Two shows that explore the art of angling prompt thoughts about the relationship between fishing and making art.
Both are meditative acts in which one casts one's line and hopes for a bite. Though not as soothing as the waters of a pond, the blank canvas is as mysterious and full of promise. There's nothing like snagging that denizen of the deep or coming up with an image for a painting.
"Fishing Lines: Etching and Engraving From the Gary Widman Collection" at the Crocker Art Museum and "Gone Fishin' " at Archival Gallery give us a look at the fascination artists have had and still have for the art of angling. The Crocker show gives us a look at 60 prints by artists from the 16th century to the present. Archival Gallery offers works in a variety of media primarily by local artists of our own time.
Widman, a Bay Area resident who is both an avid fisherman and a fancier of fine prints, has a large collection from which this exhibition has been drawn. Crocker curator William Breazeale has selected an array of exceptionally fine prints that range from Rembrandt's scene of anglers on a riverbank to Peter Milton's surreal interior of an aquarium where the French writer Colette sits at a table while gondoliers drift by and revelers dance.
The show offers a wide range of subjects from mythological, allegorical and religious images from the 16th and 17th centuries to the recordings of naturalists in the 18th and 19th centuries and innovative methods and sly humor used by artists of our own time. But it also serves as a glossary on the evolving techniques of printmaking from the laborious work of producing images with a sharp burin gouged into copper to the more subtle effects achieved in etching, which involves biting the copper plate with acid.
One of the most impressive examples of engraving is Pieter van der Heyden's "The Big Fish Eat the Little Fish," made after a design by Pieter Bruegel and illustrating a Dutch proverb about social Darwinism. In it, a man slices open a huge beached fish so that the contents of its stomach spill out. Symbolizing the domination of the rich over the poor, the bigger fish eat smaller ones as a man in a boat points out the injustice of the scene.
Because the image includes some surreal elements a fish with legs and a flying fish with a corkscrew tail, the print was at one time attributed to Hieronymus Bosch, a market for whose prints, said Breazeale, was stronger than Bruegel's in the 16th century.
Rembrandt is considered one of the finest etchers in art history, and his delicately gradated scene of a fisherman and his son on a riverbank with two swans in the water is a masterpiece of the medium. A similar subject is taken up by Adriaen van Ostade in his etching of a tired angler and his patient son fishing from a bridge.
In the 18th century, Mark Catesby accompanied an expedition into North America, recording the fishy inhabitants of the New World in impressive etchings that he colored by hand. The "Great Hogfish" is a bold and colorful rendition of a fearsome fish.
Moving into the 20th century, Armin Hansen gives us a moodily rendered etching of a sardine barge on the waters near Monterey, and John Winkler offers a fascinating image of a North Beach boat returning to a wharf in San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.
One of the most recent prints in the show is a three-plate composition from 1992 by Ladislav Hanka in which he has poured acid onto the plates, creating random patterns to which he added imagery of fish and crayfish, combining the intentional with the accidental.
The show at Archival ranges from Fred Gordon's scaly sculptures of parrot fish, rainbow trout and other watery creatures to Ken Waterstreet's quixotic collage of one of Johannes Vermeer's women weighing a fish instead of a pearl. This is a thoroughly charming show with images by artists both well-known and less familiar.
Don Thomas strikes a strong note with his boldly drawn and richly colored image of a disembodied fisherman in a stream with his pole and net. Arthur Sordillo gives us a Wiley- esque diptych of a fish impaled on a chair. Richard Feese is represented by two of his idiosyncratic fish sculptures made of found objects.
Christopher Dewees presents an elegant image of a Chinook salmon, caught in Alaska, which was made by a Japanese method called gyotaku in which an actual fish is colored and imprinted on a surface.
John Landgraf makes a political comment about members of the House of Representatives weakening the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency. Neil C. Hansen offers a pair of sensitive paintings of fishermen in boats that have the soft color and atmosphere of works by Milton Avery.
What: This show, formally titled "Fishing Lines: Etching and Engraving From the Gary Widman Collection," offers a wide range of subjects from mythological, allegorical and religious images from the 16th and 17th centuries to the recordings of naturalists in the 18th and 19th centuries and innovative methods and sly humor used by artists of our own time.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, through May 13
Where: Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St., Sacramento
Cost: $10 adults, $8 seniors 65 and older and college students, $5 youths ages 7-17 and free to members and children ages 6 and younger.
Contact: (916) 808-7000, www.crockerartmuseum.org
What: This is a thoroughly charming show with images by artists both well-known and less familiar.
Where:Archival Gallery, 3223 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento
When:11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Saturday
Contact: (916) 923-6204, www.archivalframe.com