Chris Daubert’s evocative studio still-lifes at Shimo Center for the Arts are metaphysical in the sense that they deal with the very nature of knowledge and the nature of seeing itself. Though they convey a strong sense of corporeal being, they are at heart conceptual, dealing with complex aesthetic and philosophical ideas.
Daubert, who is a professor of painting and new media at Sacramento City College, is best known for ambitious, inventive installations, among them “Travelers Among Buildings and Streams,” a haunting, poetic, text-based meditation on landscape and our relation to it that stretched across a dark 25,000-square-foot loft in midtown in 2005.
“Dialogues,” his exhibition of texturally rich, representational oil paintings of objects in his modest studio in Dixon, are, he states, “meditations on and recordings of events that have happened in a small room.”
Depicting tools and building materials – plumb bobs, roof flashing, spirals of brass shim stock – as well as wall clocks, birds cut out of paper, a tall spare chair and a birdhouse in the form of a tree-topped church, they are small dramas that invite viewers to ponder metaphysical questions about the nature of reality.
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Recurrent themes in the show deal with the energy of light, which often causes shadows and reflections that are stronger than objects, and unseen forces such as time, gravity and inertia.
“Plato’s Chair,” which calls up associations with Plato’s “Parable of the Cave” and his assertion that objects in the corporeal world are pale imitations of ideal objects that exist on higher planes, asks us which is real – the slim, long-legged chair or its dense squat shadow?
A sense of mortality imbues “Flock,” a complex piece in which light illuminates paper birds hanging from strings as their dark shadows seem to fly away. Below them a brass spiral, the alchemical symbol for the accumulation of knowledge, glows brightly. Other objects in the painting include light bulbs, a lighted candle and a birdhouse.
The birdhouse, with a bare branch springing from its roof and sticklike legs holding it up, is the central character in “The Red Church,” a poetic depiction of a sculpture Daubert made for a show of birdhouses at SCC’s Kondos Gallery.
“Flashing” is a hyper-real image of an unwound coil of roof flashing with shiny, multicolored reflections that dazzle the eye. “Acquisition” is a painting of a hanging spiral of shim stock whose shadow turns it into a double helix. The spiral, shining like gold, reappears in “Toronado” as a luxe object your eyes feast on.
The desire to freeze time is embodied in “2:48,” a painting of a wall clock that will forever be stopped at that time. Again there are shadows of a kind of framework above the clock that give the work the somber feeling of a memento mori.
The most mysterious piece in the show is “Faultline,” an ominous image of a cracked and singed raku map of the United States with a fault line running along the Mississippi Valley, watched over by what might be a hooded figure emerging from the darkness that engulfs the image.
Complex, thought-provoking, intellectual yet sensual, “Dialogues” is a strong and refreshing show about painting in all of its aspects that demonstrates that conceptual art can be visually exciting, appealing to the eye as well as the mind. You won’t want to miss it.
Chris Daubert: Dialogues
When: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through Saturday, July 2
Where: Shimo Center for the Arts, 2117 28th St., Sacramento
Information: 916-706-1162, www.shimogallery.com