Rhino records

James Patrick Finnegan, “untitled,” graphite and colored pencils on paper, 2002.<br>

James Patrick Finnegan, “untitled,” graphite and colored pencils on paper, 2002.

Somebody gave Marin County artist James Patrick Finnegan a rhino skull a while back. Don’t ask why; sometimes people have uncanny perceptive faculties regarding these kinds of things.

As far as intuition goes, apparently it was right on target. The rhino skull triggered a series of visions, 20 of which Finnegan captured using various media: pencils, charcoals and paints. These you can gaze upon, in sequence, this month at b. sakata garo on 20th Street in Midtown.

On initial encounter, the pieces in the rhino-skull series, which start midway down the gallery’s right wall and wind around counterclockwise to the left front, appear to be riffs on a demented-looking toucan. Some hang back inside their 25-inch-by-35-inch frames, some leap out in explosions of tertiary colors, and some the mind must piece back together from their disconnected components. The magic, for the observer, lies in discovering how Finnegan extracted so many different creative solutions from the same theme.

Elsewhere is displayed a fixation that Finnegan seems to have developed with a long-legged antique table, or is it a desk? The gracefully equine and vaguely anthropomorphic and sexy appendages appear—and reappear—in a variety of pieces, from a series of near-miniatures to a huge piece that hangs on the right as you walk in. The sketch-pad-like, almost skeletal rendering leaves a lot of blank spots for the mind to fill in, kind of like how the non-spring-chicken mind confabulates details to hang on the scaffolding of memory.

A quick point about the space: Its mix of white and brick walls and hardwood floors make for a warm, clean, well-lighted environment to absorb an artist’s creative energy, or qi, and gallery proprietor Barry Sakata usually does a nice job in positioning just the right amount of art to fill the space.