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Art, ambition and a love for surfing bond ambitious artists

Art is often described as a passion, a calling or a vocation, but rarely is it called a career.

A group of ambitious young artists, aptly named the California Moderns, have created an organization to aggressively launch members’ artistic careers. Their premier event is an exhibition scheduled for March 24 in Del Mar.

“This is a marketing platform for mid-level and emerging artists out of San Diego,” said Zac Logan of La Jolla, the group’s proprietor and a self-taught painter.

The organization is comprised of more than 20 artists, ranging in age from 17 to 29 from La Jolla and Del Mar. Most are painters, along with a couple of photographers.

There are many differences among the members, including style, goals for their artwork and varying career aspirations. What bonds them is friendship, art, ambition and a love of surfing.

“Everyone is very personable, down to earth,” Logan said. “There are different levels in seriousness (about their artwork), but when they’re showcased, it really works. The different styles show the different personalities.”

The friends had been toying with ideas of ways to market their artwork for some time; Logan took the initiative and got things rolling. Their goal is to promote members through innovative venues to gain exposure and publicity.

The exhibition on March 24 at 2010 Jimmy Durante Blvd. in the Southfair Complex between the Del Mar Plaza and the racetrack will feature work from 12 artists. There will also be a band, food and drink. The social event is open to the public and local business owners, as well as gallery owners and art dealers.

More than anything, the group has tried to create an atmosphere that’s fun and relaxing. The paintings will be displayed in an indoor/outdoor setting with a fountain and palm trees, while the band plays covers from the Police, Rolling Stones, Robert Palmer and Huey Lewis and the News.

The event reflects the unique business/artistic mind-set of the California Moderns and will be an opportunity to network, make friends and raise awareness about the organization.

“I think some of the artwork is really going to be groundbreaking,” Logan said.

“This is a group of artists that are, literally, very, very talented but never had their work shown.”

The exhibit will include a wide range of styles and subject matter.

“Everyone’s style is really different, but it all complements each other,” he said. “It’s not scary psychological stuff. It’s art you can hang on your wall and love for years.”

Logan, 25, described his style as pop expressionism. His paintings include people with martini glasses, jazz artists with saxophones, still-life works with flowers and bottles, as well as large abstracts.

Although he hated the academia of college, he graduated from San Diego State University, having studied business and graphic design. Forming California Moderns put his business savvy to good use. The upcoming exhibit will be the first formal exposure for all of the artists involved.

“It’s hard for a young artist to go into a gallery with ... his portfolio and get his stuff on the wall,” Logan said. “The intention behind the show is not to unload the paintings for a bunch of money, but to get the name out there.”

Logan has been promoting the upcoming exhibit through word of mouth and flyers. He hopes to get between 250 and 400 attendees.

“We’re on a tight budget,” he said, “but, in a very positive way, it’s a very serious proposal.”

Member Jeffrey Valiant Kendrick, 25, sees California Moderns as a vehicle to generate credibility for its members by building name recognition and fostering relationships with members of the art community.

Kendrick, a University of California, Irvine Art School graduate, has worked at the Orange County Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum.

“It seems like in life and in art, some avenues are more accepted,” he said.

Instead of relying on traditional methods for creating, showing and selling their art, the California Moderns are not restricting themselves with any boundaries. The exhibit they’ve created is a reflection of their lifestyle: relaxed, fun, spontaneous and enthusiastic.

Kendrick said the group’s art breaks away from what he calls “bucolic Southern California scenery.”

His describes personal style as a melding of Cubism and graffiti, a linear and colorful in-your-face exploration of pop culture issues and a coming to terms with the insanity of the real world.

Like much of the work in the show, Kendrick says his work is reactive and honest.

“You’ll notice it’s not very refined,” he said. “Not in a negative way. It’s raw. We don’t go for shock value. It’s more of a youthful enthusiasm.”

That youthful enthusiasm and idealism are the motivating forces behind California Moderns. These artists aren’t waiting to be discovered. They are taking accountability for their own success.

“It’s the realization that we have the power to create our own pop culture,” Kendrick said.

Their idea is catching on. Other artists have begun approaching them about joining the group. Causing a buzz, especially in those just testing their creative wings, is another of the group’s goals.

“We want to invigorate young people about art and the possibilities of selling art,” he said.

Two painters who will be showing in the exhibit are San Dieguito High School students Corey Smith and Chase Wilson.

Kendrick said California Moderns has recognized the importance of reaching out to artists just beginning to explore their talents because of the lack of emphasis on fine arts in public schools.

Although the group is just getting off the ground, they have ambitious plans. Logan said they are developing an online gallery and Web site, organizing exhibits at venues throughout San Diego and looking into holding auctions.

The inaugural California Moderns exhibit will be held at 7 p.m. on March 24 at 2010 Jimmy Durante Blvd. in the Southfair Complex between the Del Mar Plaza and the racetrack. The event is free and open to the public.