Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Scientific Conundrums

Jiayi Young, Light Experiment I, II, & III,
archival digital prints, 2003-2011

Tangent Gallery has operated now for five years, continually on a volunteer basis. Their thematic shows have brought together local and visiting artists to enhance the local artistic community with a focus on art production rather than a commercial enterprise. This year will be the last of these tangents, and February was an illuminating one. The show Light encompassed a vast breath of media that incorporated that radiant energy in conceptual and synthetic ways.

Chelsea Greninger, Stilt, lowfire clay, decals
light, wire, 2007
The work by Jiayi Young Light Experiment I, II, & III is the most formal study on the subject amongst the show. Young uses a series of layering to filter light and illuminate line. Without light we would not be able to appreciate the delicate renderings of line, rubbings, etchings, and sheets of vellum and paper that are scrawled with rigor. The transparencies carry marks that appear floating in mid air, while allowing light to pass through and cast angled shadows as well, playfully distorting the marks. Young tells us more about the properties of light by revealing some of the additive colors that make white light. The secondary colors—magenta, yellow, and cyan—are digitally added within the registers, composing a comprehensive study on the qualities of light.

The artist Chelsea Greninger has a background in psychology and her work seeks to capture the lingering images of childhood which ultimately shows the deterioration of memory.[1]  Her sculpture Stilt is a miniature dollhouse that appears whimsical at first glance. The multilevel platforms are elongated on long narrow wires, giving them a tumultuous, circus-like appearance. It is more of a miniature fun house that destabilizes with chaos. The yellow lighting adds an eerie glow that reveals imperfections and the decrepit state that turns away from the perfect childhood playhouse.

Katie Borcz, Prescription for a Lost Childhood,
mixed media, 2012
Another gripping work is Prescription for a Lost Childhood by Katie Borcz that uses plastic prescription containers illuminated byway of a string of lights. The incandescent glow brings attention to the degrading statements so often lashed out at children: “You are useless;” “You can’t do anything right.” Borcz notes their common usage “—told until appropriate behavior is achieved.” The use of medicine containers encapsulates the tendency as a social norm, underscoring the commonplace of verbal abuse. The tactic affords the abuser a sense of control that perpetuates the intoxicating assaults.

The sheer number of artists participating in the relatively confined space gives evidence of the overwhelming need for exhibition spaces to expand on these creative and engaging discussions. It is unfortunate that Tangent Gallery is coming to a close.

1.  Judith S. Schwartz, Confrontational ceramics: the artist as social critic, London: A & C Black Publishers, 2008, 142.
Group collaboration, String Theory, string,
wood, installation, dimensions variable,


Under the direction of Chris Daubert, a group of local artists collaborated on the installation String Theory, a series of colorful strings that altered the classroom hallway in the Education wing of the Crocker Art Museum. The installation demonstrated the exploratory character shared between art and science.

Winding through the walkway of gradient colors, the verticality of the strings and the shifting hues activated the moire effect that optically creates vibrations (bringing to mind the Penetrables by Jesús Rafael Soto). The installation makes use of space and movement of the participant to engage in the exploration of physics, the scientific branch concerned with properties of matter and energy. The debates on string theory (or theories) shows how scientists continue to develop interpretive concepts to explain the world, and artists similarly find new forms to view it. Both practices offer creative ways—within their specific languages—in which we can interact with our environment.

The group collaboration included: Brent Briggs, Kristen Bye, Chris Daubert, Raina Dittmer, Becky Herz, Nina Krebs, Jayne Muraki Rasmussen, Tom McElroy, Linda Nunes, and Susan Poirier.

Leslie Shows, Face K, ink, mylar, plexiglas,
acrylic, engraving on aluminum, and sulfur,

The exhibition Poking at Beehives at the Nelson Gallery features the work of Peter Edlund, Fred Tomaselli, and Leslie Shows that focuses on their distinct reflections on nature. Curated by the Director Renny Pritikin, Poking at Beehives alludes to how artists act as antagonists to address pressing issues.

The most abstract of the three and the most likened to an empirical study is the work of Leslie Shows, who analyses minerals and re-fabricates them by printing large images of microscopic views and recomposes them on aluminum sheets with other materials. The large sheets at first appear as the sophisticated abstractions and assemblages from the peak of modern art, however, Shows’ pairs these compositions with yellow sulfur blocks molded into everyday objects such as remote controllers and cell-phones. The human imprint upon nature is then magnified, attesting to our incompatible lifestyle with nature.

Peter Edlund, Place of Magpies and Squirrels,
oil on canvas, 2007
Peter Edlund paints highly finished landscapes in monotones of blue, a somber tone, to allude towards the destructive forces of human migrations and occupancy. By painting the “lost landscapes” that were once significant to the indigenous tribes wiped out by European settlement in America, Edlund’s socio-political imagery is not melancholic but immediately relevant. Edlund’s canvases note that not only is our understanding of ecological issues distorted and distanced by urban development, we continue to struggle with the socio-political impact of human migration.

Fred Tomaselli, Brain with Flowers, paper collage,
flowers, hemp, resin on wood, 1997
The most visually stimulating of the show can be attributed to Fred Tomaselli, who incorporates a variety of elements onto wooden panels encased in resin. He composes a spectacular arrangement made of both cutouts and real objects, including a variety of medicinal pills, all meticulously nestled between layers of resin. Tomaselli goes beyond the painted canvas and pushes it to sculptural dimensions. The technical execution is as riveting as the final image. In Brain with Flowers, Tomaselli constructs the form of a brain with a series of pills. He paints a network of radiating vines that appear as nerve endings that bloom colorful foliage—from real and fake flowers to alluring hemp leaves. Curator Pritikin talked about one of the premises behind the artist’s work: Tomaselli aims to capture visually the sensations that drugs induce. It is undeniable how art and science can stimulate curiosity to understand, and innovate ways to explain the vast complexities of our world.
Brain with Flowers, detail

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Traditions and Technologies

Jeff Myers, Out to Paster/The Family Farm,
oil on canvas, 2011
Painterly Traditions

Sacramento holds a strong tradition of painting linked to many esteemed local artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, Gregory Kondos, and, their younger, Fred Dalkey. The vast California landscape has been and continues to be a spring of inspiration for many of these artistic figures. The art of Jeff Myers follows along these traditions of heightened color to render the paysage however he disrupts the playful plasticity with grim undertones.

Jeff Myers, Field Boss, oil on canvas, 2011
A recent series of paintings from 2011 by Jeff Myers is currently on view at the new and spacious Alex Bult Gallery. Myers does not address social tensions through humor as many Funk artists did, instead he alludes to social issues through a strategy to captivate with color in order to tell the real story. Out to Pasture/The Family Farm is a large canvas of two mechanical harvesters propped up against a flat, white toned background. The machines’ shadows and low landscape serve as a division within the composition to reveal a staggering city as the undercurrent of industrial agriculture. One of these harvesters is featured in Field Boss as the imposing structure that looms and overshadows field workers below. Myers rendered the harvester with a bright palette, centrally placed on the canvas, modeling the formidable giant with intense greens and blues. The machine is celebrated in this composition, highlighting technology and the belief that modern advancements were to liberate humanity from laborious hardships. Yet Myers notes the failure of the utopian ideal, as the ghostly images of anonymous figures laboring below are further enslaved into the repetitiveness of our mechanized world.

The painting tradition proves to be an effective format for continual conversation within our contemporary times, a medium that satisfies our interest in color, the technique of facture and form, and our insatiable appetite to dialogue on canvas.

Christopher Taggart, Pigberry (for Sizemore), archival
inkject on polyester, various mechanical parts, motor,
water,  sports ball, ink, 2011
Hybrid Art

Some inquiring minds outside the art field occasionally ask how contemporary art is representative of our moment, which is characterized by technology. The truth of the matter is that artists working with a variety of technological media are too often over-looked by the average individual that has not had a thorough introduction in art appreciation. In other words, technological art is not immediately accessible (conceptually) to the average viewer, particularly in places like Sacramento where the traditions of painting and sculpture continue as the dominant art forms. The Center for Contemporary Arts offers a refreshing alternative with the exhibition Time Fugitives featuring the work of Christopher Taggart.

Pigberry (for Sizemore), detail
The exhibition displays an array of media employed by the artist from video, photos, motors, drawing, mirrors, even water. The most striking two-dimensional objects are the photo collages. Taggart meticulously cuts a series of photographs and pieces them together. The fragmented photos appear as a woven mosaic of the subject, creating a pixalized image that distorts and renders unexpected patterns. One of the most challenging pieces that can be appreciated is Pigberry, an inflatable football (or object inspired by a football) that demonstrates the artist’s background in physics. Taggart carefully plotted focal points upon the football model. He photographed these sections, printed the images on polyester, cut triangles along the plotted points and sewed them together. He created a water pump to inflate his reconstituted football, creating a final object that morphed into a distinct form of its own.

Taggart's painstaking processes may come across as over-the-top however his art satisfies the curiosity of reconstructing our world, researching and creating new ways to interpret our environment. He applies rigorous systems that allow for a surprise effect, that even the artist does not foresee the end result.