Eye on local galleries

Two birthdays and two group art shows

“The Seeker,” by Lauren Ruth

“The Seeker,” by Lauren Ruth

Members’ Show 2019
Showing through July 14
1078 Gallery
1710 Park Ave.
Map it Out
Showing through July 28
900 Esplanade

It's a summer tradition at the 1078 Gallery. To mark another year of providing a home for contemporary and experimental works in Chico, the nonprofit throws a party in honor of the people who make the volunteer-run space possible: its members. And with a cake, pork tacos and 36 pieces of original art, the 1078 kicked off its 38th birthday celebration with a rocking opening reception for Members’ Show 2019 last Saturday (June 22).

The first piece in the show to catch my eye was the strategically placed “The Seeker,” by Lauren Ruth, an oversized, 3-D, mixed-media, mostly realistic eyeball about 2 feet in diameter, dangling from the ceiling. Zooming in for a closer look, the mirror-like material that takes the place of the sclera of the eye throws back your own reflection. Is it the eye in the sky? Or maybe Big Brother?

Bill Houck’s photo-on-metal composition, “Metal/metal,” transforms a photo of irregular strips of corrugated metal. Melding textures with shadows and lights, Houck turns his image into an intriguing black and silver atmospheric alchemy.

Saturated pink pairs with purple and fleshtones in amorphic shapes that whirl around recognizable forms in Jilly Mandeson’s mixed-media, “Playful.” Mandeson uses black to create texture and delineate form. There’s so much activity and movement in this piece, it’s almost like a Where’s Waldo exercise. Look too quickly, and you’ll miss the human limbs that blend in with the teeming background.

Overall, it’s a fun and appropriately eclectic show for the always adventurous artspace.

Also celebrating a birthday last weekend was the Museum of Northern California Art (MONCA). The multi-gallery museum has become a kind of twin sister to the 1078, growing into a second hub of community-arts activity over its two years in existence.

MONCA hosted a street party outside last Friday (June 21), while inside was the Map It Out exhibit, a group show featuring pieces by Northern California artists.

The 32 works offer varied interpretations on cartography. In “Topographic C,” a stoneware tile series by Emil Yanos (Napa), land mass comes into play. In what could be an aerial view of a volcano, layers of unglazed clay incised with lines create an almost op-art effect that dazzles the eyes.

Jemal Diamond (Sunnyvale) takes a page from Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky’s abstraction notebook in “Traveling Treasures,” a digital print that focuses on geometric forms with washes of color. The only thing akin to a map that I saw are lines that could represent a compass rose.

Chico map artist Jeffrey Obser used small tables to present a number of pieces with a map theme. But his “Locked Lands” acrylic on a wood table is most enticing. The pedestal of iron and wood slats supports a small table with rounded edges. Obser painted an antique-looking map, like a flattened globe with unrecognizable green land masses swimming in a rich blue sea. A key lays across each continent, and each takes your eye to the small lock on a line in the center that divides the piece in half.

The large pieces by Carlo Abruzzese (San Francisco) take their cues from computer punch cards, with pixels of color to designate information. But he explains in a statement that the acrylic and graphite on mylar “Mapping: Ethnic Diversity of 4 Coastal Cities” are really abstracted maps of Manhattan, Boston, San Francisco and New Orleans. Abruzzese’s maps quantify location and pattern of seven ethnic groups in each city, with one square inch equaling 500 people. You’ll never look at a map the same way again.