Two strong shows up in midtown are as different as night and day. Matt Bult's show of abstract landscapes at Alex Bult Gallery is a cut-loose explosion of bold paintings and sculptures. David Linger's display of subtle landscapes with anonymous figures at b. sakata garo is a cool and restrained meditation.
Bult breaks new ground in his show titled "Strange Lands." Departing from the Cezannesque landscapes and Cornell-like collages and assemblages he is best known for, he ventures into exciting new territory, giving us large abstractions in acrylic on cardboard that portray fictive landscapes, full of verve yet with an underlying depth of feeling.
At times, as in "Strange Lands I" and "Strange Lands II," they have something of the feeling of Philip Guston's late work, a cartoonlike bluntness and physical vigor. At others, as in "Strange Lands VII," they call up the idiosyncratic settings of Krazy Kat cartoons. These new works are wholly unexpected and completely original despite their affinities with Guston and Geoge Herriman.
The use of bold yet complex color and the subtly textured cardboard, hammered in places, makes for a rich visual experience. Above the massive forms of the imagined landscapes, float roughly triangular and circular shapes like strange suns or planets. While they suggest correlative images, they stand as painterly gestures that add to the compositions as a whole.
In addition to the large paintings, Bult shows a number of small landscapes in ink on paper that range from the expressionistic "Orange Fields" to the more representational "Mountain Peak I." These moody meditations on landscape have a dark and elegiac feeling, appropriate for a show that is dedicated to the memory of Bult's brother Paul LeBaron Thiebaud, who died in 2010. A vibrant spirit who was a mover and shaker in the larger art world, Paul Thiebaud is sorely missed by his family and all who knew him.
Departing from the scale and interiority of the works in ink, Bult also gives us a pair of assemblages and a trio of constructions that at times reference African nail fetishes and at others accretions of junk that function in a painterly fashion reminiscent of John Chamberlain's crushed car sculptures.
Among these, "Totemic Turby," an homage to a homeless man who frequents the streets near Bult's studio, stands out for its innovative use of materials, including tacks, nails, pine needles, newspaper, coral and exploded tennis balls. It bears a resemblance to outsider art. Here, as in the large paintings, Bult is exploring new territory with élan.
David Linger's show could not be more different, yet it is just as strong. His subdued and haunting images use an unconventional technique on a precious material. These underglaze screen prints with intaglio etching on porcelain are quiet and meditative works that include submerged texts that give the porcelain a delicate texture.
"Car" is a triptych in which an indistinct vehicle emerges on the left as an expanse of gray ocean stretches out to the right. "Crowd" features seven panels joined in a horizontal format with faint figures emerging from a landscape that resembles a Japanese screen. In "No Crowd," two lone figures, one running, one with his back turned, are placed in front of a beach and an immense ocean.
In another format, large rectangles made up of three rows each of three panels, shadowy figures emerge behind what might be a rainy window. Ironically titled "Pinky" and "Blue Boy," they are blurry doppelgangers for Thomas Gainsborough's fancy boy and Thomas Lawrence's equally famous girl. Yet they are quite elegant in a contemporary way, as are all of Linger's fine works.
Alex Bult Gallery, 1114 21st St., Suite B, Sacramento. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday through Aug. 4. Free. (916) 476-5540, www.alexbultgallery.com
New Works in Porcelain
b. sakata garo, 923 20th St., Sacramento. Noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday though Aug. 4. Free. (916) 447-4276, www.bsakatagaro.com