Café crawl

Stopping in on Chico’s downtown café art spaces

STOP. SMELL. <br>“Calla Lilly,” by Julie Shaw, now up at Moxie’s.

“Calla Lilly,” by Julie Shaw, now up at Moxie’s.

Photo By Tom Angel

There are five cafés in downtown Chico that share equal billing with our city’s proper art spaces, like Chico Art Center and 1078 Gallery, in the Galleries section in CN&R calendar. While Moxie’s, Upper Crust, Grilla Bites, Has Beans and Café Flo are known for offering beginning local painters, photographers and sculptors an opportunity to have their work shown, and sold, to a built-in audience, the quality of the works is on a par with much of what is shown in local art galleries. Often it’s the same artists.

With that in mind, we took a recent morning tour to see what’s currently on the walls.

Moxie’s Café/ Gallery, 128 Broadway: Figure/Ground by Julie Shaw. Shows through Aug. 16
Moxie’s is the only café in town to include “Gallery” in its name, and the distinction is a natural one. With two long, 20-some-foot high walls—one brick and one plain white—and plenty of diffused natural light from a huge, recessed skylight, artists have an expansive, attractive space to work with.

Owner Jan Bielfelt served up a flavorful cup of iced tea, and I took in Julie Shaw’s many encaustic (a mixture of beeswax and paint) and acrylic paintings. The split arrangement of the works, with mostly monochromatic and muted works along the white wall and multi-colored pieces hanging from the bricks, provided an attractively cluttered and warm backdrop for the café.

Taking into consideration the show’s title, Figure/Ground, the more analogous palettes dealt with the space given better than the contrasty paintings or the figure studies. The big gray, black and beige flowers—"Calla Lily,” “Nasturtium” and “Jerry’s Garden"—with the little extra encaustic texture were especially nice

Grilla Bites, 119 W. Second St.: Paintings by Laine Wiesemann. Shows through Aug. 20
Over at Grilla Bites, the early lunch crowd was drawn to the welcoming, garlic-infused air of the tiny Second Street café. There’s just enough wall for seven (mostly) acrylic works by Laine Wiesemann, but there was nonetheless a wide variety of styles and subjects, from a few dreamy landscapes (the $150,000 price tag for “Lucid Dreaming” had to be a misprint) to a couple of realistic portraits. Pretty standard café fare for the most part, with the exception of the lone watercolor, the mysterious and expressive “Dripping Girl.” What looks like a winged woman is being rained down upon and obscured by smeared purple/gray /blue paint running down from the top edge of the canvas.

Upper Crust Bakery, 130 Main St.: It’s All Me, paintings by Cedar Moss, and Beauty and the Block, photos by Gabriel Moss. Shows through July 31
The two-person show over at the newly remodeled and expanded Upper Crust Bakery features ceramic masks by Cedar Moss and the color photos of Gabriel Moss. Cedar’s masks are fun and spooky, looking a little like tortured ghosts that floated to the ceramic surface in the oven, but Gabriel’s photos steal the show. Most of his photos frame the subject from a skewed angle, creating new and unique images—the best example being “Onion,” a close-up shot of a peeled onion with its top chopped off, exposing a little core nub that makes the whole image look like a detail of a nipple on a woman’s breast. My fave, though, was the nighttime open-shutter shot of the corner of Broadway and Second around the corner, with only the streaking headlights of a passing car visible on streets covered in the water of a fresh rain.

Has Beans, 501 Main St.: Building the Ultimate Question, paintings by Matt Marsango & Mark Weiss. Through July 31
Up the road, at Has Beans, is another two-person show, this one featuring the paintings of friends Matt Marsango and Mark Weiss. The artists’ differing styles, at first glance, seem to be in stark juxtaposition to each other. Marsango’s portraits of females and robots with human faces are thick-lined and very finished, and Weiss’s slightly smaller works are simpler silhouettes of figures.

On second look, a similar dark color scheme in both becomes apparent, and Weiss’ shadowy subjects look almost like studies for Marsango’s polished designs, yet are no less effective.

Café Flo didn’t have a current show up, but co-owner Katie Gardner let me know that a two-month-long show by Sam Sellers (bro of Number One Gun rocker Trevor) will go up by the first of August.