Arts & Theater

Art review: Mick Sheldon at Artspace 1616

The oil painting "Tantrum Over the Awful Toy Leads to the Peppermint Shake Disaster” is also exhibited.
The oil painting "Tantrum Over the Awful Toy Leads to the Peppermint Shake Disaster” is also exhibited.

Mick Sheldon’s business card describes him as “artist protestor comic.” Actually, he is one of the Sacramento area’s premier artistic provocateurs. In the past he has satirized religion and politics with a razor’s edge. In recent years, his protests have become more personal and idiosyncratic.

In his current show at Artspace 1616 on Del Paso Boulevard, he offers a series of sculptures called “Horglots” to protest walls thrown up to keep immigrants out, an international problem, and the iniquities of dog owners who neglect to pick up poo, a very local problem.

Moving from the serious to the comic, these sculptures present long-legged, boxy-bodied, robotic creatures made of wood and steel screws engaged in hopeless tasks. While simple in means and materials, they are brilliantly articulated and wonderfully lively.

The Horglots also appear in Sheldon’s paintings, most prominently in “Double Stacks of Horglots” in pink and in blue. Executed in cool primary colors, they are a departure from earlier works done in grisaille (tones of gray) and shades of brown. Even more brilliant in coloration are “Double Towers of Calabash” and “Double Stacks of X-Pots.”

These brilliantly colored still life paintings stem from classroom assignments Sheldon gives his students at American River College, where he has taught painting, drawing and color theory since 1988. A dedicated and energetic teacher, Sheldon also directs the campus’ Kaneko Gallery, which regularly presents lively, educational shows.

For his current show – “Still Lifes, Disasters With Horglots” – he reaches back over the past seven years, cherry-picking outstanding examples from several series. “The Happy Meal Disasters Series” presents table-top still lifes in grisaille painted on metal. Each records the moment when a drink is spilled at a fast-food restaurant, the spill recorded in garish color that screams out of the gray tones.

Each Happy Meal includes a toy, so that we have “Ray Gun Reflection With the Wicked Orange Crush” and “Tantrum Over the Awful Toy Leads to the Peppermint Shake Disaster.” This hilarious series is quite complex visually, with areas of the steel ground left bare so that they reflect ambient color. Among the toys included are a wind-up airplane, a sling shot and a decapitated “Hello Kitty.” The paltriness of these “disasters” is lampooned by the dramatic presentation of the elements.

“The Cowpoke Series” presents scenes of mayhem in earth-colored tones, including a nod to Andy Warhol in “Slim and Shorty Surrounded by Bullet Riddled Soup Cans.” These predominantly brown paintings include a landscape whose only hue is a touch of alizarin crimson on a cactus flower bud.

Masterfully done as the “Disaster” and “Cow Poke” canvases are, there is a sense of exuberant release in the new “Twin Towers Series.” These double stacks of gourds and pottery rise up precariously in writhing shapes that delight the eye with their fresh color and airy atmosphere. One looks forward to seeing more works in this vein.

Sheldon fits into the long line of comic artists noted for their wacky humor and mythologized worlds, among them Roy DeForest, Robert Arneson, Clayton Bailey and David Gilhooly. His works are both amusing and thought-provoking.

Mick Sheldon

Still Lifes and Disasters With Horglots

  • Where: Artspace 1616, 1616 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento
  • When: Through June 28. noon to 6 Wednesdays, noon to 9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
  • Cost: Free
  • Information: (916) 849-1127