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Posted on February 18, 2009 – 6:00 PM | by OldManFoster
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The 75th Crocker-Kingsley exhibition opened at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on January 10, and if you haven’t seen it yet you’ll have to hurry—the show closes on February 6. Spotlighting the work of California artists since 1927, the Crocker-Kingsley is a Sacramento institution, and many of California’s best artists (including Robert Arneson, Gregory Kondos, Mel Ramos, and Wayne Thiebaud) received their first wide recognition here. On vacation from its traditional home at the Crocker (museum expansion forced a relocation this year) the show is well installed in the Galleria space, and benefits from the striking natural light in the setting. This year over 500 artists submitted more than 1500 works of art for consideration; fifty-nine works from 54 artists made the cut.

Best of Show went to San Francisco artist Agelio Batle for his piece, Black Growth, a work that appears at first glance to be an oil painting, but which is actually composed of graphite suspended in a matrix (in a ‘proprietary process’ the artist informs us) and then applied on wood panel. The highly Black Growthtextured surface is reminiscent of encaustic work in some spots, more like tempera in others, and the ‘painting’ (OK, let’s just agree to call it a painting, yes? Good.) has a sort of mid 20th century vibe to it, although I’m not sure why since most of the painters of that time were abstract-expressing and this is figurative. And though the painting could almost be mistaken for an oil, Batle has made the most of the distinct shade of luminous oily grey that is peculiar to graphite; in heavy impasto use here it is not unlike dark varnished ash. It could be the specificity of the chosen materials that sets the piece apart– or perhaps the creepiness of the imagery is what makes the piece stand out in the exhibit; probably a bit of both. Batle is better known as a sculptor, and one of his sculptural works, Brother 4, is on display as well.

Another San Francisco artist, Kin Kwok, picked up First Place for his small sculpture group, Orange Faces. Arranged in an almost chessboard like format, a group of doll-like (think: GI Joe circa 1972) figures stand at attention. The figures are nearly identical (aside from one stray pony in the group) except for their bright orange heads, each of which is a stylized riff on a different animal, plant or other form. The outfits the figures are clothed in (matching sweat suits and orange ‘masks’) gives a theatrical feel to the piece, as though we’re seeing a tiny experimental stage production, with actors using masks in the tradition of ancient Greek drama. Kwok created the piece with White Porcelain, Magic-sculpt and pigment, and the work is one of the most finely crafted in the show.

FondaTwo Sacramento-based artists also took high honors this year. Gioia Fonda’s She Wears Perfume For Luck When She Plays Bingo won Second Place, and Geoff Tuttle’s multimedia construction, Projector, took Third. She Wears Perfume For Luck… is from a recent body of work by this prolific regional artist, gallerist and teacher. A clash of intersecting patterns and forms, the painting (in acrylic, watercolor, gouache and ink) was a standout of December’s Sacramento Cross Section show at the Axis Gallery. That same show also featured work from Tuttle, a Stanford graduate known for complex multimedia constructions that often cross the line into installation. Projector, his prize-winning piece here is an interactive machine which evokes the military-industrial complex of the cold war era, which, strangely, now seems like the ‘good old days’. Sadly we may soon be seeing less of Tuttle’s work locally since he plans a move to California’s high desert this year. Trevor Koch of San Jose rounded out the awards, receiving an Honorable Mention for his wall-mounted sculpture, Implement.

Though not singled out for awards, there is plenty of other intriguing work in the show. Pork Loin, Rachel Major’s actual size reproduction of the meat cut rendered as an adorable plush toy is one of the smartest works on display, simultaneously speaking to the American habit of compartmentalizing where our food comes from, and our tendency to anthropomorphize. Alika Brooke Cooper’s gouache painting, Wig (Brigitte) is another striking piece. Rendered in an outsider style reminiscent of Horace Pippin minus his bright palette, the image (of a woman squatting to look at herself in an ornate mirror resting the floor) is all muddied colors and painful perspective. Awkward, naïve and drab, the painting resists all tendencies toward decoration. Well-known Sacramento artist Gale Hart’s Fresh Start, a colorful patterned silhouette of a deer (or elk?), is another favorite in the show.

Group shows are by their nature hit and miss, but here the ‘misses’ have been kept to a minimum. This year’s Juror, artist Michael Bishop, is to be commended for an excellent selection of work. Described as a “dyed-in-the-wool sculptor” by David Pagel, Art Critic for the Los Angeles Times, Bishop is best known locally for his controversial public art commission installed on the Alhambra Reservoir Tower. The Crocker-Kingsley has a well-deserved reputation for quality, and Bishop has put together an exhibition that does the Kingsley Art Club proud.

The 75th Crocker-Kingsley is on Exhibit at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in the Central Library at 828 I Street through February 6. Hours: Tu, We & Th, 10 AM-8 PM
, Fr, 10 AM-6 PM, 
Sa, 10 AM-5 PM, 
Su, NOON-5 PM, 
Closed Mo

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