For many years, most Sacramento galleries featuring contemporary art by local artists had “Introductions Shows” in July and August, designed to introduce new artists to the gallery’s patrons and to attract new audiences.
Unfortunately showcases of promising new artists are no longer a summer fixture on the Sacramento gallery scene. An exception is JayJay, whose current show “Master’s Class: New Talent from Northern California and Nevada” gives us a look at eight artists currently enrolled in Master’s programs at California State University, Sacramento; University of California, Davis; and University of Nevada, Reno.
Curated by Jeff Mayry, the show is an inclusive and eclectic display of works that range from a wall sculpture in the form of a scatter of enigmatic, powder pink, cast plaster forms by Bailey Anderson from UC-Davis to CSUS’s Mustafa Shaheen’s large, ironically titled, photorealist painting, “Pillars (Kids These Days),” that addresses the racial and religious clash of cultures and pervasive gun violence our country is experiencing.
It’s a show of strong contrasts. The first work you see is UN-Reno student Mark L. Combs’ “What Life is Really Like,” a motorized wall sculpture made of steel, cable and a copper tube, that is a kind of drawing machine with rotating steel “brushes” that leave repetitive, graphite-like markings on the gallery’s white wall and create a kind of monotonous, tinny music. In ways, it has the kind of absurdist, Funk sensibility one associates with Tom Marioni’s arcing, as-far-as-he-can-reach drawings and the deadpan desperation of Bruce Naumann’s work.
UC-Davis student Tavarus Blackmon’s “Mean Green Love Machine,” a monumental mixed media collage/painting which hangs next to Comb’s wry sculpture, is a bold, punchy, exuberant work that is as garish and fun as a carnival booth at the fair. On the one hand, it’s a “mess” but on the other it “works” and its playful spirit is pleasing. Made up of drips, splashes and patterns, neo-expressionistic figurative forms, a photograph of Mr. T’s body with a photo of Tavarus as a child as its head, and pieces of neon bright plastic, it makes me think of a “street” version of Frank Stella’s baroque sculpture/paintings that jump off the wall with crazy energy.
It contrasts strongly with UN-Reno student Teal Francis’ silkscreen and woodcut print, “Steve Said He’s the Champion,” a sly, quiet, exploration of social interactions between charmingly rendered animals - a distracted dog, a needy mole, a stuffy goat, and a self-satisfied cat wearing preppy clothes - that might form a narrative for a children’s story. The interactions of the animal/people are mute and mysterious and hard to resist.
CSUS student Brett Melliar’s “Ascendancy 2” is a large, busy, chaotic, in-your-face painting that combines competing images and modes of paint application seemingly without rhyme or reason. A female figure, whose torso is rendered in thick impasto, has flat, decoratively colored legs and an exploding head that spews intricate puzzle-like shapes. A large, menacing duck with a poisonous frog in its mouth sits at the figure’s feet while a friendly, rabbit-eared creatures waves from a giant iron pail under an exploding planet, the whole scene illuminated by an old-fashioned street light.
In contrast, UN-Reno student Mahedi Anjuman’s “Self-Existence,” a small sculpture of a gold giraffe and a silver lion surrounded by small round mirrors arranged in triangular patterns on the wall and floor in a corner of the gallery, is so unassuming it would be easy to overlook. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s theory of “good art and bad art” and his use of readymade objects, the work expresses her desire “to re-connect to the authenticity that exists in nature.”
A quietist spirit imbues UC-Davis student Ryan Meyer’s “Demarcated Series #2,” a photograph on aluminum print of a sanctuary-like space within a stone structure he created as a “container of meditation and deep learning.” Calling up associations with cairns, altars, towers, and other ancient spiritual foci, this and the rest of the images in the series of four prints by Meyer document his practice of building temporary retreats from the hectic, monetized culture we live in, to escape, as poet William Wordsworth wrote, the world that is “too much with us” so that we experience nature as ours.
If you go
Master Class: New Talent from Northern California and Nevada
Where: JayJay, 5524 Elvas Ave., Suite B, Sacramento
When: Through Aug. 11. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday or by appointment.
Information: (916) 453-2999