Out and About at San Pablo Art Gallery and Subterranean Arthouse

Two little-known venues expand the East Bay roster.

Recently a reader found fault with art reviews printed here just before shows end. That happens because, until recently, many galleries shared the same monthly schedule, and there’s a time lag of seven to ten days between gallery visit and publication; the result is occasional jam-ups, especially late in the cycle. However, now that shows are being extended beyond four weeks (thanks to the recession), timeliness should improve. In addition, the four-hundred-word reviews sometimes cover more than one show, as is the case this week. So much for housekeeping.

A pair of shows in venues off the beaten track continue the Abstract-Expressionist-influenced Bay Area figurative tradition: Painters x 3 at San Pablo Art Gallery features works by Donna Fenstermaker, Mark Lightfoot, and Chuck Overton; while at Subterranean Arthouse in downtown Berkeley, Michelle Lynn Dyrness and Jennell Belt are showing paintings and glass assemblages, respectively. (Due to the holidays, checking the schedules online and calling ahead are advised.)

At the San Pablo gallery, nature is the common theme. Fenstermaker’s minimalist water-soluble oil landscapes of San Rafael and China Camp, with their simplified planar forms, seem indebted to Milton Avery and evocative rather than descriptive. Overton’s graphically powerful oils (“Carquinez Strait II,” “Diablo Buckeyes,” “Point Reyes Dairy,” “Martinez Slough”) derive from Park, Diebenkorn, Weeks, St. John, and perhaps a couple of the usual Postimpressionist suspects. And Lightfoot’s mixed-media abstractions (“Chrysalis,” Totems,” “Archaeology,” “Nebula,” “In Flight”) reassemble visual sense impressions in order to synthesize the effect of nature without, to paraphrase Francis Bacon, the bother of its contriving its appearance. Overton: “Where a casual observer may see a patch of weeds, I see a compositional opportunity.” Painters x 3 runs through January 9 at San Pablo Art Gallery (13831 San Pablo Ave., Building 5, San Pablo). 510-215-3103 or Ci.San-Pablo.ca.us/main/artgallery.htm

In Berkeley, the focus is divided between the female figure and the poetic artifact. Dyrness’ gouache/charcoal paintings contain figures that merge with and emerge from veils of organic shapes, “fragmented pieces of … abstract form.” With their female-archetype titles from mythology and art history (“Persephone,” “Eve,” “Delilah,” “Olympia,” “Susannah”), it’s easy to posit feminist content, but the artist is more concerned with subconscious and subjectivity. Belt’s glass/metal pieces seem more wall jewelry than autonomous sculpture, but a couple of pieces in antique oval frames (“Chanel” and an untitled piece) use their elegant eye appeal to good mysterious effect. Dyrness/Belt runs through January 9 at Subterranean Arthouse (2179 Bancroft Way, Berkeley). 510-981-1281 or SubterraneanArtHouse.org


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