Arts & Theater

Overly ambitious Blue Line exhibit invites drive-by viewing

“Transformation” by Linda Heath Clark
“Transformation” by Linda Heath Clark

The rambunctious and diverse array of painting and sculpture at Blue Line Arts is a survey of non-objective work from Sacramento and Bay Area artists. It is the culmination of a yearlong project curated by Tony Natsoulas, a noted ceramic sculptor and Blue Line’s exhibition coordinator.

The exhibition showcases work that, in Natsoulas’ view, possesses “intention.” In contrast to the tossed splatters and poured stains orchestrated and harnessed by artists such as Jackson Pollack, Helen Frankenthaler or Sam Francis, the artists in this show of abstraction construct their work with purposeful drawing and mark-making. Digital technology is not in evidence; in most cases the work is resolutely made and built by hand. Virtually nothing is left to chance.

Almost all of the artists are represented by three works each, which are roughly divided between biomorphic and geometric abstraction. With about 70 works altogether, the show covers a lot ground – arguably too much ground. Given the irregular configuration of the gallery with its competing sightlines, and the variety of works vying for attention, it’s difficult to assess an individual contribution without a neighboring work chatting noisily in the wings. Engaged, contemplative looking takes energy and focus. So much work prompts superficial drive-by viewing to take in the whole show. A curator’s generosity doesn’t always best serve the artist, or the work or the viewer.

Natsoulas has cast a wide net, and there are fresh discoveries. Working counter-clockwise from the entrance to the gallery, one first encounters Healdsburg artist Kathleen Youngquist, who paints portraits of roiling biomorphic configurations set within a shifting cubist space. Rich with ochers, umbers, Payne’s gray, and warm, creamy whites, she evokes the French palette of Georges Braque. The warmth of Youngquist’s work is immediately countered with the blunt, minimal graphic punch of Sacramento artist Phil Amrhein’s black on white geometric abstractions. Turning the corner, the densely worked painting “She Said Yeah,” by long-time Sacramento painter Dean Moniz, vastly outstrips his two other pieces. The clotted and scraped flurry of strokes and daubs knits together a colorful tapestry of painterly intention. It is a stand-alone nugget of genuinely engaged painting.

Roseville artist Marjorie Darrow paints surrealistic biomorphic exaltations. Exquisitely nuanced motifs of imagined flora float in indeterminate grounds. The work’s singular delicacy and visionary lyrical power is undercut by its unfortunate framing. Nevertheless, Darrow is an emerging artist to watch.

“Transformation,” by El Dorado artist Linda Heath Clark is another exploration of emergent life forms. Trained as a science illustrator, Clark layers delicate washes of acrylic with linear scratching into clayboard. She deploys a somber palette of grays and ochers against a ground of cream, giving the work the appearance of being lit from within. It is a moody, romantic, slightly ominous piece. However, like Darrow’s work, it too suffers from heavy-handed framing. In both cases the framing closes down the works’ atmosphere and breath. Better to encounter the work on its own terms than to be directed by “tasteful” framing decisions.

Kris Lyons constructs fresh, slightly perverse hybrid forms suggesting sci-fi fusions of biology and product development in new age plumbing. She uses packaging material and commonplace household objects as molds for slip casting her small-ish wall-mounted works. Their sour green glaze and cartoonish Day-Glo orange flocking mocks utility even as they appear to be functional emissaries from our consumer culture. Unfortunately the work is installed next to gallery signage and could be easily overlooked or not considered part of the exhibition.

Mark Boguski’s elegant, minimal, bulbous forms sprout from the wall like splitting vessels or open-mouthed porpoises. Made of ceramic, their black surfaces gleam with rubbed graphite, giving them the look of Native American pueblo pottery on steroids.

Other works worthy of note are Sheldon Greenberg’s small lacquered biomorphic collages, Stevee Duber’s gestural abstractions, William Ishmael’s homage to Gerhard Richter, and Robert-Jean Ray’s deftly constructed small collages on wood.

Non-ob: Of or relating to abstract art

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Saturday, Jan. 7; reception 6-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17

Where: Blue Line Arts, 405 Vernon St., Roseville

Cost: Free

Information: 916-783-4117; www.bluelinearts.org

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