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Pence Proffers Prolific Painting Party
Actually published as "Landmark show at Pence:
Premiere Davis juried art exhibit prompts a wealth of local offerings," 4/17/2001


By Paul Dorn
Enterprise art critic

Art review:
City of Davis 1st Juried Exhibition
Where: Pence Gallery
212 D Street, Davis; 758-3370
When: through April 28
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 12 - 4 pm

These days, the last thing you'd expect to find is a government expanding its role in the visual arts. However, this is Davis...and not Rudy Guiliani's New York or Jesse Helms' Washington DC. After a Davis city council member floated the idea of starting an art collection for the city, local arts supporters were quick to respond. The city Art Commission dedicated a sum of money to be used to acquire the best works of a juried art show.

The results of this initiative are on view through April 28 at the Pence Gallery, in an exhibition of 32 paintings (Yes! in the tiny Pence) selected by prominent artist and UC Davis art faculty David Hollowell. It's an impressive and perhaps surprising show, offering a great sampling of work done by a range of Yolo County artists. And it demonstrates that the relationship between artists and government doesn't have to hurt.

Juror Hollowell, who has exhibited his own figurative paintings at galleries across the US, estimates he looked at more than 200 slides before selecting the 32 works on view at the Pence. "It's an eclectic, yet interesting body of work," says Hollowell. "The response to the show by artists demonstrates that there are a lot of people doing art in this region. In evaluating the work, my primary criteria was always the presence each piece hit me with, the strength of the imagery, how the artists used their creativity within the painting."

Eclectic is the only way to describe Davis' first juried painting exhibit. The Pence show features edgier "out there" works, such as Michael Pollard's mixed media comic book collage "Mikey's World." There are dream-inspired surrealist works, such as Christian Quintin's "The Currents of Life," Sayako Dairiki's "Time and Spacescape II" and Ryan Seng's "Bird People." There is also some abstraction, several landscapes and a great deal of figurative work. The show is eclectic, but also consistently accomplished, engaging and provocative.

And yes, there are some, um, challenging works that might provoke Strom Thurmond to call a press conference. For instance, the full frontal nudity of Therese Rockwell's "L'Homme Odalisque," a reversal of the concubine-inspired reclining nudes by male painters such as Renoir, Boucher, Matisse, Manet, Ingres and many others. Rockwell offers a naked, reclining male, casually paunchy and balding, resting his head on his right arm in a rousing pose. Yes, it's an obvious commentary on patriarchy, objectification and the "male gaze." It's also funny.

Other artists in the gallery make similar reference to the artistic canon. Offering a nod to Gustav Klimt, Olivia Lundberg presents her fine "Blue", with its portrait of a woman draped in elaborately patterned cloth. The woman's aspect, especially her blazing eyes, is defiant and challenging; where the Austrian Secession founder's female figures were sensual, dreamy and provocative. Yet Lundberg's female figure is covered protectively by her headdress and shawl, hiding her vulnerability, her sensuality, her humanity. Laura Ball's "Bedlam (Sisters #1)" presents a Gauguinesque group of four undressed women, who appear to be tussling over a sandal, their pinkish flesh in stark contrast to the dark blue of their interior. There's a certain desperation suggested by their energetic efforts.

Other artists at the Pence address more contemporary artistic issues. With its juxtaposition of a pair of running dogs with a sculling crew against a translucent orange and polka dot background, Mel Strother's standout painting "Flying Lessons, #17" is reminiscent of color and figure studies by the Bay Area painter Deborah Oropallo. Emma Luna's mixed media piece "My Mexican Dress" examines memory and identity, using childhood photos with textures and images of leaves and seedpods, against an orange-blue fade background to connect places visited by the itinerant artist.

Woodland painter Eclaré Hannifan's "Tom Foolish" is a delightfully whimsical image of a winged cat, perched uneasily on a globe rolling atop a balanced platter, with a toothy crocodilian reptile grinning expectantly beneath. Painter Phil Gross, whose work is familiar to patrons of The Artery, offers "Lillemar," a lovingly rendered cow, glowing amidst the tall blades of a grassy field, with purple mountains on the far horizon. Given the current global panic over cattle-related hoof, mouth and brain diseases, Gross' cow painting takes on a greater, unintended poignancy these days.

There are many, many other worthy works at the Pence. Nancy Servis, the gallery's executive director, is particularly pleased with the way Davis' first juried art show has energized the local art community. "With this show we were venturing into uncharted waters," says Servis. "A juried show provides an opportunity to present work from a greater range of artists than you might see in a curated show. There's work here you wouldn't ordinarily expect to see in a venue like this. It's refreshing and surprising. We think we've succeeded in presenting each work so it shows itself in the best possible way."

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Last modified April 17, 2001

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