Indigenous, immersion and identity

Five art exhibits to check out this month

<i>New Era, an installation by Doug Aitken</i>, uses sound and video to explore the connection between technology and human interaction.

New Era, an installation by Doug Aitken, uses sound and video to explore the connection between technology and human interaction.

Photo courtesy of Manetti Shrem Museum of Art

Autumn is typically a robust season for the arts in Sacramento, particularly museums and galleries. This year is no exception. As temperatures drop, cool your head and expand your consciousness. Whether you’re interested in earthy crafts, whimsical paintings or mind-blowing sensory overloads, there’s something to satisfy in September and beyond.

From the earth

The Crocker Art Museum showcases Native American art with two sister exhibits. The first is Pueblo Dynasties: Master Potters from Matriarchs to Contemporaries, which opens Sept. 22 with a spotlight on functional pottery crafted by American Indians of the Southwest, many of them women. With more than 200 pieces on display, Scott Shields, the Crocker’s associate director and chief curator, says it’s a show about families.

“We have six generations of the Nampeyo family [represented],” says Shields who traveled to the southwestern U.S. to do research for show.

“The potter everybody knows is Maria Martinez [because] she was the first to sign her pots,” he says. “But Nampeyo, who didn’t sign her pots, was really the one who started it. She was Hopi and started the revival of pottery making, which had kind of fallen by the wayside.”

The pottery dates back as far as 2,000 years, but fell out of wide use after the Spanish brought metal tools and other modern implements to the continent. “It made pottery for functional use unnecessary,” Shield says.

Still, the stories created by the clay continue to provide an important viewpoint on Native American history.

“Each pueblo has a very distinctive style they are known for,” Shields says. “They dig their clay locally and what they can do with the [pottery created] has a lot to do with the clay they use.”

The exhibit runs through Jan. 5 and dovetails with When I Remember I See Red: American Indian Art and Activism in California, which runs Oct. 20-Jan. 26. The latter exhibit will highlight contemporary art by First Californians and other American Indian artists working in various media including painting, sculpture, photography and video. It will kick off Oct. 19 with “Visual Sovereignty: A Symposium on Contemporary Native American Art and Activism.” The daylong event will examine the complex relationship between Native American and U.S. history with poetry readings, discussions, art and more. Crocker Art Museum, 216 O St.; for more info, visit

Make a connection

Los Angeles artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken brings a thought-provoking, sense-stimulating installation to the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art this month. New Era, an installation by Doug Aitken explores the intersection between technology and culture, in particular the ways cell phones have changed our lives.

The installation—which has previously shown in New York, Europe and Asia—makes its West Coast premiere at the Manetti Shrem on the UC Davis campus. The installation opens Sept. 26 and runs through June 14.

The museum’s director, Rachel Teagle, says it’s a fun and immersive experience, but also an invitation for UC Davis students to challenge themselves.

“Doug Aitken is one of the most important artists working in California, and we are lucky that he’s interested in sharing his work with university audiences,” she says.

Virgil Ortiz, a member of New Mexico’s Cochiti tribe, created this earthenware sculpture, now on display at the Crocker Art Museum as part of its<i> Pueblo Dynasties: Master Potters from Matriarchs to Contemporaries </i>exhibit.

Photo courtesy of Crocker Art Museum

It’s part of the university’s long history of introducing students to visiting artists and new and different forms of art-making, she adds. By continuing this practice, Teagle says, UC Davis pushes young artists to view art critically and take risks with their own work.

New Era combines audio and video into an interactive multimedia experience inspired in part by an experience Aitken once had in a cafe where he observed everyone around him intently staring at their phones.

The installation includes narration by Martin Cooper, a Motorola executive who invented the first hand-held cellular phone in 1973.

“[New Era] is a deeper meditation on how we connect to technology,” Teagle says. “He’s making a case for a form of human connectivity.” Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, 254 Old Davis Rd, Davis. Learn more at

Self versus self

The personal is upfront and close in a new interactive exhibit at the Latino Center of Art and Culture.

La Lucha: Convergence of Identity: A Visual & Interactive Exploration of Self, uses lucha libre—the colorful, mask-adorned Mexican form of professional wrestling—to examine the identities bestowed upon us, as well as the identities we choose.

Curated by photographer Andres Alvarez, the exhibit includes photos, collages, paintings and more by Sonya Fe, Aida Lizalde, Alejandra Osorio Olave, Bridgett Rex and Manuel Rios. The exhibit opens Sept. 21 with an artists’ reception from 6 p.m. -11 p.m., and runs through Dec. 21. Latino Center of Art and Culture, 2700 Front St. Learn more at

Out in the open

The Wide Open Walls mural project gets a lot of attention around these parts—and deservedly so. But there’s much more to the street art scene. A new exhibit at Sacramento State’s University Union gallery explores the topic with Drew Ochwat’s If Color Was Language: A Story of Color and the Relationship Between Street Art and Abstract Expressionism.

The Sacramento-based Ochwat creates street art that’s an entire mood, wildly vivid and often larger-than-life. On his Instagram page, Ochwat defines his aesthetic as “convey something you feel” and, certainly, his kinetic lines and graphic explosions of color evoke intense emotions.

“I choose certain colors and color combinations to represent an experience I’ve been through while keeping in mind the various color stereotypes within our culture,” Ochwat explains in his artist’s statement.

In addition to murals, Ochwat also paints wood figurines, glass and furniture. The exhibit opens Sept. 23; there’ll be an artists’ reception 6 p.m.-8 p.m., Thursday Sept. 26. University Union Gallery, 6000 J St. Learn more at and

Creative coupling

This month, artists Lynn Criswell and Michael Bishop present Blind Alley at Artspace 1616. Criswell chronicles the past and documents the present with evocative images of her 1965 primary school class that have been altered into collages and printed on Turkish felt. Bishop’s work examines themes such as place and identity using, among other forms, sculptures big and large.

Criswell and Bishop, emeritus professors at Chico State University, are both are known for their sculptures, including public art pieces around Sacramento. The exhibit runs through Oct. 26 and an artists’ reception will be held 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Sept. 14. Artspace 1616, Del Paso Blvd. Learn more at