Vibrating landscapes

Mark Emerson, “Take Five,” polymer on panel, 2002

Mark Emerson, “Take Five,” polymer on panel, 2002

The surfaces are ultrasquare, most of them. Inside their borders, they positively vibrate with color, with tightly configured stripe or checkerboard patterns playing out their drama via the relationships between the various hues. Stand back and drink them in; move closer and risk being sucked into their complexities.

Welcome to the world of Mark L. Emerson, a Sacramento painter who works intuitively—he lays down masking tape onto plywood panels in rank, file and diagonal, then scrapes acrylic paint across the negative areas with a putty knife, building up layers until the paintings burst with pulsating information. The process usually takes several months, and Emerson says he doesn’t really know where he’s going when he begins. Call it improvisation.

Emerson titles his paintings things like “A Night in Tunisia,” “Straight, No Chaser” and “Take Five.” And, not unlike the way 1940s bebop jazz musicians upped the ante on swing combos by moving from eighth notes to sixteenths, Emerson reconfigures modernist works like Piet Mondrian’s “Broadway Boogie-Woogie” for a more complicated time. Like good modern jazz, they tend to hook you on an intellectual level before they work their magic on your emotional body.

Though non-representational, Emerson’s work manages to evoke everything from enlarged views of computer chips to closeups of fabric patterns to what Central Valley farmland looks like when viewed from a jet plane at 33,000 feet. The show, Equipoise Redux, gathers more than a baker’s dozen of them.

This is the first show at JayJay’s new East Sacramento digs at 5520 Elvas Ave., in the space once occupied by the Ogden Surveying store. JayJay won’t be offering U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps for sale, but the gallery does offer a clean, well-lit space where art can be experienced. The new space is much larger than the gallery’s former Franklin Boulevard digs in Curtis Park. In addition to Emerson’s pieces, works by Stuart Allen, Roger Berry, Dean DeCocker, S.R. Jones, Joan Moment, Tom Monteith, Jack Nielsen, John J. Smith, Peter Stegall, Ellen Van Fleet, Stacey Vetter, Mary Warner, David Wetzl, Galelyn Williams and Roger Yogis are also on display.