Keep it subtle

Randy Brennan, detail from “Lunch at Sant Martí de Empúries,” acrylic on canvas, 2003.<i></i>

Randy Brennan, detail from “Lunch at Sant Martí de Empúries,” acrylic on canvas, 2003.

There has never been a time when we’ve needed the direct touch of the human hand in art more than today. With technology increasing at a rapid rate, and with images that can be created and reproduced with dynamic results so easily, something has to suffer. As our culture becomes more and more efficient, what ends up being lost is subtlety—and that’s one important aspect that will continue to draw our attention to traditional art forms.

This month, the Art Foundry Gallery is exhibiting two shows that illustrate this point well. One is a show by Randy Brennan, whose paintings are unlike those of most Northern California artists in that Brennan is much more rooted in a traditional European fashion, but not like young high-school or college students trying desperately to find their way and turning to the old masters for help. Instead, Brennan is much more developed and actually has lived in Spain and has studied there. The work varies from flat, Paul Cézanne-esque paintings that are almost outlined in black to more representational images like Giorgio De Chirico looking back in time. But it is his sense of color—soft, layered and earthy but strong in a, you know, subtle sort of way—that throws his paintings to Europe more than anything.

Filling the rest of the gallery, and quite fully, is an exhibition simply titled The Print Show, which features 12 Northern California artists showing monotypes, etchings, intaglios and monoprints. Each type of printmaking has its own look and feel—the way colors come off so directly with no such thing as a pixel to be found; the dents in the paper from the press; and the paper itself, often selected with great care, with color and texture that can make or break a good print. All these things contribute to the whole and elevate the basic image being presented. In a world in which we are constantly slapped in the face with mass-produced images, it’s comforting to know that we can seek out quality and take the time to give subtleties their due.