Arts & Theater

Art Review: ‘Six From City’ at Sacramento’s Beatnik Studios

Laura Carpenter’s “Crocker Courtyard” is part of the “Six From City” show at Beatnik Studios.
Laura Carpenter’s “Crocker Courtyard” is part of the “Six From City” show at Beatnik Studios. Courtesy beatnik Studios

‘Six From City” in the gallery at Beatnik Studios, which doubles as a site for weddings and other events, is a show of works by six members of a critique group founded by Chris Daubert, who chairs the fine arts department at Sacramento City College.

Most in the group are former students of Daubert. They are working independently in their studios, but have benefited from the critical feedback and exchange of ideas they have received from participation in the group.

Beatnik, in the 700 block of S street, is a cavernous, high-ceilinged space that once housed the elegant Pamela Skinner/Gwenna Howard Fine Art. It’s an ideal space for large paintings and sculpture and it tends to dwarf some of the works in the show, but the larger ones – particularly paintings by Ed Forrest and Laura Carpenter – stand up to the space.

Ranging from geometric abstractions to expressionistic landscapes and interiors, most of the works demonstrate a concern for expressive paint-handling and lush surfaces. As opposed to the kind of conceptual and socially conscious work you see at nearby Verge Center for the Arts, this is very much a show about painting. Words like earnest, sincere and instinctual come to mind in describing the tone and intent of the works on view.

Forrest’s rich and quirky abstractions range from “Still Solvent,” a subtly colored blend of geometric shapes and exploding lines like starbursts, to “I Think So,” a weedy modernist abstraction with references to landscape. I especially liked an untitled piece with an abraded, scraped surface that reflects his former occupation as a stone mason and odd, wandering shapes that suggest an unknown language.

Carpenter’s paintings are raw, energetic and emotive. Made up of explosive gestures, they just about jump off the wall. Moving from charming interiors like “The Crocker Ball Room” and “Inside,” an ebullient, Matisse-like interior with a still life in raging reds and oranges, to an enigmatic painting of a sleeping boy with a cat curled around his head, they are uniformly fascinating. I especially liked a dark, spiky and menacing painting of the Crocker’s courtyard and an everything-is-happening-at-once scene of a family dinner that scored a hit in last year’s State Fair art show.

Christine Nicholson, who has a background in theater arts, offers a series of small works done in series. The pieces in her “Column Series” are richly glazed symbolic landscapes in varying colors that might be stage sets for Greek tragedies. The works in her “Monument Series” are more traditional abstractions in earthy tones that again suggest landscapes with active skies over stony forms.

Stephanie Fry Rallanka’s paintings range from playful abstractions aptly titled “Joy I and II” to chaotic yet compelling images of the biblical lamb of God surrounded by words from the Christian liturgy. “LAMB: Agnus Dei” places an expressionistic image of a lamb against a background of green triangular shapes and a shower of words. “LAMB: Anima Christi” depicts an agonizing image of the sacrificial victim with a slit throat. These are strong treatments of religious subjects.

Chris Markel’s paintings of the Sacramento River and a pair of cityscapes in intense orange-brown colors are bold and bluntly drawn. Of his work, he states: “It’s my aim to do a painting that grabs an individual’s emotions and maybe leaves them breathless, even in some awe.” Like much outsider art, they are simultaneously charming, compelling and befuddling.

Jill Estroff’s photo-based paintings strive, in her words, “to capture the essence of things or the feeling of a place.” They range from “Valencia Blues,” a charming, vividly colored interior with animated chairs around a table piled with fruit, to painterly images of red chard and rainbow chard. Of several images of sunsets and landscapes, I liked best a nicely handled scene of shadows falling on a curve of road.

The public is invited to a First Friday reception for the artists from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, April 1.

Six From City

Where: Beatnik Studios Gallery, 723 S St., Sacramento

When: Through April 22 at 10 a.m-5 p.m. Tuesday, noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday

Cost: Free

Information: 916-400-4281; www.beatnik-studios.com

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