Arts & Theater

Something worth sharing: MANIAC show offers a cohesive, impressive vision

Social media can make for strange bedfellows. Some may even say it’s the bane of our times. But for artists, Instagram and Facebook have become the currency of information and exchange.

With virtually equal access, artists in, say, Fresno can simultaneously share images of their work with artists, curators, and gallerists in New York, Berlin, Tel Aviv and anywhere else around the world. These digital platforms have come to function like a worldwide, open studio visit. For artists working in relative isolation, outside major urban art centers, the exchange is both invigorating and validating.

MANIAC 6, the large, international group exhibition at The Urban Hive in The Cannery on Alhambra, is the effort of a global network of artists. MANIAC, standing for Multimedia, Art Network, Idea exchange, And Collaboration, was formed in 2009. Brought together on Facebook, these geographically diverse artists share a desire for the creative vitamins found in community discourse and focused critical dialogue.

They have organized exhibitions around the world. This is their sixth show or “episode,” as the group calls them, and was organized by local artist member Andy Cunningham.

With mostly one work each, 50 self-selected artists constitute the surprisingly coherent and focused show, with slightly more women than men, representing Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey and the United States. Clean and superbly crafted minimal abstraction predominates and is the unifying sensibility.

Painting shines, and the show opens with a stunner by Brooklyn artist Karen Schifano. Two pale peachy-pink discs or circles, flatly painted, float dead center on a deep velvet-black ground. The simplicity of the painting’s spacial architecture, and terse, confrontational placement engenders curious, even funny narratives of voyeurism and surveillance. Connecticut painter Amy Vensel scrapes pigment into seductively translucent pistachio green sections troweled over with thick slags of creamy white to emphasize the painting’s status as an object and not as a picture.

Geometric abstraction is another through line, with the always strong, colorfully rhythmic work of Sacramento painter Mark Emerson, as well as a suspended textile sculpture by another Sacramento artist, Gioia Fonda.

Fonda stitches multi-colored bands of fabric into a gently fluttering four part flag or winged kite form that renders porous its surrounding space. Parisian artist Christine Boiry’s inscrutable vertical installation of a pale blue circle, a paler still hexagram, and a white square presents painting as both thing and sign.

Ohio painter Jeffrey Cortland Jones creates a succulent surface in horizontal bands of subdued gray and white with a deftly restrained touch, calling to mind Robert Ryman’s minimal odes. Bay Area artist Connie Goldman succinctly articulates space using angles and planes in an elegant construction of cut paper and paint.

Canadian born, Brooklyn-based photographer and conceptual artist Karen Ostrom uses her own image to stage haunting photographic scenarios that implicate the human psyche. As the one overtly narrative piece in the show, Ostrom’s exquisite recreation of Goya’s painting, “The Third of May 1808,” possesses the ominous warning of an allegory.

Andy Cunningham cunningly mines biomorphic abstraction and the narrative possibilities of the painterly drip. Nestling a cluster of ovoid shapes in the center of a flat pink ground, he permits protruding horizontal drips to evoke slightly quirky mid-century modern graphic design.

Artist Kathy Goodell also explores biomorphic abstraction with a stunningly beautiful ink on paper drawing. Pours of violet ink coalesce into puddles and pools, staining the paper with an evocative ink-soaked light that implicates cellular configurations and science-based research.

Connecticut artists Suzan Shutan and Melanie Carr present hybrid works that straddle painting and sculpture. Their wall-based constructions use three dimensional forms to question pictorial meaning. Carr constructs her assemblage with abbreviated upholstered shapes that are simultaneously dopey and smart. Shutan’s whimsical wall relief looks like an edible wall clock, a cultural artifact telling nonsensical ‘toon time.

To the extent The Urban Hive performs as a sort of public living room and interactive workspace, there is symmetry to MANIAC using its collaborative ideology to eschew art world gallery norms for an exhibition that lends credence to Olafir Eliasson’s words, “Art as a civic muscle has something to offer.”

Check it out.

If you go

M.A.N.I.A.C. 6

When: Until January 25, 2019

Hours: Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.,; Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.

Where: The Urban Hive, 1601 Alhambra Boulevard

Info: 916-585-4483,

This story was updated at 11:45 a.m. on Dec. 14 to correct the name of an artist involved in the show.