"Kind of Like a Sound," a bouquet of trumpetlike flowers, greets you on the first wall of Robert Ortbal's exciting show at Jay Jay. It's quirky yet beautiful, an elegant comedian made of unexpected materials.
Cemetery vases stand in for tubular blossoms; other material includes foam, resin, wire, vinyl, mica and silicon carbide. To top it off, parts of the sculpture are covered with flocking and paint. It's definitely an oddball, as are all of Ortbal's sculptures.
"Beyond the Field" combines geometric and organic forms in a piece that is infused with a delicate pink radiance. Nearby is "Begins With S," a slender spire in deep blue with a lacy surface that rises like a tall steeple on a church designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi.
On the final wall of the exhibit, you come across "Architecture of a Scent: Cinnamon," a breathtakingly lovely wall sculpture of organic forms that call up seed pods and flowers. It's the latest in a series of works by the same title that deal with ineffable essences of fragrance. Here the elements used include wire, dissected fake flower parts, seed pods, cork, foil and the ubiquitous paint and flock. It's a lyrical statement of great intricacy and delicacy.
Accompanying the sculptures are numerous small drawings, which sometimes echo the sculptures but mostly stand on their own. While many of Ortbal's sculptures resemble drawings in space, these are firmly two-dimensional.
Ortbal says that the drawings are partly the result of his interest in contemporary cosmology in which our comprehension of physical phenomena is unknowable. His studies led him to question the value of the physical object and move into a two-dimensional realm with drawings that are neither blueprints nor plans for sculptures, but statements in themselves.
The imagery ranges from conical forms to bulbous shapes; the coloration from delicate blues and pinks to rich blacks. These are quiet works that seem to exist in their own hermetic world.
In these drawings, he addresses ideas that are new in his work.
"Freed from gravity," Ortbal writes, "marks on paper can explore notions like delicacy, and absence versus presence, from very different angles giving me access to a new set of questions such as 'Is this work more connected to matter or energy?' "
Accompanying Ortbal's show is a group exhibit of works on paper by six artists. Four are familiar faces S.R. Jones, Michaele LeCompte, Ellen Van Fleet and Eleanor Wood. Two Annelle Livingstone and Gordon Senior are new to Jay Jay.
Jones is the juicy romantic of the pack, giving us a nude "Susanna" reclining near limpid water. This lush image pits roseate flesh against the intricacies of a riparian landscape. In "Glow" he gives us the elegant profile of a woman in a headdress made of flowers and foliage.
Van Fleet treats us to a trio of symbolic landscapes or maps made up of spirited markings and passages of strong color. As always there is an animistic quality to her work and a sense of hidden narrative.
Senior offers a series of works that range from arrangements of tools and knots to images of crows in the sky and lined up on a kind of fence. They are sombre and poetic in feeling and add a new note to Jay Jay's stable.
Le Compte blasts out with four ebullient abstractions that mix floral motifs and bursts of pure, strong color. They make one think of Henri Matisse and, in some ways, Donald Sultan.
Wood, says Beth Jones of Jay Jay, is the "Agnes Martin" of the group. Her intricate grids of delicate, repetitive markings do indeed call up Martin's spiritual abstractions.
Livingston offers a series of works that are decomposed and rearranged still-life images that move from contrasty to close-keyed colors in a lively play of positive and negative space. These are handsome and subtly sumptuous works.
What: The artist's sculpture and drawings; plus "Paper Trail: Works on Paper by Selected Artists"
Where: Jay Jay, 5520 Elvas Avenue, Sacramento
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday through April 20
Information: (916) 453-2999