The Crocker-Kingsley Exhibition is one of the oldest shows around. It debuted in 1927 as an annual event and continues today as a biennial. Since 1940 it has been a competitive juried exhibition open to all California artists. The show has a noble history and is always much anticipated.
This year’s show, the 87th, was judged by acclaimed Sacramento painter Gregory Kondos whose landscapes are prized by many. It is no surprise, then, to find that most of the works in the 2015 Crocker-Kingsley are landscapes. The Best of Show winner, “Wetland” by John Crawford, with its big blue sky, might almost be a Kondos. Nevertheless it is a pleasing painting and one of the better landscapes in the show.
I liked more Nikki Basch-Davis’ “Magic Light” a diptych of a subtly radiant landscape with a long, ramshackle structure leading to a shack on a luminous body of water. Also imposing is Mark Bowles’ abstracted landscape “Summer Heat – Central Valley” with its blazing red sky over patterned fields. There are echoes in it of Mark Rothko and Wayne Thiebaud in the solid painting. I also liked Wendy Goldberg’s “Overcast: Silvera Ranch,” a fresh and sensitive pastel of a rural scene.
The strongest work in the show for me, though, was a photograph – “Davos Reflections No. 2” by Jim Hirschinger. It’s a striking image of figurative wood sculptures with umbrellas placed in a pond in Davos, Switzerland. It’s a stunning image with the water breaking into ripples of vibrant color around the legs of the surreal figures. Bravo!
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I also liked Jody Mattison’s nude “The California Girl,” an ironic take on the title done in a subdued tonalist palette, and the interestingly composed interior with figures “Eating Alone” by Ned Axthelm.
I was quite taken with a photograph of a pear sliced in half by William Kenefick with its small black off-center seed, translucent flesh showing the root of its stem and line of silvery skin. It reminded me of photos by Imogen Cunningham. Roger Lieberman’s photo “Pier 70 at Night,” a dark structure seen through a cyclone fence, also stood out.
The few sculptures in the show are pretty dismal, but one piece intrigued and charmed me: Lisa Venditelli’s “Bound Up #1,” a small white suggestion of a figure made of delicate paper-thin garlic skins. There is not much abstract work either, but E.A. (Betsy) Kellas’ “Polyptich #3,” with its echoes of Casimir Malevitch and Franz Kline, stands out.
Overall, this is a weak show illustrating again the dangers of judging a show solely by digital images, which do not always give an accurate picture of what the works will look like in person. Sizes and surface effects are lost when works are viewed on a computer or big screen television. At least the judging of the prize winners should be done in the flesh.
Empty couches at Verge
A brand new wrinkle on the art scene is offered by Nate Page’s “couchbleachers” at Verge Center for the Arts. It’s an example of what Verge’s executive director, Liv Moe, calls “Social Practice Art,” a work that is activated by people interacting with it. In this case, a bank of cast-off couches reaches up to the gallery’s high ceiling, inviting viewers to climb or recline while experiencing a variety of performances, reading books from a small onsite library, or adding memories to a timeline of Sacramento art.
A prerequisite of the exhibit is the presence of people, and on both occasions that I visited the show it was empty of viewers. I did sit on the couches and added some notes to the timeline, but This is a show that needs people to make it work.
Presumably they will come when the performances and other events start. (Moe says that 500 people attended the Second Saturday opening and were serenaded by members of the Philharmonic.) Friday’s free noon movie is “Big Trouble in Little China,” which features former Sacramentan Victor Wong. By rights it should draw a crowd. “Stories on Stage” presents Tobias Wolff at 7 p.m. Friday, admission $10. Wolff is the award-winning author of “This Boy’s Life.” The Stanford creative writing professor is noted for his short stories and memoirs. For a full schedule of events, go to vergeart.com.
Verge Center for the Arts, 625 S St., Sacramento, through March 22, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday; (916) 448-2985.
2015 Crocker-Kingsley Exhibition
Where: Blue Line Arts, 405 Vernon St. Suite 100, Roseville
When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, through Feb. 21
Information: (916) 783-4117; wwww.bluelinearts.org