander’s work but has remained concrete in some ways as an identifiable figure in his work, said John Engelbrecht, a co-organizer of Public Space One.

“I think he does a pretty good job of negotiating the fact that the text he uses can sometimes borderline being like a cartoon-like caption for the work, but he transcends that,” Engelbrecht said.

The theme in Alexander’s drawings he plans on bringing to Iowa City includes imagery that is an Americana hybrid of different cultures. The pieces contain high detail, occasionally regal elements from American folk art. Other components of his work include natural imagery, graphic elements, and Southwest visuals.

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A majority of the works Alexander will bring to Iowa City are 32-by-22 inches in size. For some pieces, he said, he spends more than 200 hours to complete.

“I think he is killing himself to show for Iowa City, and he has invested a lot in coming here,” Engelbrecht said.

Public Space One is full of lots of different items and lots of nothings at the same time, said Eric Asboe, a co-organizer of the venue. Rather than being a gallery that simply hangs work, it is a place for artists to work. Doing so allows artists a longer stay in the gallery, making it an interactive space.

Alexander’s work will be showcased in the gallery for a month following its première in the Iowa City Underground. The event is a three-shows-in-one event that is not just about showcasing local and visiting artists. Rather, it is a chance for the arts community in Iowa City to come together.

“I hope that’s what all three spaces can really be about,” Asboe said. “Three places where there happens to be things to see, but really places where this community that exists in isolated pockets can really come together and experience numerous things together. I think that is great.”

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