"The Last Collaborations of Laureen Landau" at Archival Gallery is something of a contradiction in terms. Because Landau died in 2009, she couldn't participate in a process defined as two or more people working together.
Rather, this show consists of unfinished works of Landau that artists who had a connection with her have worked over and made into their own. It was Landau's working habit to prepare many canvases and works on paper by laying in background colors and intimations of imagery. Using these as a jumping-off point, local painters have created new works under which Landau's initial markings serve as a palimpsest.
The work in the show that feels most like an actual collaboration is Maria Winkler's "Weaving." In it Winkler has combined one of Landau's woven paper watercolors with her own image of a bag of marbles and literally woven the two together. The result is a complex abstraction that partakes of characteristic qualities of both artists' works.
The rest of the works in this uneven show range from Tim Collum's Thiebaud-like beach scene to Corey Okada's memento mori of a partial skull and a pair of pomegranates on a softly colored ground.
Fred Gordon's "Autumn Evening" brackets a verdant landscape across which bats fly with images of fish and fishing lures. It's a compelling work that has a gothic quality.
Lighter in spirit is Maureen Hood's "Laureen's Last Laugh," an image of a laughing clown against a gridded backdrop that includes a small Rembrandt self- portrait.
Some artists have completely worked over Landau's starts so that their works are completely their own. Among them is Gary Dinnen, who gives us a typically wacky neo-expressionist scene of figures and animals, and Maija Peeples-Bright, who offers a pair of brightly colored, glitter-strewn images of charming animals whose bodies form bridges.
Jack Ogden offers two of the strongest works in the show, a fresh, gestural painting of a lake with boats and a brooding atmospheric scene of a figure looking over his shoulder. Emily Elders departs from the norm with a small sculpture of a paper house lit up from inside by LEDs.
Ken Waterstreet is represented by a drawing of childlike figures against a luminous ground while D.L. Thomas presents a meticulously drawn portrait of a young Landau.
While the show is interesting, it raises questions about what should be done with an artist's unfinished work. Should such works to be preserved as is or destroyed? If it were you, would you feel comfortable with letting another artist use your work to jump-start one of their own?
We don't know how Landau would have felt, but she would no doubt approve of the fact that the gallery's portion of any sales will go to a Carmichael dog rescue organization, Old Dogs, New Tricks Inc. That's where Landau got her own beloved pup, Roxy, who died at the age of 17 last year.
It should be noted that the gallery has also mounted a small display of finished works by Landau, including some lovely scenes of local parks, that demonstrate on a small scale what a fine artist she was.
The Last Collaborations of Laureen Landau
Where: Archival Gallery, 3223 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment through May 4
Information: (916) 923-6204