A surreal insectlike creature, which won the Best of Show award in this year's Crocker-Kingsley juried competition, rises up menacingly at the entry to the exhibition.
Made of bronze, wood and glass, "Odocoileus Chehulia" by Adon Valenziano is arresting in its strangeness and in the high quality of its craftsmanship. But it is only one of the stand-outs in an almost uniformly strong show. This is one of the best Crocker-Kingsley shows I have seen, and it puts this year's State Fair Art Competition to shame.
The biennial exhibition is sponsored by the Kingsley Art Club, a Sacramento institution that has held juried competitions since 1940. The club, which was founded in 1894 to study art and develop artistic spirit in the members and the community as a whole, has long been a mainstay of the Crocker, presenting lectures, field trips and scholarship awards. Its juried show has marked the debuts of such renowned California artists as Robert Arneson, Elmer Bischoff, Ralph Goings, Gregory Kondos, Ruth Rippon, Fritz Scholder and Wayne Thiebaud.
This year's show was selected by Michael Duncan, corresponding editor for Art in America, who did a phenomenal job of choosing a wide range of styles and subjects with consistent attention to skill and craftsmanship. From more than 1,000 entries by 300 artists, he chose 75 works for the show, which is beautifully installed at the Blue Line Gallery in Roseville.
The six prize-winning works from this year's competition will be hung in a small show at the Crocker from Feb. 3 to May 5, thus maintaining, at least to a degree, the Kingsley's long relationship with the museum.
In addition to Valenziano's sculpture, several strong pieces won awards. First place went to Patrick Donovan's oil on canvas "Craigslist #1," a portrait of a shirtless man whose image has been cut up and put back together with tape. The larger than life-size image is confrontational, suggesting a ritual deconstruction of the man's persona and a fragile restoration of his spirit. It is masterfully painted in a representational trompe l'oeil style.
No less compelling is the second-place winner, Tom Gehrig's oil on canvas with mixed media, "The First of Five Attempts to Attract a Mockingbird." This moody, beautifully rendered, horizontal painting is divided into two parts bracketing metal panels that contain a sonogram of 40 seconds of a 30-minute mockingbird song and a 40-second portion of a mockingbird song transcribed in musical notation. The painting itself is a haunting landscape in which a man on a ladder stretches a string from his hand to a pair of speakers in the far distance. It's a poetic piece that is both representational and conceptual.
Third place went to Andrew Garvel's "Upper Room (Jerome at the Coast)," a strong mixed-media painting that hovers between abstraction and representation and is notable for its subtle color and painterly handling. It's the strongest of several abstract works in the show, among them a collage by Diana Jahns and an austere yet beautiful minimalist work by Hei Fok, in which small crosses are repeated in patterns on a soft, radiantly colored piece of paper.
Katy Drury Anderson's "Womb With a View," a witty piece of hanging podlike forms made of felted wool, received an honorable mention, and a merit award was given to Ellen Akimoto's inventive, life-size cut-out figures titled "Pair: Head Under Chin."
Several works gave the prizewinners a run for their money. David Clark's small mixed media wood and plaster sculpture "Bosch's Bird Dog" gives three dimensional form to a surreal birdlike figure on ice skates lifted from Hieronymus Bosch's "Temptation of St. Anthony."
David Fleming's "The Capitalists" is an arresting, vigorously painted oil on canvas of white-faced, suited men conspiring in an interior resembling a men's club. Barbara Collins' digital print on metallic photo paper is a chilling photographic image of the barred windows on a ward in the clinic at Alcatraz.
M. Parfitt's "The Workplace of Tomorrow," an assemblage of old photos of grade school children behind bars made of rusty nails, is also arresting, as is Janice Nakashima's installation of hanging miniature refugee shelters in small cages, suspended over a pile of dirt.
I also liked Vicki Walsh's large-scale portrait of artist Stephen Kaltenbach, which pays homage to Kaltenbach's "Portrait of My Father," perhaps the most popular painting in the Crocker's permanent collection.
All in all, it's a terrific show, one that returns the Kingsley show to the vitality of earlier years. Be sure to see it before it closes Jan. 5.
CROCKER- KINGSLEY ART COMPETITION
Where: Blue Line Gallery, 405 Vernon St., Suite 100, Roseville
When: Through Jan. 5; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday or by appointment
Information: (916) 783-4117; www.rosevillearts.org